Written by: AP on 01/04/2021 16:10:52

Although Eyes’ self-titled début EP did not cause much of a stir when it dropped in 2018, the quintet wasted no time in building up a reputation as a ferocious live act. I have witnessed only a few other musicians who get as carried away on stage as the band’s frontman Victor Kaas, whose maniacal glare and tendency to lose his shit at concerts recalls the likes of Ryan McKenney (ex-Trap Them), Fever 333’s Jason Aalon Butler, and the former Dillinger Escape Plan frontman Greg Puciato — and as an avid fan of chaotic music, I had thus been looking forward to finding out whether Eyes’ first full-length “Underperformer” would render the band an exhilarating experience on record as well. It has taken me some time to reach a verdict, and not just due to my dwindling motivation to write anything during much of the past year; for “Underperformer” is not exactly easy listening, let alone easy to get into even for the crustiest of hardcore punk fans.

To be sure, Eyes’ music is definitely rooted in punk. But much of their inspiration seems to stem from the extremes of the genre, which means that if you are not disposed to angular and at times abrasive guitar riffs, sudden changes in tempo, and song dynamics that seem to have been created with the sole purpose of haranguing your sense of aesthetics, then “Underperformer” is not for you. Unbridled lunacy seems to be the driving momentum behind its ten tracks, most of which evoke images of Kaas twitching in a straitjacket and chafing away the inside of his lungs with his acerbic growls (which are incidentally quite similar to the aforementioned Greg Puciato’s). Yet in the midst of all the chaos, one can easily hear why the record has garnered so much praise already, for while it might be a stretch to say that songs like “Verge” and the titular “Underperformer” and “Off” are catchy by traditional standards, there is nonetheless something utterly captivating about all of them. Indeed, it is almost as if there were an undercurrent of… pop punk? running beneath the twisted mangle of mathcore, begging for the listener to try out some actual dance moves in between bouts of moshing. It takes some time to identify this aspect of the music, and then some more time to come to grips with it, but it does feel like one of those fabled instances of edge that has the capacity to set a band apart.

Other tracks, most notably “Distance” and “Crutches”, veer into blackened territory, while there is also a touch of southern flavour à la Every Time I Die in the likes of “Surf” and “Victim”, all of which ensures that the lack of distinct, memorable hooks is compensated for with a decent amount of variety for such a short album. When all is said and done, however, one might still argue that Eyes have some ground to cover in terms of realising their full potential. The five musicians have the intoxicating madness that has made their idols so successful nailed to near perfection, but once the 31 minutes that the record lasts have wound to a conclusion, it is hard to pinpoint those exact moments that carry an album and put it on everyone’s lips. In my book, there needs to be some respite, a couple of less caustic songs in the vein of Dillinger Escape Plan’s “Milk Lizard” or “Setting Fire to Sleeping Giants” in order to make a proper imprint on my memory in this genre, and right now Eyes seem to have a singular focus on just sewing chaos. Mind you, it is well written and invigorating chaos — all that’s needed now is to inject some genuine lasting value into it.


Download: Distance, Underperformer, Choke, Surf
For the fans of: Daughters, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Fawn Limbs, Pupil Slicer
Listen: Facebook

Release date 25.09.2020

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