01. Test Tone 02. Good Deeds 03. Cloaked into the Facade 04. Peace Love Murder 05. Dead Man's Shadow 06. Entertain the King 07. Staring Through Skulls 08. Invisible Hands 09. Eyes Like Knives2011 Seventh Rule Recordings
Over the last few years, I've been a sucker for the spring of bands wielding that strong early '90s noise rock influence. I haven't minded the aping of The Jesus Lizard's bass lines, Unsane's tried and true song structures, or Shellac's sparse guitar work. All of these have shown up in quality records by the likes of Fight Amp, Young Widows, and Kowloon Walled City, and we're all better for it. If that's also your fancy, know that this new Chicago trio is an obvious fit into that very same category. Sporting ex-members of Planes Mistaken for Stars and Asschapel, The Swan King touts that songwriting maturity that seems to come best when dudes with hardcore and metal backgrounds grow up, get bad backs, and venture into the world of heavy rock. In true AmRep throwback fashion there is no lack of fullness in the band's sound and interplay between bass and guitar is exceptional. While Kowloon Walled City's Gambling on the Richter Scale was best characterized as an Unsane record with bigger, more down-tuned riffs, Eyes Like Knives is a half-step in the other direction, advertising more versatile instrumentation and slightly more adventurous arrangements. Dallas Thomas' guitar work is surprisingly nimble, ripping through quick leads atop a foundation of crunchy bass, heard best in "Dead Man's Shadow" and "Staring Through Skulls." And while the record isn't primarily focused on the riff, there are moments where beefier guitar work stands out, most notably in "Invisible Hands." The only real downside to the disc is the fact that there are only eight true tracks, the combination of which doesn't eclipse the half-hour mark. Come on dudes; let's put some raw value back into those full-lengths. What's most likeable about Eyes Like Knives is that it isn't very concerned with besting anyone in the speed, heaviness, or abrasiveness department. Much of the noise rock influenced tunes that have showed up in the metal/hardcore world as of late have been focusing on intensifying the formula (with the exception of Young Widows, who seem destined to create a bare, 1000 Hurts-type record very soon). Even The Swan King's debut set of recordings, The Good Deeds EP, had a grittier feel and felt like a lead in to more of the same. Luckily, melody and complementary guitar and bass work reign supreme here. Maybe that's why the closing title track, arguably the slowest and most straightforward of the bunch, has stolen the spotlight with its mid-paced Quicksand vibe. These dudes are proof that the heavy noise rock revival still has some steam. Bottom Line: Eyes Like Knives is a good slab of noise rock that, while certainly on the heavier side of things, devotes more focus to slick guitar work and catchier rock melodies. Both fans of the old standards (The Jesus Lizard, Unsane, et al) and the new school of throwbacks will find something to like.
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