Review Summary: A great soundtrack for the Gothic blockbuster that was never made.
Finland’s own Helsinki Vampires, The 69 Eyes have a cut swath through the European music scene for over a decade, playing their own particular blend of glam rock and Goth. They first cracked the US market in 2005 with the overseas release of their seventh studio album titled Devils, a work that they have boasted is their best to date. Can they back up that boast?
The very name of the album conjures up images of elusive and sinister figures dancing on the edge of your vision and playing with reality. Which makes it a very accurate label for the songs therein. The 69 Eyes show a diverse palette of songwriting approaches, while still keeping their catchy choruses and hooks to make the music easy to consume for a larger crowd. In effect, they blend the atmospheres of Goth rock with the sensibilities of their glam predecessors. Bet you never thought you’d hear “glam” and “sensibilities” used in the same sentence, did you?
Several characteristics that distinguish the music are the cinematic vibe of the composition, the rich textures of the instrumentation, and the novelty of lead singer Jyrki 69’s bass voice.
Right from the opening title track, you feel like you’re listening to a soundtrack to a really good horror movie. No surprise considering the group themselves have said they’re movie buffs. They continue the theme of soundtrack-esque music on such notable tracks as Lost Boys
, Sister of Charity
, and [/b]Nothing on You[/b].
The instrumentation provides a lot of atmosphere with effects-laden guitars beefed up by buzzsaw distortion, aggressive drumming, a bass like distant thunder, omnipresent synths, and achingly expressive lead and backing vocals. From the threatening riffs and snarled chorus of Devils
, to the hymn-like dirge of Sister of Charity
, to the lilting hope of Beneath the Blue
, the album envelopes you in atmosphere.
Lead singer Jyrki shows a great deal of influence from Type O Negative vocalist Peter Steele. His smooth, bass voice provides a vibe to the music that could not be achieved any other way. He seems equally adept playing the villain, the seducer, the hero, and the long-lost friend, all depending on which role the song requires of him.
This not to say that other band members are slouches. Guitarists Bazie and Timo-Timo are a formidable duo churning out one hard-hitting riff after another. They seem to draw influence as much from Motorhead, U2, and The Police as they do from David Bowie, T. Rex, and other staples of Goth rock musicians. Bazie also turns out several well-crafted solos such as on Lost Boys
and Nothing on You
One thing the pair seem particularly fond of doing is using harmonized clean or overdriven passages drenched in reverb, delay, chorus, and other effects. They just as often create single-note melodies as chord progressions, resulting in a diverse palette of sounds. They switch gears very easily as well, whether it be the balls-to-the-wall rock riffing on Lost Boys
and the Celtic Frost-esque From Dusk Till Dawn
or the more restrained chord progressions of Sister of Charity
Jussi is also not lagging in the drum department. He has an aggressive, hardcore approach to drumming on most songs, but shows restraint on slower songs such as Only You Can Save Me
. No matter what, he manages to create a very big sound with double bass and cymbal crashes that helps give the music a larger-than-life sound. He also demonstrates some visceral fills on certain songs, most notably Devils
Archzie is not an exceptional bassist, but his tone has the rumbling quality ideal for this type of music. He’s placed high enough in the music that we do notice his silences, which is a nice change over the current trends, which tend to drown the bass out of the mix almost entirely. As mentioned before, he has a tone very much like distant thunder. This can create either lend an air of dread or majesty, depending on the overall songwriting.
It’s worth noting that producer Johnny Lee Michaels is counted as the unofficial sixth member of the band, as he played all the keyboards and synths on the album. His experience in European cinema lends an almost Danny Elfman-esque quality to the songs. Without a doubt, his contributions really helped push this album to the amazing level it’s achieved. He provides both rich atmospheric textures on songs such as Sister of Charity
and Feel Berlin
while also providing melodies and hooks to tracks such as Hevioso
There are some truly exceptional songs on this album, many of which were made into singles. Perhaps the only real low point of the album is the somewhat lackluster Christina Death
, which has some rather trite lyrics and unspectacular instrumentation. However, with ten other well-written tracks and at least five of those being exceptional, it can be overlooked.
The flow of the album is really quite wonderful. The group switches gears gracefully and manages to kick the adrenaline back up right when needed. The opening of Devils
sets the melodramatic tone for the album right up to the final notes of the ballad Only You Can Save Me
Some versions of the album include a bonus track in the metal-flavored From Dusk Till Dawn
. Personally, I like to mix it up so that this plays earlier in the album, but if you’re looking for a straightforward rock anthem, this more than satisfies.
As I write this, the band are already preparing for the release of the sequel album Angels in 2007. Movie sequels have a nasty habit of not being… well, good. But with any luck, The 69 Eyes can keep that trend out of their music and release a follow-up worthy of the quality seen in Devils.