Review Summary: A unique blend of early 90s techno and modern mainstream metal that sometimes seems bent on destroying itself with a dated synth sound.
When I listen to albums from unsigned bands I try to approach it a little differently than I would an “official” release. I try to go into it with the understanding that it’s probably not a band with years of experience under their belt. I also assume that there’s no big name producer focusing and dictating a direction for the music (something a lot of new bands actually do need). Basically, I’m trying to say that I go into it expecting flaws but try to see the potential as well. Blind Eye Era plays a hybrid of mainstream metal and full-on techno and they make my job fairly easy because there aren’t any huge flaws and there is a lot of potential to be found.
From a commercial standpoint their biggest potential lies in their vocalist, Shaun Henry. He has a very strong voice that is able to convey a lot of emotion over the techno-synth and crunchy riffs. The closest comparison would be to Red
’s vocalist except this guy has a larger range and doesn’t use any screams (with one notable exception). The flaw here is that, at this point, the songwriting isn’t strong enough to take full advantage of his voice. Songs such as “This Dying Day” just don’t have a strong enough chorus to really stick and take them to the next level. It’s not an album-wide issue but it’s consistent enough to be a small annoyance. Vocally, the largest annoyance comes from the track “Iron Wizard”. For whatever reason the band brought in a guy to growl through most of the lyrics and it simply doesn’t work. A lot of this album’s strength is found in the emotional vocal delivery and those weak growls simply don’t deliver on that front or even on an aggressive front.
Fortunately, those growls are an isolated incident because musically there is a lot of potential. Their unique mixture of catchy metal riffs and techno synths puts them in a position to stand apart from their peers; the problem is that the techno they’ve decided to take from sounds very dated. It’s mostly the kind of shrill, rhythmic synth that was found on almost all early 90s Wax Trax and TVT releases. They’ve managed to make that sound work on a majority of the songs, but when they fail it can get pretty bad. When the bouncy, piercing synth of “Arm of the Curse” begins it’s almost enough to get the song skipped before it even begins. The element that saves songs such as “Arm of the Curse” is the riffs. When the dated synth-sound seems hell-bent on ruining all credibility, his riffs are often able to come in and save the song with their crunchy, yet catchy sound.
The thing that gives me hope for these guys reaching their full potential is that there quite a few songs that come close already, and one that totally hits the mark. The song that fulfills on all of this band’s promise is “Sorrow Runs”. The synth on this song avoids sounding dated by dropping a lot of the stereotypical techno sound and moving in a more cold direction. The riffs are also some of the best on the album, complimenting the cold synth with an energetic, yet mechanical heaviness in the verses and a catchy subtlety in the chorus. This song is also one of the few to fully capitalize on the strong vocals, delivering one of more emotional and catchy choruses I’ve heard in a while. This is definitely the kind of thing I hope to hear more of from them in the future.
While I’ve tried to highlight both the high and low points of this album, it should be stressed that overall this is a very enjoyable listen. The main issue is the dated synth sound that is frequently used, but the quality of the riffs and vocals are generally enough to make up for it. I guess I could just bring this right down to money since I bought it on iTunes. Basically, do I regret spending $9.99 on this album? The answer is “no”. This is easily good enough to warrant the price I paid and I predict that it will receive multiple listens in the coming months, but every time I listen I’ll be hoping for a more modern approach to the electronics next time.