"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Echtra - "Paragate" (CD)

Echtra - "Paragate" CD cover image

"Paragate" track listing:

1. Paragate I (23:00)
2. Paragate II (23:00)

Reviewed by on April 29, 2011

"'Paragate' is an experience, one that fans of Sunn 0))) and early Earth will find compelling"

An artist takes a risk when releasing an album with only one song on it. Whether it’s split into parts or not, the results can vary. A talented musician can take everything they know about songwriting and make a piece of music will signify their spot in the halls of other greats. Dan Swano did this with Edge of Sanity’s “Crimson,” as did Boris when they produced the stunning “Absolutego.” Echtra is a project wrapped around the idea of a singular track per album; this has been a mainstay from day one. The one-track philosophy continues with the two-part, 46 minute title track on “Paragate.”

A one-man project from Washington, Echtra is in the game of atmospheric drone with a twinkle of black metal and acoustic rock. Every melody on the song starts out acoustically before diving into electric instruments. The way the album is set up, the acoustic work is always the loudest, as the rest of the instruments create static energy in the background. With a lot of time to work with, the build-up takes up almost half the length. This will test the stamina of the average listener, though veterans of the drone genre will find this to be suitable.

The song is split exactly in half, each part being 23 minutes long. However, the transition between the two is seamless. The first half is very slow, to the point where many will tune out after the first few minutes. Stick with it, and the result may be surprising. Close your eyes and be transported to a forest buried in choking fog, where an inhuman creature seems to be sneaking in the darkness. Every listener will have a different image come up when listening to "Paragate." While some illegal substances may help an illusion like this become clearer, it’s not a requirement.

The second part is the stronger portion, where the tempo picks up. Even the acoustic guitar plucks more than one note at a time, having a fluid, dense sound to it. This all builds to a fantastic black metal-inspired breakdown halfway through, a surprising burst of speed that sharply contrasts with the acoustic work. It’s the best part of the entire song, though it only goes on for a brief moment. The album does drag near the end of the first part, with a lengthy noise section raunch with repetition, as well as the last few minutes of the entire piece.

However, the track changes directions enough in the latter half to make up for the meticulous pace. Vocals are kept to a minimum, with clean singing and deep, raspy spoken word used sporadically. The words are secondary to the music, and they are so far back in the mix that it’s hard to decipher them anyway. Having an extended bout of singing would have taken away from the music, so Echtra was wise not to bog down “Paragate” with unnecessary trimmings.

“Paragate” is an experience, one that fans of Sunn 0))) and early Earth will find compelling. Echtra does a lot with what little is brought out, with minimalistic instrumentation and a commanding drive that makes listening to just a few minutes alone impossible. “Paragate” should be listened to with a set of quality headphones and a free night to spare; that is the only way to get the full effect Echtra is trying to get across.

Highs: Gripping atmospheric touches, heavy use of acoustic guitar, perfect for fans of drone

Lows: A few noise-influenced sections bog down the record, meant to be heard as one complete song

Bottom line: An acquired taste to be sure, but one that hides a wealth of satisfaction underneath its 46 minutes.

Rated 3.0 out of 5 skulls
3.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)