Artist: To The Wind
Album: Empty Eyes
It seems all too often that bands struggle with the concept of emotion–maybe not the actual display of emotion, or the influence of emotion in their music, but rather, the balance. How does one keep a quick, aggressive candor in their music without sacrificing feeling? How does one provide pummeling, bone-cracking heaviness without seeming forced? Fortunately for bands struggling with these concepts, Seattle-based emotional, yet heavy hardcore act To The Wind were kind enough to provide a lesson in emotive, expressive brutality with Empty Eyes. The band’s debut full length, Empty Eyes is a lacerating lecture in the balancing act that is finding the proper proportions of inspiring, relatable lyrics and expressions with quick-hitting, mosh-friendly metallic elements. The result? A listener who is ultimately infinitely more educated and entertained at the end of the brief, yet thorough experience that To The Wind so graciously provide.
Beginning with the blood-pumping “Balance,” Empty Eyes doesn’t don a mask or pretend to be something it isn’t. It’s both back-breakingly heavy, yet heart-rendering in it’s emotional straightforwardness. This feeling continues on into the next several tracks–“Collapse” which is groovy and bouncy while telling an engaging and entrancing story, and “Counterfeit,” which is punishing and devastating. Especially in these two tracks, the instruments speak just as loud as the vocals and the lyrics. Strong, quick drumming keeps the blood pumping throughout the veins and arteries of the album, crafted by melodic and harmonizing guitar lines which reach from heavy, grooving depths to ethereal, stratospheric heights. These instrumental dynamics create an entire atmosphere for the vocals to roam in, and allows them to truly determine the rate at which any given song will progress. “Counterfeit” does this especially well–for when the vocals race along, the whole long keeps pace. However, when the screams slow and stutter into subtle, nearly-spoken sections, the instruments hit softer and almost seem to croon, fading from a grating roar into a soft, Edenic background.
To The Wind take advantage of the vocal keystone which keeps Empty Eyes standing upright to paint emotionally complex and riveting images. “Downpour,” for example reaches out and grasps the listener, stroking and caressing their heart into a soft, steady beat. All the same, “Hollow” reaches a similar result, in forcing the listener to slow their breathing and truly relate to the lyrics. These slower tracks aren’t the only instances of sheer intimacy between artist and listener, however. “Halfhearted” is a blistering, uproarious track, which all the same allows the listener to feel what the vocalist is feeling, and run alongside the in-depth and intense instrumentation. Indeed, the listener feels almost as if he or she is running from a Minotaur in a complex, instrumental labyrinth, loaded with driving, yet complex riffs and fill-laden, blistering drum-work. The song concludes with an absolutely demolishing breakdown–tell-tale of either the listener’s escape from the maze, or ensnarement in the Minotaur’s clutches.
The vocal and instrumental dynamic, alongside with the constant prevalence of emotion and feeling is what truly sets Empty Eyes apart from the works of To The Wind’s peers. While many bands feel obliged–or maybe forced–to focus on just heaviness or just emotion, To The Wind expertly juggle both, allowing neither to become tired or contrived. Rather, they work side-by-side to create mesmerizing, complex cathedrals of sound for the listener to observe in nothing but sheer awe. This is exemplified in “Hollow,” which is likely the album’s strongest track. It features both subtle interludes and aggressive, intense sections which launch a full-fledged Blitzkrieg on the listener, forcing them not sure whether to break down into tears, or launch into a circle pit.
If you like your feelings with a side of frenzy, or a frenetic, mosh-pit form of therapy, look no further than To The Wind’s debut full-length record, Empty Eyes. With enough emotion and feeling to make a stone soft, and enough headstrong heaviness to turn a rock to dust, it has a little something for everyone–whether you’re looking to head-bang or hug it out.
For Fans Of: The Ghost Inside, Heights, Stick to Your Guns, Reign Supreme
By: Connor Welsh