“Down, Alice in Chains, and Phil Demmel-era (read: good) Machine Head.” No joke, I spit up blood when I read this from Damn Your Eyes‘ promo package. Though absurd on so many levels, let’s imagine what it would be like to combine the aggressiveness of Down‘s “Lifer” and the catchiness of “On March the Saints” with the comeback power of Machine Head‘s “Imperium” and the apocalyptic “Halo,” all wrapped up in VH1’s second favorite grunge band, Alice in Chains. That must mean Damn Your Eyes‘ debut record, Kill the Outside, sounds like “Aesthetics of Hate”-meets-“Down in a Hole”-meets-“Bury Me in Smoke,” right? Wrong. Instead, you get New York-based groove metal that continues to prove that—somehow—”crossover” wasn’t the worst thing to come out of thrash.
Ok, so, groove metal isn’t all shit. We’ve got Grip Inc., amirite?1 Regardless, Damn Your Eyes aren’t all wrong in their stylistic descriptions. There’s definitely some Alice in Chains in their musings. As well as a touch of Down. But, I ain’t hearing Machine Head. Yet, not all influences come in the form of riffs and song structures. With lyrical themes circling around societal and governmental frustrations, and drugs and suicide, Kill the Outside has that MH feel to it. I get it and respect it, as most of us do, with our varying pains and agonies. But, while poetic emotion is best felt from good writing, musical emotion is best felt from, well… good music. Something Kill the Outside lacks.
Now, don’t get me wrong. DYE has a couple decent tracks on their debut. Like “Lions and Lambs.” And the back-to-back “These Are the Things” and “Through It All.” The first is a ball-buster that borrows from the likes of Throwdown, with opening riffs that bring a smile to my face. And the ensuing, feel-good mayhem is pleasing when compared to the rest of the album. “These Are the Things” kickstarts the album again, following the slow-moving “Slower,” while borrowing plenty of emotion and melodics from its predecessor. It hits hard and its melodic, current-era Metallica vibe provides energy for “Through It All.” This follow-up piece, like “Lions from Lambs,” is a tough-guy Throwdown ditty. The distant, groveling vox add to the mood, allowing the song’s groove to take center stage instead of yet another predictable chorus.
The back-to-back opening tracks, “Ascension” and “Burn,” as well as closer “Tree Line,” try to meet the previously-discussed tracks midway. But, for how unoriginal the better tracks are, these three don’t bring anything new to the table. The opener sounds like another “hit” from P.O.D. and the closer is a filler track in Godsmack‘s heyday—if there is such a thing. “Burn” is interesting only in its concept, but it fails musically. Like “Burn,” the dark, suicidal “Dirty Viper” also has intriguing moments in its dark concept, but that modern Metallica sound is weak. “Slower,” though, takes its moodiness from Down and Alice in Chains. With an outcome that ain’t so bad. It’s slow, it’s Southern, and it works—even if it’s bare-bones.
And you thought I would only have negative things to say about Kill the Outside. Well, back-to-back2 “Low Road” and “Punk Fuck” suck. The former for its lousy Pantera riff-ripoff and the latter’s out-of-place annoyance. Even going beyond the Pantera-isms, “Low Road,” and its obnoxious growling vox, isn’t pleasing. But “Punk Fuck,” for all its intended fun, is unlistenable. The worst atrocity being the fact that these two come mid-album. It’s difficult to move onto the decently-crafted “Slower” after hearing “You’re a punk! You’re a punk! You’re a punk! Fuuuuuuck!!” Not that I haven’t already, but I almost gave up on the album after this track.
Unfortunately, Kill the Outside is a third-rate “groove metal” album from a band that aspires to be another radio success, like Staind, Pantera, Godsmack, or Alice in Chains. Minus “Ascension,” “Low Road,” “Punk Fuck,” and moments of “Tree Line” and “These Are the Things,” the album isn’t the worst thing out there. But combine all these moments with the fact that the rest of the album is mediocre at best and this is one of Grier‘s worst albums of the year. Lyrically, you can tell this album meant something to the band but, sadly, its concepts don’t come through in the music. Which is a shame because content like this should have left me hurting and angry at the world.