Review Summary: One step forward, three steps back for The Eyes Of A Traitor.
The U.K. metal scene has seen a resurgence in recent years, despite the rise of hipsters Bring Me The Horizon there has been a modern generation of metalcore groups who's intent is on building a reputation based upon the quality of product as opposed to their image. Architects, The Arusha Accord, Bury Tomorrow are among the new generation distancing themselves from the "fashioncore" movement pioneered by Bring Me The Horizon in the early noughties. Prior to Architects' Nightmares release the U.K. had experienced an unprecedented barren period of unsuccessful metal bands. Unfortunately since Architects' peak in sophomore release "Ruin", it seems they are in the process of removing all technicality and subsequent identity from their music. One wonders why? It is arguable they are beginning to conform to the record selling formulas being employed by their Oliver Sykes fronted compatriots. Vocalist Sam Carter all but reinforces this notion in a recent interview with rock magazine "Kerrang" where he claimed the experimentation using time signatures and technical riffing were a thing of the past. Hertfordshire's The Eyes of a Traitor or just "Traitor" as they now like to be known, seem to have taken a leaf out of this book in the band's follow up album to the critically acclaimed "A Clear Perception".
"A Clear Perception" was excellent in so many ways, the balance between technicality and listenability was flawless. The band's blend of Gothenburg style melodic death metal leads, crunchy, progressive rhythms combined with mind-blowing note sweeps and tapping solos marked a release that was in many ways groundbreaking. The vocals however left a lot to be desired. Jack Delany's gravelly hardcore shouts were a constant irritation and unfortunately deflected much of the attention off the stellar musicianship.
In what has been a complete turnaround on sophomore album "Breathless" the vocals have drastically improved, yet the musicianship has simplified. While Delany's vocals still don't match up to the very best of metalcore's current crop they are no longer so grating on the ears. Particular improvements have been made on the mid range hardcore shouts, the style of vocal which is used most often throughout. Variation is added with what were already satisfactory low pitch belches, though in accordance with the shift in musical direction the vocal changes are far less common than in "Breathless'" predecessor. Also new is the introduction of clean vocals, the melodic chorus' of "Your Old Ways" are an example of ground not covered in previous releases. In spite of Traitor's widening vocal repertoire they seem incapable of integrating the clean sections into their songs effectively. The total lack of transition from harsh to clean vocals in "Come To My Senses" perfectly characterises their new found shortcomings.
"Breathless" undertakes a new direction musically. Guitarists Matt Pugh and Stephen Whitworth chop out chugga chug rhythms while flitting between time signatures like their lives depend on it. The sacrifice of melody means there are only few moments of enjoyment amidst the blunt, metallic dullness. In truth the use of palm mutes is so excessive it sometimes gives the impression of one long, continuous song with occasional interruptions when lead guitarist Whitworth segues into a rare melodic lead such as that in "Talk Of The Town" or the tasteful bass grooves of "The Real You".
It seems the only musician in the band who hasn't regressed is drummer Sam Brennan. He seemingly revels in the constant time changes and injects some much needed creativity with his patterns. It is hard not to appreciate his playing when his nimble fills which are spinkled throughout.
Besides the marvellous title track, "Breathless" does nothing but clump the band in among the many predictable, less talented British acts vying for global recognition, doing the wrong things. The Eyes of a Traitor have now reached a crossroad. They are faced with the prospect of becoming another needle in the haystack based upon the evidence of this release. "A Clear Perception" more than proved the band's competency as musicians and if their talent can be developed with a direction that doesn't involve cheap impersonations they may be diverted from their collision course with mediocrity.