Just thirty seconds into "Wave Existence," the first track from Aethere's 2013 EP, Demons, the progressive death metal band accomplishes dizzying harmonies while transitioning between carefully articulated blast beats, devastating breakdowns, and drop-tuned grooves.
The group toys with tempos and divided meters, causing a disorienting panic that sets the tone for the songs that follow: Even when harmony and time signatures are established, they could be disrupted at any time. Ultimately, Aethere blends the most dramatic aspects of hardcore and death metal, occasionally ornamenting it with triads and ringing riffs.
With their current lineup (guitarist Garrett Wasson, drummer Josh Slater, guitarist Chris Tognetti, bassist Seph Herrera, and vocalist Cody Fuentes) scattered from Castro Valley to Salinas, the band claims the Bay Area as its home. This Sunday, Aethere opens a five-band show headlined by instrumental prog-metal band Scale the Summit at the Oakland Metro.
We spoke with guitarist Garrett Wasson of Aethere on how to keep progressive metal progressive, finding a home in the Bay Area, and how World of Warcraft played a role in the band's beginning. Stream the 2013 EP, Demons, while you read.
SF Weekly: The range in pitch and tonality from lead riffs to palm-muted chord progressions is unbelievable. How does Aethere accomplish this dynamic sound?
Garrett Wasson: Chris Tognetti (guitar) plays an eight-string guitar and I play a nine. I'm in the process of getting a 10. I personally like the option of having so much range on an instrument.
What tuning do you use?
My nine is tuned from low to high: A E A E A D G B E. And the eight is the same, but without the low A.
Aethere released a lyric video for a new single, "Agony," in May, which is different from tracks on your previous EP, Demons, in the way that tempos are more constant and riffs are less sporadic. Is Aethere's sound shifting?
I can say that the music that we have written, there are shifts in regards to moods and the feel of songs. But we wouldn't be the band we are if we didn't do that. That's something that I personally like about progressive music and death metal: the ability to shift gears musically left and right. We're going to try to do it in such a way that it's not just inaudible. You can hear a lot in "Agony" that it's not as dramatic as stuff that we've done on Demons, but we're still going to keep our general sound for the most part.
Chris Tognetti just joined a few months ago, and Aethere has had a few lineup changes. With each member of the new lineup living in different cities, how does Aethere find a homebase?
When we play Salinas, it feels like a hometown show for me. I'm sure what I feel, is how Chris feels when we play San Jose or something. We've developed our big base following in San Jose. So for me, even if we play in San Jose it feels a bit more like home there, just because there are more people who know us than in any other area. But it's not the same as playing your home, where you're playing in front of people that you've been going to shows with for years and years now. But at least with metal, or hardcore or anything included, it's a tighter community or much more understanding community. Even if you're dressed weird or whatever, as long as you're there for the same thing as everyone else, then they're pretty accepting.
So what is the story behind the name Aethere?
So the actual origin of that is, I played World of Warcraft and I played with a pal and his name was Aethere. I saw that name and I thought it was cool: one hundred percent lame.
You play World of Warcraft?
I don't play that terrible game anymore.