Written By: Nameless_n00b_16
As a wee lad, I met a guy at camp who was quite the contortionist. He delighted in the responses his disconcerting levels of flexibility granted him, basking in the wide-eyed, slack-jawed and mildly disgusted attention of his peers. However, his flexibility never garnered him any true friends. He was a spectacle, an object of attention, nothing more. Hailing from Spain, one-man death metal project Sad Eyes, helmed by Santi Gzlez, seeks to turn his project into a musical contortion of sorts, assembling an album with a list of collaborators longer than I’ve had friends. So many cooks in the kitchen could lead to a multifarious buffet of sonic offerings at best, or get swallowed in its own lack of core flavor at worst, but will listeners be enthralled by the display or driven away by the lack of personality?
vIV0 wears its influences proudly, traversing from the melodic sensibilities of Decrepit Birth to the grooves of At War with Reality-era At the Gates, with transitions blasted away via Aborted’s sense of grind. That diversity is the main thread of the album, as Gzlez focuses less on repetitive hooks, presenting the listener riffs just long enough to be appreciated before promptly moving on to the next big moment. And those moments abound, as Gzlez and his no-less-than-eight guest musicians afford Sad Eyes a tremendous amount of tonal flexibility, ensuring a diverse platter from song to song.
Every cut from vIV0 contains highlights to stimulate groovy headbanging, or unleash piercing melodies, with the album devoid of anything truly poor. “TVrba” contains one of the most tonally fluid solos, bouncing from traditional death levels of shred to emotive bends at the blink of an eye. The first two-thirds of “SanVis” function as an energetic lead-in to a meaty helping of björriffs during the final minute, and even the bass is given time to shine on “Electricae.” “RIgescVnt” kicks off with a clear goal to get heads bobbing and hips swaying before transitioning into its own Years of Decay-era Overkill solo, as well as containing one of the albums most dissonant leads near its conclusion. The biggest star of the album are the solos, with kickoff track “C0” the lone holdout. Whether shredding, riffing, or grinding away, Sad Eyes have crafted an album designed to deny the listener rest or familiarity.
Unfortunately, variety costs the album its noteworthiness. Sad Eyes seem so intent on swiping at the echoes of better bands gone by that it robs them of their ability to pen anything truly memorable. The single greatest contributor to this weakness is the drumming. The drums, one element Gzlez handled solo, seem to have no settings beyond Blast, Gallop, and Groove—and frequently are used to uniformly blast through transitions that cause the music to fade into the background. The music isn’t techy enough to justify the constant tempo changes, not groovy enough for the catchier bits to overcome their short lifespan, and not heavy enough to let the more cacophonous passages add grit or weight to the sound.
The songs themselves suffer from proper self-editing, “Electrlcae” being a top example. It closes the aforementioned solo with a succinct groove before tacking on an extra twenty-second verse that adds nothing to the flow of the song and instead succeeds at diminishing the impact of what came before. This is a rule, rather than an exception, with multiple songs having unnecessary synths or extra verses for padding (“C0,” “RIgescVnt,” “PharmacVm,” “Axphyxia,” to name a few). The result is an acceptable forty-minute album that ends up feeling much longer—many of the songs would end on much more powerful notes if they were, you know, allowed to end on their powerful notes.
Sad Eyes have constructed a competent enough slab of intensity that shows adequate flexibility in its sound to draw some momentary interest. But no amount of audible contortion is a substitute for musical personality, memorability or song structure. The album cannot offer up more than fleeting moments of interest at best, passing by as inoffensively as it came. Listeners looking for a quick deathly fix could do worse, but more discerning ears should keep looking.