Southern Californian metal-core quartet Eighteen Visions have been getting a lot of stick recently. Not only have they committed what hardcore devotees see as apostasy by becoming involved with a major record label, but talk of a more “accessible” resulting album and the band members’ burgeoning glam-goth image have not endeared them to a scene where large sections of fans seem bent on detesting anyone who makes the transition from cult to more widespread appeal.
On the image side, admittedly the CD pictures of vocalist James Hart holding flowers in his hands are overly stylised, while drummer Ken Floyd bears a worrying resemblance to The Human League‘s Phil Oakey circa 1981. However, these are no bases on which to judge an album, something that music fans who supposedly don’t care about image might do well to remember.
Musically, it’s fair to say that Obsession is more accessible than Eighteen Visions’ previous offerings but: a) they started well down this road with 2002’s Vanity album; b) it’s still heavy enough to scare your granny; and c) on an objective level where you ignore who the band is and its history, the album is for the most part blinding.
The title track kicks things off in pseudo-gothic, metal-core fashion with Hart whispering, “Obsession. Desire. Depression,” over a sledgehammer wall of guitars. I Let Go is a huge riff-fest with some great flicked, pistol-whipping guitars during the verses but a very melodic, almost poppy chorus – the first sign that Eighteen Visions have ambitions to reach out beyond the beatdown.
The next inkling comes in Crushed, which mixes up early ’90s grunge á la Stone Temple Pilots with thrash metal vocals, a poptastic bridge and a few bouncing, beatdown riffs for good measure. Simple, it ain’t. Quality, it most certainly is.
This Time continues the Weiland theme by coming on all Velvet Revolver, before the mid-paced mosh of Tower Of Snakes stomps past in a blaze of riffs that the Machine Heads of this world would love to call their own.
I Should Tell You comes as a complete contrast to Tower Of Snakes and is one for the zealots to diss royally. Yes Hart sings sweetly, and yes US radio and “edgy” teen TV shows will love it, but the truth is that as safe guitar rock goes, it’s up there with the best.
Waiting For The Heavens is another winner, the crunching heaviosity of the verses and the melodic, sung choruses again synergising. Bleed By Yourself and A Long Way Home don’t work so well, however – here, the grunge influence becomes a little waring, although the latter is partially redeemed by a section of battering ram riffs and bass drumming.
Said And Done is another one for the hardcore fundamentalists to hate, but to these ears, the piano-led, plaintive slowie is a haunting and effective way to close out an album.
Obsession isn’t metal-core. However, it does have plenty of metallic blasts, is certainly hardcore-influenced and throws heaps of cool melodies into the equation. In other words, it’s a fine heavy rock album. So what’s the problem?