Thursday 3 October 2019

The 69 Eyes - West End (2019)

Country: Finland
Style: Gothic Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 13 Sep 2019
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If I recall correctly, my first experience of the 69 Eyes and their fellow Finnish goth rockers, HIM, was on CKY videos that were all over Napster at the turn of the millennium. I liked both bands and kept up with them for a while but eventually lost track when my life moved away from music. I like that the 69 Eyes stayed together throughout and are still going 30 years on with only one line-up change: Jussi 69 replaced Lotto on drums in 1992.

Their sound has matured but their influences are still clear and they're an odd mixture that still works surprisingly well. The core sound is a heavier take on eighties British goth bands like the Sisters of Mercy, with a vocal delivery from Jyrki 69 that's often so similar to Andrew Eldritch that only the fact that the latter doesn't release new studio material saves us from having to try to tell the difference. If the Sisters ever do release their fourth album, I wonder how much it'll sound like Outsiders.

However, there's a lot more here than updating eighties goth. In fact, Two Horns Up (and the album as a whole) starts with a Black Sabbath church bell and organ and kicks into gear with a quintessential Bon Jovi bass and drum combo, before easing into that heavy goth groove ten seconds in. There's a lot of hair metal here, though it's mostly buried.

One of the other names I'd throw out is Billy Idol. How often the band shift from the Sisters into a more Idol groove is open to debate, as it's mostly when they get less dark and more upbeat. Even though The Last House on the Left could be viewed as horror punk, the second vocal has a Billy Idol sneer to it and the music is as relentless as usual but not quite so dark.

Another thing that's open to debate is whether the 69 Eyes are a rock band nowadays or a metal band. Slower, more atmospheric material such as Death & Desire ought to underline rock but, for a while, it's done in the way that a symphonic metal band might intro before engaging a higher gear. This song is also notably crafted, which isn't to suggest that the rest aren't but that they tend to ramp up the tempo and kick ass, which isn't what this one wants to do. It's aiming at a very different texture.

Whenever the songs get slower, Jyrki 69 sounds less like Andrew Eldritch and more like Iggy Pop, which is an interesting shift. The closing song, Hell Has No Mercy, is delightful, as if Iggy is singing on a Nick Cave cover of a Shriekback song. The backing music is slow and atmospheric, kind of like Coelacanth done with traditional rock instrumentation. I can't get enough of this and, while I've listened to the album in entirety a few times, I've stopped here often to keep this song on repeat for a while.

In fact, I'd suggest that Hell Has No Mercy is the real highlight here, even though it's rather unrepresentative of the album as a whole. For a highlight that's also a good sample of the album, check out Black Orchid, the third of currently four singles, which also climbs inside your brain and immediately puts down roots.

This is a good album, the twelfth studio release for the 69 Eyes. It's good enough that I want to go back and listen to the five or six I never heard on their original release. They do what they do well, which seems to be a gimme for Finnish bands nowadays, but they've been doing it for a long time now. I wish them a happy thirtieth anniversary and this is a great way to celebrate.

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