ALBUM REVIEW: Congratulations – EYES

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Is there any truth to the idea of the sophomore slump? Of course, the stereotype must have some roots somewhere, but to be honest for every disappointing follow-up to a dazzling debut you can probably find just as many examples of bands who really came into their own on album number two; a We Are The Romans or a Celebrity Therapist, for example, or maybe even this latest effort from Danish hardcore five-piece EYES.

For context, the work to beat here is the band’s 2020 debut full-length Underperformer – a record whose title certainly risks misleading listeners as to the high bar it set for the quintet. Underperform they did not, and instead they came away with an album that earned them places on plenty of underground radars and even some more mainstream attention in their home country. On the surface, Congratulations certainly bears some similarities to its predecessor – namely that it runs breathlessly through half an hour of noisy chaotic hardcore – but listen closely and you’ll find a band growing increasingly sure of themselves, pushing past some of their more obvious influences in the pursuit of their own distinct and compelling identity.

A huge part of that is vocalist Victor Kaas, who was arguably the stand-out on Underperformer and makes a solid case for the same this time around too. Surrounded as he is by such a racket, it’s a testament to Kaas’ ability and versatility that he is often the focal point on Congratulations. He delivers his lyrics with such a scathing sarcastic edge that makes it very clear that this is another album title which cannot be trusted. There is no-one to congratulate here; whether it’s the title track’s sneering indictment of the conspiracy theorists convinced they know better than everyone else (“You learned the secret / Congratulations!”), or The City’s lament of a once vibrant place lost to lifeless gentrification (“What once was, sadly has changed”), this album makes no attempts to contain its fury, and Kaas is its primary vessel.

That isn’t to discount the contributions of the rest of the band though. Musically, EYES remain a unit of controlled chaos; the control provided largely by the weighty rhythmic anchor of bassist Kenn Bendtsen and drummer Simon Djurhuus, and the chaos coming primarily from guitarists Rasmus Furbo and Søren Bomand’s gleeful embrace of angular lead lines and wild yet clearly focused fret slides which are fast becoming another of the most instantly recognisable aspects of the band’s sound. Everything sits just where it should in the mix, the result nothing less than a whirlwind of punk, noise, hardcore and even a little bit of sludge that invites you back time and time again.

But if those aspects of Congratulations are essentially a refinement of things that EYES were already doing very well on Underperformer, where this album steps into a league of its own is in the instantaneous and arguably far more lasting impact it leaves. Of course, it’s hardly CHARLI XCX, but there is no denying that this is a record that really gets its hooks into you – and quickly. You’ll only need to hear Value’s repeated gang vocal bellows of “No value, no value, no value” once before you’re joining in, and if it isn’t a lyric like that it’s probably one of the huge grooves of Generation L, Congratulations or Tearjerker that you’ll find thundering around your brain hours after listening. Memorability often eludes music like this, but here EYES join a very select list of bands to whom it seems to come naturally.

So, to be clear, this album is a must-listen. It’s a swaggering step-up from the band’s already impressive debut, and crucially it brings even further definition to what should soon be recognised as EYES’ trademark sound. Whether they were on your radar or not before, here the Danes have become much harder to ignore as they’ve produced one of the first truly essential hardcore releases of the year so far.

Rating: 9/10

Congratulations - EYES

Congratulations is set for release on February 3rd via Indisciplinarian.

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The post ALBUM REVIEW: Congratulations – EYES appeared first on Distorted Sound Magazine.

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