Released: 2006, Century Media Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Eyes of Fire’s crushing 2004 debut, ASHES TO EMBERS, was a blistering torrent of sludgy, chaotic riffing and melancholic, dark-themed lyrics dipped in a tasty Neurosis candy shell and the band continues into much the same territory with PRISONS. The production here sounds like the entire band is playing through a wet wool sweater and given the subject matter, I’m assuming that was their intention. The wall of sound is massive and crushingly heavy, much like Mastodon, Isis, Cult of Luna and the aforementioned Neurosis. PRISONS builds upon the occasionally difficult-to-digest structures found on ASHES TO EMBERS and crafts a brute of an album that burrows into your psyche, gives your emotions a shake and leaves you limp and feeling spent.
The gloomy feeling of Eyes of Fire’s music is both catatonic and aggressive and lead-off cut, “Blood (This Consumes You),” sheds light on the vocal dynamic between Dan Kaufman and Matt Fisher. Huge swaths of guitar swells and divergent vocal styles roar out of the gates. “Gone Forever” is the perfect blend of seething melancholy and slow-building crashes wrapped around a grandiose chorus. “It All Dies Today” is a standout for many reasons, the most obvious being the darkly melodic chorus and similarity to “Hopeless” from ASHES TO EMBERS. “Dead To The World” showcases Fisher’s colossal roar and juxtaposes that with spoken verses and some unique drumming from Nicky Bernardi. The golden ticket here, though, is “Falling Apart,” a haunting track with megaton guitars and a chorus that simply erupts. “All Said and Done” is a quiet, reserved piece with a hushed, clean vocal that explodes just past the two-minute mark and eventually resides in a plodding, doom-laced pace. The noisy mish-mash of “Fight Me” and the overly-long, but hauntingly atmospheric “Fire Inside,” conclude the proceedings with mixed results.
At nearly an hour, PRISONS goes on a bit too long and to end the album with an eight-and-a-half minute track that lumbers along reduces the overall effect of downtrodden gloom built up to that point. Another thing that could be removed from PRISONS is the use of keyboard samples and little nuances between the tracks. Pete Truax’s role is to intersperse the bruising moments with oddly compelling instrumental pieces and he does that but it just seems like a waste to me. Personally, I find this pretentious and Cult of Luna’s last release—fawned over by critics alike—left me unsatisfied for exactly the same reason. ASHES TO EMBERS did not have these and the flow of that record is a bit better than PRISIONS as a result.
The line between beauty and brutality seems like a vast plain but Eyes of Fire narrows that chasm into a carefully constructed behemoth they have named PRISONS. Bubbling below the surface of such depressing, emotive music is the reality that this band is only two albums into its career and the growth is apparent immediately. What PRISONS lacks in pacing, it more than makes up for in intensity and brooding angst. The scary thought is just what sort of pain and madness these guys must endure on a daily basis to churn out this soundtrack-to-slit-your-wrists-to and if they will actually make it to album number three.
KILLER KUTS: “Gone Forever,” “It All Dies Today,” “Dead To The World,” “Falling Apart,” “All Said and Done”