Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Eyes of a Traitor - Breathless (2010)

I've long been of the school of thought that there are two schools of the metalcore universe: the crafty, volatile and frenzied fare of a Converge, Botch, Coalesce, Drowningman, and the hundreds that followed in their footsteps by fusing post-hardcore and metallic elements into interesting, splayed dynamics; and then the crass and commercialized fodder (Unearth, Killswitch Engage, Black Dahlia Murder) which represents a hybridization of meaty mosh chugging and melodic death elements straight out of Sweden. By this statement, you can probably tell which one I favor, but on occasion there will be a band that flirts with the space betwixt the poles, and I feel like England's The Eyes of a Traitor represents some subtle, middle ground on their sophomore Breathless.

Don't be fooled, there are still many of the trappings of convention in place here, like the very simple chugging sequences and the passionate but typical metalcore ranting howls, but what is more interesting is what the band lays over the bricks: a cement of post-hardcore inflected chords and gleaming melodies. All of this is evident in "The Birth", which has some great ringing notation in the verses and even the plodding mutes of the chorus, proceeding into the bouncy gone melancholic chorus. But come "Come to My Senses", I was pretty sad to encounter the same crappy clean vocals that poison so many artists in this genre, who must feel that they will carry some compulsive, emotional weight. They don't. They suck, and wherever they touch this band's music (which thankfully isn't that often), they instantly spread cancer in their wake. It's a shame, because the guitars and rhythm section work pretty hard here, with a few melodies in tracks like "Talk of the Town" or "Nothing to Offer" that might have sat well on an In Flames or Insomnium album.

I wish the band could pluck out about 40-50% of the riffs here, and re-insert into compositions better fitting a more curious vision. The meaty, bouncing rhythms that are part Meshuggah, part Mnemic never really go anywhere, and the lyrics are almost all very bland, cliched and self-centered in that 1st person perspective, like thousands of throwaway hardcore bands in the 90s who were 'expressing' themselves. I don't mind personal writing, but they never seem to evoke anything beyond the bare minimum of effort and imagination (nor do the song titles). The vocals are also not interesting, with a phoned in level of emotion you can find anywhere in the genre. The production of the album feels a little too processed, but this is not unusual for the style, and at least it gives you the chance to focus on the band's few strengths: the tight, efficient rhythm section and the melodic choices made by the guitars. Other than that, there's really nothing to see here, so move along.

Verdict: Fail [3.75/10]


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