Originally written for Manchester Rocks and reprinted here with permission:
Imagine if Hatebreed and Oathbreaker put out a record together. Hard to picture, right? Well, that’s pretty much exactly what California death/hardcore outfit Eyes Of Mara sounds like. Formed in 2010, the band bring standard low-tuned death-metal guitar work and blast beat drumming but infuse it with the kind of retched, screeched vocals reminiscent of Deafheaven or, to some extent, Punch. And it totally works.
Kicking off with ‘Vicious’, Eyes Of Mara strikes the listener instantly as incredibly ambitious and obviously very talented, but there is a feeling that there’s too much going on on this track, especially given the (count ‘em) four different vocal styles being presented. Fortunately, they lose the pig-squealing aspect fairly early on and it never resurfaces.
Moving on, ‘Control’ and ‘Don’t Get Close’ both show off those brilliant retched vocals again, and certainly with the latter song, there is a sense of a nu-metal, early Slipknot vibe in the opening which is fantastic. Both the retched and the standard death-growl vocals are presented together on ‘Pain And Fear’ and they actually really complement each other. These tracks are clearly very well written, meticulously rehearsed and organised, and very well produced. Nothing is too much, no one aspect of a song overshadows anything else, it all just…works.
‘New Direction’ kind of does what it says in the title. It’s got an instantly catchy riff, has all the trappings of a crowd-pleaser, and then employs an incredible clean vocal for as close as these guys get to a chorus. There’s also some offbeat drumming here which harks back to something like early Converge.
‘Rebirth’ also signals a change in dynamic. It’s the only fully instrumental track on the record and is a great diversion from the rest of the album, showing off the band’s talents in other musical directions. This bleeds perfectly into ‘Colder’, which starts off sounding like something you might have heard in a 90s teen movie before crashing into this soaring post-metal atmosphere before introducing the death vocal. It’s kind of a shame there wasn’t more done with this track, but it’s still a solid addition to the record as a whole.
Definitely worth a look if they’re ever in a town near you, Eyes Of Mara offer the kind of blistering, no-holds-barred fusion of styles that is really interesting and will certainly get them noticed by anyone with ears. Don’t be put off by the radically different vocal styles, this band is doing something unusual with their sound and it’s not to be ignored.