By Marvin Dotiyal, Features Editor
Original Release Date: 2/19/08
Memorable tracks: “Liar in the Glass”, “Behind These Eyes”, “Violent Kiss”
It’s not a surprise if people don’t remember Eyes Set to Kill or haven’t even heard of this band before. To be fair, they were one of those MySpace “-core” bands that were picked up quite fast by the Internet but never had a monumental peak to expand their fan base or find and hone their core sound (no pun intended). Regardless, this Arizona-based band is one of the few successful female-fronted bands in the genre with one of my nostalgic favorites, Reach.
Reach has everything to get you started in post-hardcore from emotive cries to anger-ridden, ground-shaking breakdowns. Melody-oriented tracks like “Reach”, “Where We Started” and “Give You My All” manifests Rodriguez’s unsurpassable vocal talent, spilling her all and revealing the frailty of her tragic romances with every word and note. The title track, “Reach,” is a hefty load of a song. It’s got an overall rock vibe but it has a lot going on; sweet guitar licks on top of rhythm-driven verses, a soft piano part, occasional backing screams and harmonies, an ending ritardando and even a synth accompaniment if you listen closely. And then there’s more sentimental piano in “Where We Started” and an overflowing of emotional vulnerability in the acoustic ballad, “Give You My All”.
Remember, they also have heavier songs because they are, after all, a post-hardcore band. “Darling” and “Liar in the Glass” are arguably the heaviest songs on the album. “Darling” starts off with Anderson’s painful unclean vocals and retains an overall dark atmosphere throughout the song.
With plenty of chugging and minor chords progressions, Rodriguez’s dramatic lyrics are the ones you’d see on a scene queen’s MySpace header: “Don’t mind me, I’m only dying.” In a similar vein, you can’t forget “Liar in the Glass”. The cliché but catchy opening guitar riff and the edgy lyrics reach the pinnacle of Hot Topic emo: “Dance with me below crystal knives / Chandeliers ablaze / We’ll dance in fear of our own lives / That our eyes contain.” The ending breakdown is also an honorable mention; I love how Anderson’s screams sound raw and borderline painful, which adds more brutality to such a simple breakdown.
But the best songs on the album are the ones that fall in between the two extremes—the ones that will make you headbang and feel Rodriguez’s anguish at the same time. My personal favorites are “Violent Kiss” and “Behind These Eyes”, mostly because they constitute dynamic elements of exposition and sequences in its song structure. “Behind These Eyes” is the song that got me in the band, so it holds a special place in my heart, but I was intrigued by the melodic sweep-picking in the end.
I fell in love with “Violent Kiss” because of the sweet chorus, along with Rodriguez’s tempting vocals, especially the bridge. Above all, the final synth breakdown is what broke my neck back in the day; it was a cathartic experience for middle school me. “Sketch in Black & White” is another good one, starting off the album strong with simple, catchy guitars. They slow it down for the bridge, breaking it down with a heavy, sorrowful guitar solo, ass-kissing the D-harmonic minor scale all over (which is my favorite).
Looking back… this is a solid debut record, despite its cheesy mid-2000s post-hardcore sound and the lack of bass. In comparison with a lot of technical bands that are out on the scene today, most of the instrumentation in this album can seem watered down and uninspired. However, one of my favorite parts of this album is the guitars. If you listen close enough, there’s actually a lot going on between the guitars, whether what they play is simple or not. There are a lot of small guitar snippets that serve as small musical “ornaments” here and there, complimenting other layers of melodies. On top of that, Rodriguez’s voice is evocative and gorgeous, and the way it strangely blended well with Anderson’s harsh screams was a fresh concept at the time. Not a lot of bands could accomplish it in the same way Eyes Set to Kill did.
But here’s the problem: Reach was their only consistent album in their catalog, and Rodriguez and Anderson’s trade-off synergy was their only distinct forte. Instrumentally, Eyes Set to Kill brought nothing new to the table, though I hold this album dear to my heart for its nostalgic essence. With Reach being their first and best LP in their career, nothing could’ve topped what they have created in this album, especially when there’s only so much you can do in a genre that was saturating quickly and dying slowly.
Their sophomore LP, The World Outside, in my opinion, was a weak follow-up album that marked their gradual decline. Although Rodriguez’s vocals showed vast improvement over the years, their overall songwriting was very hit or miss and never as consistent as Reach. Whatever the case, Reach will be their best album, even if it tends to fall for post-hardcore clichés. Nevertheless, they have paved the way for other female-fronted post-hardcore bands such as VersaEmerge, Picture Me Broken and Straight Line Stitch.
Eyes Set to Kill recently released their eponymous album through Century Media Records, which constitutes a different sound in the vein of alternative and nu metal. Making a comeback would be unlikely at this point, but I’ll still look out for any potential 10th-anniversary tours and vinyl reissues.