Aug 172011

(NCS writer BadWolf reviews the new album from Eyes Set To Kill.)

We don’t do negative criticism here very often – it’s no fun to write and doesn’t help anyone. The artists don’t read it, and you readers have probably made up your mind already. The only time negative criticism is justified, to me, is when a bad (or even just average) record is symptomatic of a greater issue.

Case in point: Eyes Set to Kill’s 2011 outing, White Lotus. Or, as I like to call it, textbook example #1 of half-assing it.

Eyes Set to Kill’s 2010 album Broken Frames (which made it to my top 10 most listenable records of the year list) was a proof to me that genre and style mean absolutely nothing next to songwriting. Yes, EStK play wussy/poseur/insert-adjective mallcore, but they do so with the songwriting skill young Bon Jovi displayed.

That songwriting skill is present on White Lotus as well–at least for part of it. The first half of the record is a stellar continuation of Broken Frames–two amazing singles, a brief interlude and two more amazing singles, each superior to the last. In fact, track 5, “Where I Want To Be,” might be the best thing they’ve ever written. My sole complaint is that the harsh vocals, now handled by new guitarist Cisko Miranda, are weak. If you’re reading this, EStK, give Derek Rydquist of The Faceless a call–he won’t steer you wrong and he’s free now.

After that things get sketchy. (more after the jump . . .)

Track 6, “Erasing Everything,” is a re-worked version of their earlier song, “Pretty White Lace” from 2006. In those 5 years the song’s been vastly improved. Alexia Rodriguez has become a superior singer and guitarist–there is a savagery to “Erasing Everything” that “Pretty White Lace” lacked, and it’s a good followup to “Where I Want to Be.” after that, EStK finish the album with… three coffee-shop-style acoustic guitar songs, two of which are just Alexia covering highly popular 90’s grunge bands.


As much as I keep telling myself the band was just trying to mimic Converge’s brilliant third-act genre shift on Axe to Fall, I just can’t convince myself that it’s true. Halfway through, all semblance of mood and momentum disappears into the aperture of an acoustic guitar (a very compressed one, at that). In the interest of fairness, the covers (Hole’s “Doll Parts and Nirvana’s “Polly”) are well-chosen and executed. Anything involving Courtney Love in a positive light is daring.”Polly” is possibly my favorite Nirvana song, and doing it justice deserves my applause. Putting them together, separated by a brief original, is touching and poetic after a sophomoric fashion. Still, these covers have no place on a serious record. Half-assed!

Even the bonus track is half-assed. Broken Frames‘ bonus track, the off-color and brooding “Let Me In,” was a strong album closer and a refreshing change of pace. Compare that to White Lotus‘ bonus, a re-working of “Harsh,” on, you guessed it, an acoustic guitar.

White Lotus is quite literally half-baked. Of ten tracks, including the bonus track, only five are both new and original. Essentially this is an EP and some decent B-sides, hardly a worthy followup to its predecessor. Even for a prolific artist like Alexia Rodriguez (she released a not-metal solo record in that period), that feels like burning the candle at both ends.

The answer seems to be on the CD’s spine. White Lotus is the first rlease on EStK’s own independant label, which they (apparently) co-own with their managment, Maphia Entertainment. I understand the urge to get a product out to promote the new label as quickly as possible, but rushing an inferior product like this through production is a mistake, and as much as I’d love to fall back on the old blog standard of blaming the label, I can’t do that here. EStK IS the label.

The only other responsible party Maphia Entertainment, is owned by Dave Aguilera, who happens to be EStK’s manager. I suppose I have him to thank for this as well–if the entire thing wasn’t his idea then, at the very least, it was his responsibility to slow the band down and ensure a great product. Protip — incest is not best when said incestuous business deal involves a founding member of Otep (ugh!) whose biggest claim to fame is managing emopop also-rans Yellowcard.

This is another example of (if my suspicions are correct) business shitting on good art.The five originals are excellent, suggesting that given another year, EStK could have come out with another pop-metal opus. At the very least, one with a sense of flow and consistency. As it stands, what we have is a rushed, flawed piece of work with some moments of sheer brilliance offset with some interesting curiosities.

  15 Responses to “EYES SET TO KILL: “WHITE LOTUS””

  1. I’ve never heard these guys before, so I went on YouTube and listened to the first song that popped up. I think it was “The Secrets Between”…? The opening harsh vocals were passable though limp, but the second the woman started singing I almost gagged. I had to kill it. I’m going to burn my computer now and scrub my ears with fucking battery acid.

    • But I mean, other than that, what did you think of the song?

      • I’ll be honest, the main problem for me was the nice lady’s vocals.

        I’m sure there are people who think she’s a great singer (and maybe she is), but it was like listening to a wannabe pop punk band vocalist who accidentally found herself on stage at metalcore concert and is desperately trying to make the best of it. (Good for her for trying.) There is some pop punk that I like, but she was not it.

        The rest of the music seemed pretty standard to me, though a bit limp.

        I do feel like a bit of a dick being all “ooooh, she suxxx!!”, but it was quite a physical reaction.

        • I must admit I too have always found this style of pop metal really dull and limp. It sounds like a slightly heavier Paramour which is basically the last thing I want to hear.

          I also, as a general rule don’t particularly like female vocalists. I’m not sexist, just there are very few female vocalists that I actually like, I think my favourite would probably be Dominque from Stolen Babies or Anneke from The Gathering. Asphodel from Pin Up Went Down is worth a mention as well as the nice lady from Angelspit.

          Other than that… I don’t think I really listen to any others O_O

          • I don’t (usually) mind women vocalists. I actually have really liked a lot of the female fronted death metal bands that I’ve heard of recently. (ArchEnemy being my big exception.) As for clean singing women, unfortunately I don’t know many (any?) metal bands that fit that description….

            • I’m hard-pressed to disagree with you, though to be fair, I don’t have much truck with clean-singing male vocalists either. The first band with clean female vocals that springs to mind that I like is Shroud Eater from Florida (vocalist is Jeannie Saiz).

              • I like clean vocals in traditional metal (Iron Maiden, etc.), but it seems like most death metal or what not bands that try clean vocals end up just…SUCKING. I think it’s because so many bands rely on the surprise of “OMG! there’s melody in my harsh music!” without worrying about trying to actually sing well.

                That’s were bands like Fleshgod Apocalypse and Anaal Nathrakh succeed but most deathcore bands do not.

                • You know by now that I’m a big fan of folk metal. It usually manages to make a decent go of mixing harsh & clean…and since we’re talking about female vocalists, I’ve been pestering the Islander about Arkona. Their frontwoman (“Masha Scream”, oh those crazy Russkies) has a from-the-gut voice and can rip out the harshes along with the best of her male counterparts. I can’t pimp them out enough.

                  Also I had an OMG! moment just there seeing my local faves Shroud Eater mentioned in this auspicious venue.

                  • I’m definitely going to follow through on your Arkona recommendation. And as for Shroud Eater, check this out:


                    • I live in Florida and I know a guy who knows a guy… I see Shroud Eater play whenever I get the chance, usually with a decent crop of local bands that as far as I know are unknown outside of FL (Hollow Leg, 6 Dead Horses) or are ‘from away’ but also know the guy who knows the guy I know and play here a lot (Hooded Eagle). Yes, I’m name-dropping, but I am a firm believer in supporting local and/or unsigned bands and I try to give the love whenever and wherever I can.

                    • Side note: Jeannie is notoriously shy, which is totally out of seeming with her huge vocals. Every time I’ve seen them play, she is off somewhere to the side of the stage, at least once almost completely hidden behind an amp stack. I dunno why I feel compelled to mention this, it’s just a little quirk that makes the band that much more appealing to me.

                    • That sounds cool to me, too. I’ve known people who are shy in normal social situations but totally burst out of the shell in front of an audience, but rarely the reverse.

            • I don’t get the hate for Arch Enemy, I think Angela has a wonderful growl. It’s incredibly harsh and extremely distinctive…

              My problem tends to come in how it’s produced on the records… live (and on certain albums) she’s demonstrated she’s death metal as all fuckery, so why they see the need to produce her vocals as much as they do is beyond me…

  2. Read the comments and the fuzz about female vocalists and was immediately thinking about Alissa White-Gluz. Not their biggest fan, but they do have a bunch of good songs and i think her singing is great on those:

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