Thursday 11 May 2023

The 69 Eyes - Death of Darkness (2023)

Country: Finland
Style: Gothic Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 21 Apr 2023
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I'm sure there's something superstitious I could read into it, but Death of Darkness is yet another thirteenth album. My second review each day is always of a more established band than my first, a deliberate approach that allows me to cover new bands and keep up with the old ones, and this, by sheer coincidence, is a third thirteenth album in a row after Holy Moses and Kamelot. Tomorrow's will not be a fourth. I just checked.

This time, it's the 69 Eyes, a Finnish band who have only ever had one line-up change in their thirty-four year career, but who have moved through a number of genres in that time, starting out more in a glam rock style but moving gradually towards gothic rock, with occasional ventures over onto the other side of the ever shifting rock/metal boundary. This is gothic rock, in a western style, but it also delves rather palatably into pop music on the ironically named Gotta Rock. Sure, it's a rock song but most of it builds with a prowling bass that wouldn't be out of place on Michael Jackson's Thriller. Needless to say, lead vocalist Jyrki 69 doesn't sound remotely like Jackson.

He sounds a lot more like Andrew Eldritch nowadays, with a deep and deliberate voice that chants and echoes at us with a teasing hint of breathlessness. Last time out, on 2019's West End, one song in particular screamed the Sisters of Mercy and the same applies here. It's Call Me Snake and it's an upbeat song with a gorgeous groove and a memorable chorus. Call me Snake, Snake, Snake... It has to be said that I much prefer the modern 69 Eyes when they're upbeat and energetic, but that only really applies in full on two songs. Call Me Snake is the best of them but Drive isn't far behind and it doesn't surprise me to discover that it preceded the album last year as the lead on a three track EP, with Call Me Snake sharing its grooves.

They're at very different points on the album. Drive shows up after the broody opening title track but Call Me Snake doesn't arrive until it's called on to kick off the second side. That places it after Gotta Rock, as well as California, with a Cult-like drive, and a particularly notable track called This Murder Takes Two. It's notable for its guest appearance by Kat Von D, which works well, her voice contrasting neatly with Jyrki's, but also because it has an alt country murder ballad vibe, filtered through goth. It's quite a memorable piece, much more low key than Call Me Snake or Drive, but a highlight nonetheless.

Even with Call Me Snake kicking it off, the second side doesn't feel as strong as the first. The other standout there is Dying in the Night, which feels like a Billy Idol song, with an incessant drive from bass and drums, but with the guitar dialled way back. It's all vocals and beat, which isn't the worst decision on this song, but I did miss Bazie's lead guitar. It's there on Something Real, with another Billy Idol sort of vibe and a faster pace. The albums wraps up with Sundown and Outlaws, a further Cult-esque song and another slower song to showcase Jyrki's resonant voice and what I presume have to be guest synth melodies.

And so this is another decent album, as we might expect from the 69 Eyes, but it's not the killer it could have been. I should run it past some of my goth friends to see what they think of it. It may be that they really dig the slower material and relish every new release the band puts out. I like it too but the metalhead inside me always wants them to speed up. When they do, on songs like Call Me Snake and Drive, I'm in Heaven. Until Eldritch figures out how easy it is nowadays to self-release a full length album while retaining complete creative control, it's these songs that satisfy my need for new Sisters material. Only after those can I truly settle into the slower, more offbeat stuff on a modern 69 Eyes album.

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