Review: Ekotren – ‘Light The Fire’

Posted: February 19, 2008
Contributed By: Vic

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Release Date: February 19, 2008 via Blind Prophecy Records
Ekotren is:
John Sheldon (Vocals)
Keith Finnell (Guitar)
Derek DeSantis (Bass)
Steve Chin (Keys)
Eric Pottle (Drums)

Overview: Ekotren formed in Cape Coral, Florida in 2000. It took them a long while to gain recognition, releasing EP’s in 2006 and 2007, (‘The Tables Have Turned‘ and ‘Destroying the American Dream‘, respectively) before finally getting a record deal with Blind Prophecy Records to put out their first full-length, ‘Light The Fire‘. This melodic metalcore act has already toured with the likes of Saliva, Flyleaf and Nonpoint, amongst others, and looks to be a force to be reckoned with.

The Good: If nothing else, Ekotren has the youthful energy that many bands lack these days. On ‘Light the Fire‘, this quintet blows through 11 tracks of pure adrenaline in less than 40 minutes. There hardly is a chance for the listener to rest, as all you find here are headbanging thrash pieces, fist-pumping anthems and a single offering of balladry (“Needed You More”). Vocalist John Sheldon is the key to Ekotren’s strength. While his screamed vocals are fairly standard, his clean singing voice is emotive, to say the least. With the title track, “Paper Thin”, “Become”, and “Point of View”, Sheldon blends his thick screams and/or lifting clean vocals into the band’s punishing metalcore overdrive. On the aforementioned “Needed You More” and the lead single “Tranquilized”, Sheldon downplays his screams, instead letting his clean vocals carry the song above the blood, sweat and tears of the others. Importantly, he knows when to sing and when to scream. He displays deep emotion on the suicide note “Death Blanket”, which is especially powerful. Lyrically, he come dangerously close to Emo-ism (“So tell me friends when I’m gone; Don’t ever shed a tear; I was never happy here anyway”), but that’s to be expected with this topic. Ekotren walks the line without falling, delivering crushing songs with needle-sharp lyrics. The other songs cover topics ranging from political/religious hypocrisy to a supposedly-mythical beast. The last song on the album, “El Chupacabra”, is a nightmarish run through the forest from the blood-sucking beast. If that doesn’t light a fire under your ass, nothing will.

The Bad: Light the Fire‘ is a short affair, for sure. While this is a genre not known for terribly long songs, many of the songs here feel slightly underdeveloped. “Paper Thin” has the closest semblance to a guitar solo, the inclusion of which would have been a big boost to this album. Also, in many places Sheldon overplays the profanity card, dropping F-bombs just to fill empty syllables. Maybe it’s all just an exercise in anger management, but a little more time in the studio ought to have smoothed the wrinkles out, giving the album more depth.

Bottomline: Ekotren is pumping on all cylinders here. They have the energy of youth and much more strength than you would expect. This is another band that melds melody with aggression without ever coming off as “soft”. This is a punishing album from a band with a chance to make big waves.

Rating: 8 out of 10