According to his bio, Ian Mikel has always felt a little different, like “an outcast trying to find myself amidst the noise that was slowly and swiftly swelling inside my head.” DEELYLE’s Era is a little different, too. It’s a dark and atmospheric alternative rock album with heavy electronic influences, but it still retains enough pop sensibility to satisfy casual listeners.
Era deals with difficult topics like instability, loss, and fear. Rocking Steven Trueba’s always-engaging production mastery and adding James Bakoles and Vitaliy Perunov as executive producers, Era balances bass synth-heavy electronic beats with complex arpeggiated guitars and lush string movements. It isn’t the first time these elements have been used well together, but they’re particularly well-suited for DEELYLE’s vocal style.
Speaking of vocal style, Era is clearly designed to highlight DEELYLE’s vocal range and performance front-to-back. He has a diverse vocal style, seemingly drawing inspiration from Rob Swire and Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump, but in Era’s closing track Ethereal channeling Matthew Bellamy of Muse. Ian’s outstanding ability to move quickly and effortlessly between vocal styles if evident throughout Era.
Era begins with Devil’s Den, its catchiest, radio-ready track. Heavy distorted basslines weave in and out of Ian’s present, surprisingly dry vocals. That sparseness of vocal processing (rarely will you hear much more than delay, reverb, and a bit of distortion) speaks to the high caliber of vocal prowess coming from the DEELYLE camp.
Somebody Else and Game Over showcase detailed acoustic/electric guitar work very reminiscent of Mike Einziger’s work with Incubus. Hellbent is a downtempo, vocally-rich track that showcases Ian’s falsetto for the first time on the album. Bleeds Together is the album’s intensity track, unleashing all of Trueba’s production tricks seen with artists like TeZATalks and Candlight.
Ethereal, the album’s closer, is the most potent example of DEELYLE’s future potential. If you remember the classical-meets-rock gravitas of pre-2nd Law Muse, you have a good idea of the weight and power of Ethereal. It’s pensive, nearly ready to explode with energy. I would love to hear more exploration of this side of DEELYLE in future albums.
All told, Era does work to define the DEELYLE sound. As a rock vocalist with heavy electronic tendencies, there’s no reason to think DEELYLE couldn’t find room at the top with singers like Dan Reynolds or Tyler Joseph. The music and vocal talent is there. The album gives back more upon repeated listens, and generally portends that, indeed, the DEELYLE era is beginning.
You should be on the ride.