Eartheater is the name New York-based musician Alexandra Drewchin releases under. Though originally an electronic artist, she’s also dabbled in folk and related genres. Like many contemporary singers, she sings with a little bit of an affect so her voice is an acquired taste. It’s that voice, and the effects she puts on it, that is most likely to get people to tune out her fascinating cover of System of a Down’s 2001 hit “Chop Suey.”
She sings in what sounds almost like a half whisper, with a delay and with equally odd backing vocals. She accompanies herself only with closely-mic’d guitar but the effects on her vocals give the recording a much fuller sound. Still, this is a really long way from the bombast and sweep of the original.
She doesn’t unleash the full power of her voice until her second run through the chorus, which comes closest to Serj Tankian’s soaring vocals. (And she doesn’t come very close.) But everything else stays unchanged until the bridge, removing the massive shifts the song is famous for. For the bridge, she replaces her guitar with piano initially, though the guitar comes back almost immediately to replace the piano. Again, the dense vocal mix remains the same and her lead vocal is relatively muted.
And then, three minutes in, the musical catharsis Eartheater has been denying us comes in, with drums, less muted and affected vocals, and a broader instrumental palette, including guitar and piano. This is a song known for its dynamic changes and Eartheater brings them in right at the end. Wait for it. It’s worth it.