Finland’s Random Eyes is one of those myriad heavy metal projects that’s been in existence for a surprisingly long time, putting out the occasional independent release but garnering very little in the way of a determined following. The band is probably best known as the full-time home of vocalist Christian Palin (known to me for his work in Magic Kingdom, Epicrenel, and Adagio), and the band in which he’s featured as the main songwriter. Other than Palin, Random Eyes’ only full-time member is guitarist Markus Grimald — a factor that is historically indicative of a vocalist’s solo project. Should I already have known this? Maybe, but to be honest, prior releases like Invisible and Light Up just haven’t had enough meat to them to attract my attention for more than a passing listen.
The press release claims that Grieve No More is more modern and “riff-oriented” than past Random Eyes albums. Seeing as I can’t really speak with hindsight, I’ll comment that this is mere marketing bluster, as per usual. While the guitar playing here is certainly not shabby, it’s definitely more rhythmic and complimentary than it is at all a defining element. Rather, Palin’s vocals (to no one’s surprise) are very much the chief focus on what is largely an album of slickly produced modern heavy metal with precious few instrumental surprises. Luckily, Palin is a pretty darn good vocalist and a rather well-rounded one at that. He delivers an aggressive tenor for most tunes but also features silky soft cleans and more-than-passable growls from time to time.
Palin, Grimald, and their accomplices deliver a handful of very solid songs — particularly “Fate Loves the Fearless,” “2 Worlds Collide,” and “The Final Quest.” Weak points are every bit as obvious, however. The guest female vocalist on “Scar” sounds very abrasive, uncertain of her pitch, and… how do I put this? Like she’s trying to yell rather than sing tunefully. “Do What Thou Wilt” is as bad an offender, being a slog of redundancy — making four minutes feel like seven. Palin’s lyrics are supposed to be rather upbeat throughout, and while they are, there’s a combination of poor translation and poor pronunciation that lends a silliness to his delivery that I’m sure isn’t deliberate — though that’s hardly a unique complaint to this band.
I fear that, overall, Palin and Random Eyes fall into the trap frequented by none other than Lord Jørn himself (amongst many others) — that being a ho-hum solo project of an otherwise talented singer whose songwriting skills result in an underwhelming exhibition when compared to his work elsewhere. Granted, Palin doesn’t have near the repertoire of our starry-eyed Norwegian hero, but his work on Adagio’s Archangels in Black and Magic Kingdom’s Savage Requiem attest to his burgeoning vocal prowess in distinctly different settings. I rather appreciate what the core pair members of Random Eyes are attempting to do with their pet project, but while I respect them for it (unlike many other similar groups), I simply can’t get very excited about what’s happening here.
While I’ll pass on Grieve No More myself, I can see where fans of easygoing, modern heavy metal could get into this — and if you’re a Christian Palin fanboy, you’ll no doubt want to lend it a cursory listen. Really though, what this guy needs is a permanent home where his dynamic vocals can be juiced to their full potential. Let’s hope it doesn’t take him 13 (and counting) albums to come to that realization. I’d wager that Random Eyes itself is bound for relative obscurity, now and forever. Palin and Grimald may be aiming for a more “modern” and “live-friendly” sound, but I don’t think it’s doing them any favors. Does it anyone?