REVIEW: Eyes of the Defiled – Distant Tellings (2016)

EOTD

Artist: Eyes of the Defiled 

Album: Distant Tellings

 

If you ask ten or one hundred people what kind of super-power they’d want, I would bet that a majority would say flight. However,I’d bet that second place—and a close second at that—would be the ability to predict the future. We as humans have an innate fascination with the supernatural and otherworldly, which is why people like psychics can even make any money at all. We fear what we don’t know, and the future is probably the single greatest source of uncertainty for all of mankind. Enter deathcore act Eyes of the Defiled and their latest effort, Distant Tellings. While these Maryland marauders likely don’t possess the gift of futuristic foresight, their 2016 full length serves as a stellar example of the genre’s future. Borrowing heavily from late-2000’s deathcore stylings innovated by Impending Doom and On Solid Ground, Eyes of the Defiled take grungy, gritty aggression, speed and brutality and toss it in a blender with technicality and splashes of trendy downtempo to create a well-rounded, wholly punishing experience. Sprawling fifteen tracks and the better part of an hour, Distant Tellings is grotesque and gutsy, roaring with all cylinders firing and showing no signs of relent or reprieve.

Fundamentally, Distant Tellings feels like a renovated, rejuvenated version of a deathcore release many heavy music fans heard upon their discovery of the genre. This sort of nostalgia and familiarity makes Eyes of the Defiled all the more appealing. Feeling like Elysia or early Whitechapel with more technicality, absurd heaviness and sparse moments of ethereality and atmosphere, Distant Tellings is just as much a blast from the past as it is insight into deathcore’s future. Percussionist Cody Bradshaw pummels the listener into submission throughout Distant Tellings—especially on fast-paced tracks like “2064” and “The Hounds,” where he expertly combines lacerating blast beats and deafening kick drum patterns to bludgeon the listener with pure percussive excellence. Bradshaw brilliantly flows between bustling brutality and bold, slower-yet-sinister sludgy sections to weigh the listener down like a leaden vest—all while bassist Daric Evans adds even more filth and grime to the mix. Evans is rarely ever heard given his placement in Eyes of the Defiled’s mix (which isn’t done any favors by the slightly canned production)—but he does add heft to every hellish kick drum pattern and slamming breakdown. The aptly titled interlude on Distant Tellings is really the only time Evans can truly be heard independently of Bradshaw’s bass drum; the remainder of the release is coated by dissonant, devastating guitar work from songwriter and vocalist Chris Rowe. Rowe—who is first and foremost a harsh vocalist—also wrote and recorded the immense riffs and chugs that fill Distant Tellings’ impressive runtime. “Deceiver” and “Last Words” see him experimenting with distinctly metallic song structure—including more riffs and even a solo among his cavalcade of grooves and grisly breakdowns. Meanwhile, mosh-friendly heavier tracks like “The Hounds” and “Apokalypsis” see Rowe predominantly chugging while adding sharp, slicing leads overtop–still adding furiously fretted and technical moments to every track. When one thinks of a vocalist writing and recording the guitar for a deathcore release, they probably think they’re in for opens and bare-bones song structure—however Rowe gives the listener upwards of ten intriguing and energetic (yet brilliant and diverse) songs with wonderfully written leads and bone-busting breakdowns, shattering the popular conception.

Eyes of the Defiled’s channeling of deathcore’s early days doesn’t end with the gritty production and bipolar writing style; Distant Tellings is home to a hectic dual-vocal dynamic that sees Rowe and vocalist Brad Kraus battling it out for dominion over the band’s devastating chugs and grooves. Between Rowe and Kraus, not one vocal style is left undone—including cleans on certain tracks. While the crooned clean vocals are hit-or-miss at best, fitting on “Apokalypsis” but clashing in other places, the awe-inspiring harsh vocals bring forth hit after hit. The grisly bellows on “2064” are as grisly and guttural as your favorite slam band’s—while the screeches and rasping inward-sounding lows of “Death of Days” will keep listeners coming back for more time and time again. Eyes of the Defiled put forth a fifteen track album (where thirteen of the songs feature vocals) and not one of them sounds the same vocally or otherwise—quite a feat for any band, let alone a deathcore act.

Distant Tellings is a wonderful album held back from true greatness by truly only one thing—production. While the clean vocals at some points on the release (bearing in mind they only appear in three or four songs) don’t fit, they aren’t bad. Eyes of the Defiled’s release simply sounds muffled, where leads aren’t as sharp and bright as they could be and the heavier, chunkier grooves often sound muddy and lack definition. On one hand, this makes veteran fans of deathcore feel right at home, bringing back memories of MySpace and kitty-cat emoticons. On the other hand, it contrasts the more contemporary aspects of the album and will likely cause music snobs to turn up their nose instead of their speakers. All the same, with good headphones or a solid speaker system, Distant Tellings still sounds pretty good—easily getting its claws in the listener with ultra-heavy breakdowns and brilliant vocals, making it a good sign for the future of Deathcore