Review Summary: Eyes Set to Kill still have some growing to do, but this album is proof that they're up to the challenge.
When a band has the kind of success that Eyes Set to Kill did with their major label debut, Reach
, it often means that their follow-up is going to contain more of the same. Fortunately, there are those bands that consider themselves actual artists and aren’t content to simply churn out variations of the original hit and Eyes Set to Kill is apparently one of them. According to the band’s website the goal on this album was to have critics, fans and the industry recognize Alexia Rodriguez’s growth and maturity as a songwriter and performing artist. Recognizing the band’s growth from their beginnings to this album is easily done and if that was their goal than mission accomplished. The World Outside
has improved on every facet of the band’s sound and is almost certain to be looked back on as the album that foreshadowed better things to come.
On the most basic level, Eyes Set to Kill can be described as a post-hardcore or screamo band that utilize pop-sensibilities in order to create a sound that is as catchy as it is edgy. They also include an additional dynamic by using both male and female vocalists, but other than that minor difference their debut was just another enjoyable album full of pop hooks contrasted with a post-hardcore edge. As enjoyable as that album was, it wasn’t without its problems. The problem that Reach
presented was that the enjoyable aspects were diluted by terrible screaming, a hollow production and some awkward songwriting. The World Outside
fixes the last two issues and makes a noticeable improvement on the first one. The band wasn’t just content on fixing notable problems though; they also improved as musicians and injected a metallic edge that lends their songs a darker feel and a stronger sense of urgency.
In the past, one of the biggest problems with Eyes Set to Kill was the terrible screaming of Brandon Anderson. His screams were weak and high pitched in an annoyingly nasal way. They also lacked the required intelligibility that a band like this would require; instead delivering lyrics as a string of garbled syllables. Opening song, “Heights” proves two things within the first 30 seconds of its play time – one, that the production on this album is noticeably fuller and two that the screams have improved remarkably. They’re deeper, more powerful and there’s more separation between individual words allowing the lyrics to be more effective. The screams are still not entirely perfect but they don’t ruin songs like they used to. The band have also incorporated more clean male vocals which, while not perfect either, help to soften any potential negatives brought about by the screams. In all honesty though, the songwriting has improved so much that even if the screams had not improved they probably still wouldn’t have been able to ruin the album.
The band has evolved past the quirky gracelessness that caused Reach
to occasionally feel a little unrefined or weak, and have presented an album full of well-built songs. The songs sound noticeably more complete due to the band focusing on whole compositions instead of emphasis being placed on a catchy chorus. This allows the entire album to be memorable with the choruses being slightly more so, but without any overt allusion to pop designs. The band’s integration of a metallic undercurrent into the riffs also helps to dull any blatant pop references and assists in providing a thick base for the rest of the instruments. Within the band’s more metallic direction, they’ve also continued to incorporate occasional, yet effective, piano parts to songs such as the title track and “Come Home” where they take the lead role. This helps to add extra emotional weight to the songs when Alexia’s lyrics call for it.
As chief lyricist and songwriter, Alexia Rodriguez deserves a large part of the credit for the way this album turned out. Not only has she improved the band’s music, but she has also exposed herself lyrically. Her lyrics have become more personal than ever before, dealing with such issues as her abandonment by her father as well as personal insecurities that have followed her through life. In all honesty, the main draw to this band is going to be Alexia’s vocals, which are catchy at all times yet can also be emotionally engaging. The improved songwriting and focus on complete compositions has also allowed her vocals to integrate much more effectively with the heavier sections which removes a lot of the awkwardness displayed on the last album. All together, the improvements and progression made in the 16 months between albums is surprising and shows the amount of work that she and the band has put into this album.
Apparently, it was Alexia’s belief that true artists always evolve and that simply rehashing Reach
was out of the question. Instead, she made improvements in key areas and added a few new elements that served to enhance the band’s sound, and surprisingly everything worked. The metal-influenced riffs bring about a fuller, heavier experience that better compliments both Brandon’s screaming and Alexia’s singing and their focus on songs over choruses has allowed all of the compositions to sound fuller and much more developed. Alexia’s dedication to the progression of the band has lead to the strongest release of their career and should help her achieve the goal of proving to everyone that she has grown as a songwriter and artist. Of course, there is still room to further improve in all areas (mainly the screaming), but this album will definitely serve as a highly enjoyable step towards even better things to come.