For Fans Of
Close Your Eyes is a band that has experienced a massive proliferation in its fanbase since the beginning of 2010, with the hype surrounding their debut album ‘We Will Overcome’ drawing extensive worldwide attention. On their sophomore release ‘Empty Hands and Heavy Hearts’, the Texan quintet has grown more confident with their songwriting, moving away from the melodic safehavens that anchored their debut in favour of a sound that firmly embraces a hardcore influence reminiscent of Comeback Kid and This Is Hell. Despite favouring a heavier, rawer edge, the band still exercise tuneful sensibilities, juxtaposing their impassioned screaming and occasionally guttural vocals with sung harmonies that keep the record accessible to fans of a more clean-cut punk style of music.
The immediacy and explosive energy of the album is made apparent from the opening track, ‘Hope Slips Away (The World Is Ours To Change)’, which charges in with a hardcore-punk drumbeat at breakneck speed. The guitars are played with gusto and are powerfully overdriven in the mix, creating an intense and full-bodied sound that sends the album flying forward. The calibre of instrumentation on ‘Empty Hands and Heavy Hearts’ is cut well above the standard chugging affair displayed by many stalwarts of modern post-hardcore, relying instead on soaring, rapid-fire chord changes laced with brief, harmonised lead phrases that shows a large nod to mid-career Comeback Kid. When tracks like ‘Injustice’ relinquish their frenzied pace and segue into a breakdown, the band rarely takes refuge in muted open-chords to convey intensity, embracing their signature melodic sensibilities to leave a more lasting impression on the listener.
The band’s vocals are varied and contrasting, with frontman Shane Raymond displaying an impressive level of diversity. His full-sounding, mid-level scream is the band’s stongest asset, holding a tone that borders on intense shouting and shows a large similarity to Travis Reilly of This Is Hell. This vocal style complements the record’s melodic hardcore instrumentation perfectly, peppered with one-sentence punchlines that radiate with emotionality on tracks like ‘Paper Thin’. His screams are reinforced by occasional moments of deeper, more guttural vocals, such as the guest verse provided by Jonathan Vigil of The Ghost Inside on the exceptional ‘Wolves’. The heavier vocals are frequently juxtaposed with punk-enthused, strained cleans that lend accessibility to the album without delving into the tacky, high-pitched auto-core of bands like Sleeping With Sirens. This vocal style is exercised most prominently on lead single ‘Valleys’, with Raymond providing a soaring chorus that marks the catchiest point of the album.
As a Christian band, their lyrics are littered with religious imagery and references, but this does not become an overbearing force on the record and is secondary to the band’s exploration of overcoming personal trepidations and taking a stand against the faults of the world, reflected strongly in tracks like ‘Injustice’. However, one of their major shortcomings is their inability to sufficiently diversify their songwriting in order to provide the album with dynamics and pacing. Towards the end of the record, their oft-repeated formula of rapid-fire melodic hardcore broken up by the occasional beatdown mosh section starts to wear thin and becomes tiring for the listener. This isn’t helped by the fact that Raymond’s clean vocal melodies aren’t as polished, diversified and musically interesting as they could’ve been, and largely lack the pop-enthused catchiness of the band’s earlier work. Despite these setbacks, the band’s brief glimpses of a slower, more brooding style that glimmers with poignancy, such as the opening minutes of the track ‘Wolves’, help redeem these faults and keep the album sufficiently entertaining.
On their second studio album, Close Your Eyes have picked up the pace and unleashed a tougher, rawer side that embraces a heavy-handed influence from melodic hardcore veterans like Comeback Kid, whilst still maintaining a tuneful sensibility provided by soaring cleans laced with a rougher, punk-influenced edge. Despite lacking much of the catchiness and accessibility of their previous release, ‘Empty Hands and Heavy Hearts’ marks a point of growth and maturity for the band and displays a level of musical proficiency that propels them far ahead of their post-hardcore contemporaries.
1. Hope Slips Away (The World Is Ours To Change)
2. Empty Hands
6. Paper Thin
8. Keep The Lights On
9. Carry You
12. Heavy Hearts