Review Summary: I was never scared of dying alone, until I knew what it was like to have a home
Trophy Eyes don’t prepare you for the massive impact of Chemical Miracle.
The three singles dropped prior to its release hinted the Australian hardcore act’s sophomore effort would be a large departure from their hardcore roots. So naturally, the abrasive yells of ‘Suicide Pact’ and chaotic drumming in ‘Rain on Me’ hit with the impact of an unexpected sucker punch - but in the best way possible. That’s not to say Chemical Miracle
doesn’t find the band wading through calmer waters at times, but it’s a much more natural progression than expected. While their debut album, Mend, Move On
, was constantly fueled by John Floreani’s gruff, throaty yells, their sophomore effort allows that aggression to take a back seat at times in exchange for a more subdued, dreamy structure. The album’s not a complete overhaul of their hardcore roots in any way, but it’s a giant step up from their rather repetitious debut in terms of songwriting and dynamics. In fact, Chemical Miracle
could likely do for Trophy Eyes what Home, Like NoPlace Is There
did for The Hotelier. With lyrics throughout the album undertaking painful topics such as suicide, depression and loss, the band’s sophomore effort is an emotional powerhouse that’s sure to strike a chord with its audience.
The first noticeable highlight in Chemical Miracle
is without a doubt the improved vocal performance of John Floreani. Although he certainly got the job done yelling like a drunken frat boy throughout the band’s debut, his vocal approach felt nearly identical in every track. This isn’t an issue in the slightest here; Chemical Miracle
has a much more flexible backbone, with Floreani seamlessly trading off between his signature screams and some unexpectedly soothing vocals. Opener ‘Chlorine’ showcasing this perfectly, with a potent mixture of angry and poignant lines that waste no time painting the first portrait of death: Tell me why I didn’t die in that swimming pool. When you saved my life, did you know that you would take your own?
It’s pretty heavy ***, and from the moment the band reveals the tragedy of a lost loved one through the colorful opener ‘Chlorine,’ they never really stop throwing lyrical punches.
Given the potentially painful subject matter at hand, Chemical Miracle
would be a lot more depressing were it not for the always alluring performance by all involved. Lyrics aside, it’s an aurally stimulating album that knows how to keep the listener feeling engaged. ‘Rain On Me’ is one of the best songs of the band’s career, with unnervingly fast drums, sharp tempo changes, and even a heavy metal-inspired riff session towards its back half that seems to give a nod to Black Sabbath. It’s a spastic, loud mixture of influences that contains the best of what Trophy Eyes have to offer, but it’s far from the only song that gets the blood pumping. While some songs are a potent mixture of both sides of Trophy Eyes, others tend to go one way or the other. ‘Daydreamer’ and ‘Breath You In’ find the band at the most subdued states yet, with the latter effectively leaving the listener in a relaxed trance as Floreani’s vocals wrap around them like a warm and fuzzy blanket. The soothing, slightly hypnotic vocals are accompanied by intricate drum patterns and sweeping guitar parts that lead into some of the most explosive choruses on the album. On the other hand, some tracks hit with a much stronger velocity: both ‘Chemical’ and ‘Miracle’ are brief cuts packed with as much anger and angst as could possibly fit in their short runtimes, and they mow over everything in their path with a startling fury.
Although Trophy Eyes do dip their toes in some much calmer seas on Chemical Miracle
, there are just as many crashing waves and moments of relentless intensity. The combination of reflective and angry lyricism on display here surpasses anything the band penned on their debut, with ‘Home Is’ being contender for the most thought-provoking and relatable track lyrically. Following an Adam’s Song-esque guitar intro, the track thrusts the listener into a poignant and rowdy track that deals with anxiety associated with leaving home. It’s a fitting follow-up to the tranquil but lonely confessions revealed by Floreani in 'Breath You In': I was never scared of dying alone, until I knew what it was like to have a home.
Nearly anyone can relate to feelings of isolation and doubt that come with trying to go out and make it in the world, and it’s these honest revelations that give Chemical Miracle
such a magnetic connection with its audience. Deep cuts involving suicide, loss, and friendship are abundant throughout the album, especially in its second act. These messages may be hard to swallow, but they’re told with such a level of honesty and determination it’s hard not to get entangled in the madness. From continuous instrumental surprises to brutally honest lyrics, Trophy Eye’s sophomore effort is much more than a solid return, it’s an unanticipated punch to the gut - one that will leave the listener reeling as it rightfully earns its spot among the genre’s most passionate and achingly honest albums.