Carl Schulz
Staff Writer

On February 21, 2016, in King of Prussia, a PA-based metalcore act, Cortana released their debut album “Letting Go,” which had been months in the making. The group has only been around for over two years, and the band has changed their name twice in that timespan. “Letting Go” is a true display of the band’s instrumental chops (provided by guitarists Nick Malfara and Robbie Ellinger and drummer Corey Ostroski), as well as vocalist Michael Santucci’s vocal range and lyrical abilities.

The band kicks the record off with a two and a half minute intro track called “Blue Is The Warmest Color,” which serenades with echoing, floating guitar harmonics, creating a mysterious and unsettling atmosphere to set up the following tracks. As the track fades away and slowly transitions into the next track, “Emerald City,” the band punches the listener with driving guitar leads that dive into crushing chugs as vocalist Santucci screams, “You’ll never end up seeing what it seems to be/can’t shine with the fire I burn with/feeling like I’m on the shoulders of giants.”

The track quickly transitions into its chorus of “stable and serene/with nothing in between/it’s as easy as letting go of everything you’ve known.” As the album weaves through tracks, blending melodic choruses, intricate sections of guitar riffing, and rib-shattering breakdowns, the band makes it clear that their prowess extends beyond the typical “local band” level of songwriting and into the upper echelons of ability.

The album’s drawbacks are understandable–lackluster production and a shorter tracklisting that makes it difficult to truly get an idea as to how diverse the band’s sound truly is, especially for a first release. But there is plenty to be excited about on this release. From the brilliant instrumentation (all done without a bass player, which many would consider a major drawback for a metalcore band) to surprising vocal range to guest features provided by Zachary Wilson of Mercy Blow and Joseph Sierocinski, the band incorporates both a larger, more marketable sound and a very humble, very Philadelphia-area feel to their music. “Letting Go” is a step in the right direction for a band that has big prospects in their future.

Rating: 7.5/10