Release Date: April 20, 2014
Studio: Self-recorded, produced and mixed
For Fans of: Tesseract, Betraying the Martyrs, The Contortionist, Born of Osiris, Periphery, The Plot in You
Out of Batavia, Illinois comes the poundingly heavy and indignantly dark sound that Through My Eyes have cultivated for themselves over the past four years. Self-described as “symphonic deathcore,” there are indeed orchestral elements laced throughout the contemporary hard music production on the band’s debut full length, Victoria. Along with their catalog of releases, the band members are no strangers to the local scene. Regularly performing throughout northern Illinois and occasionally embarking on tours, these efforts have helped the band earn the respect of nearly 4,000 Facebook fans on a global scale. The band’s latest musical effort, Victoria, is eight songs of smashing but delicately woven melodic deathcore, with influences from a host of other metal sub-genres.
The band favors downtuning and thick, chunky production. They take an angle on phrasings and riffs that seems to highlight the extremes of the creative spectrum of deathcore and metalcore. On “He Whose Slaves We Are” and “Edict Of Diocletian,” the band hits the ground running with scathing instrumental brawn, leaving nothing standing as they bring every sonic structure to the ground. Through My Eyes incorporates breakdowns into their songs, but not to an exorbitant degree, which is to their credit.
At times, the band falters between composing authentically creative riffs and relying too much on the rhythmic responsibilities of drums and bass guitar. Drummer Josh Kanute keeps his fills varied and dynamic, which strengthens the band’s breed of deathcore. Bassist Colin Vass lays down his lines with ease, ensuring that the band’s low end is as beefy as need be. Guitarists Mike Gans and Bryan Haake execute their riffs interchangeably well, and only impress the listener more as the album proceeds.
While the majority of riffs they write remain within the realm of orchestrally-tinged deathcore and metal, the breakdowns sometimes border on djent. This is partially due to the production of the album, but Through My Eyes’ tuning of choice is about as low as can be comprehended for the style of music they are aiming for. When Gans and Haake climb into the higher registers for more intricate guitar work, this only adds to the quality of their craft. On the vocal front, Alex Byrne showcases a wide range of vocal styles, including everything from high-pitched pleas and clean singing to truly guttural lows.
Through My Eyes weaves gentle and floating melodic lines from piano and strings into the fury and aggression that pours out from every other corner of the band. This technique in composition instantly creates contrast in their sound, causing the listener to hear multiple emotions at once. The electronically generated string instruments and piano, while quite pleasant on their own, produce a slightly haunting, melodic effect when coupled with Through My Eyes’ metal riffs.
The first half of the album comes to a close with “The Malfaisant,” perhaps the band’s most unrelenting track thus far on the journey of Victoria. The song opens up with straightforward blast beats from Kanute as the band fully opens up and continues to deliver more of the riffs they are best at: punchy, staccato rhythmic patterns stretched out alongside melodies of orchestral aim. “The Malfaisant” ends with a bulky, well-planned breakdown.
“A Votuus” is a sterling example of Byrne’s vocal skillfulness as well as his tendencies. He often couples his Earth-deep growls with his high-reaching screams, giving way to a very monster-like effect. Many bands that play metal attempt this, and most can pull it off, but Byrne does so with a surprisingly distinct quality. Byrne pours every ounce of energy and passion into his vocals, and it shows.
Nearing the end of Victoria, “Gallows Hill” is an impressive track, certainly one that must be pointed to when one is referencing the band’s better songs. Byrne interjects a few phrases of clean vocals on this song that do feel out of place, however. The bittersweet tonality that he uses does not seem to carry that section of the song forward.
By the time the listener reaches “The Scourge,” too many of Through My Eyes’ riffs throughout Victoria have struck one as similar, and it is easy to close the album out feeling exhausted. The band appears to write fairly complex riffs that are worth listening to and appreciating, but something about the tempos they choose combined with lower tunings distorts and muddles their passages, beyond the fact that they are playing metal-infused deathcore.
Title track “Victoria” is both a change of pace and somewhat of a breath of fresh air, as Gans and Haake offer up some of the entire album’s most genuinely melodic material. The entire band also pushes the capabilities of their talent to the very top, writing and performing what is very likely Victoria’s most complex song, rhythmically and otherwise. At over 11 minutes long, the title track is a complete marathon, but is easily the band’s most powerful and pronounced song on this release.
Through My Eyes accomplishes a lot in their music. They push the boundaries a bit more than most of their peers, particularly among local bands, and the future seems to be bright for this quintet. The band is also known to have a high-energy live performance, aiding them in solidifying a reputation that will hopefully continue to propel them further. Having wrapped up a nearly two-week summer tour this year, do not be surprised if you start hearing their name more and more among the metal and hardcore scenes.
Through My Eyes has written and recorded a sonically audacious and skillfully diverse album in Victoria, and have improved massively since 2010. The band has consistently proven themselves in the greater Chicagoland heavy music scene and will continue playing music until they “physically cannot do so.” Check out their Bandcamp page, YouTube channel and Facebook page below.
Underground Examinations is a series of Independent Music Reviews with the intention of giving new music a fair and appropriate opportunity to be enjoyed.
Review by Brad Johnson