For Fans Of
It just simply wouldn’t be 2017 without another example of alternative music nostalgia, and in this latest instalment, Californian metalcore act Eighteen Visions re-enter the fray with ‘XVIII’; the band’s first studio album since their break-up in 2007.
After emerging from the largely incestuous* (see below) Orange County metalcore scene in the early 2000’s, with influential records like 2000’s ‘Until The Ink Runs Out’ and 2002’s ‘Vanity’, Eighteen Visions eventually fell victim (pun not really intended) to their own hubris, using the rise in mainstream consciousness of hardcore and metalcore to fully embrace their inner ‘fashion-core’ tendencies. The band side-fringed and colour-bleached-mohawked (never forget) their way from Trustkill Records to a major label, self-titled debut with Epic Records in 2006, which at the time, saw Eighteen Visions try to sound then how Papa Roach sound now. While some singles received radio airtime and managed to land as WWE-entrance music, the album was a commercial and critical failure overall, and the band broke up unceremoniously only a year after its release.
Now, if you missed the Eighteen Visions blip on the metalcore radar the first time round, do not fret dear reader! For all that you really need to know is the now-classic breakdown in ‘Tower of Snakes’ and its fantastically intricate Wikipedia entry. Got it? Fucking-A!
Since their demise in 2007, vocalist James Hart has been mining the proverbial hard-rock well with Burn Halo, rhythm guitarist Ken Floyd became a full-time tour manager and bassist Mick Morris tragically passed away in 2013. So now, a decade on, this new and revitalised Eighteen Visions has been reborn as a studio-project for now, with Hart once again on vocals, alongside lead guitarist/backing vocalist Keith Barney and Trevor Friedrich on drums. However, those looking for a return to the band’s brief dalliance with radio-friendly hard rock will be sorely disappointed with ‘XVIII,’ as it’s very much inspired by the band’s early 2000’s roots and aggressive metalcore form.
Opener ‘Crucified’ begins with the busy buzz of bees, before sliding into a sludgy riff that announces the return of Hart’s screamed vocals. It’s a brief shot of bombast that effectively positions the band firmly re-visiting their metalcore past, complete with half-time change-ups, pinch harmonics and a pit-call “Go!” lyric right before the expected heavy-as-all-fuck breakdown hits. This pattern continues into ‘The Disease, The Decline, and Wasted Time,’ which finds Hart delivering vicious verses with the type of anger and vitriol that’s been sorely missed from Eighteen Visions. When Hart litters the track with take-down lines like “Your lifeʼs become a fucking waste of time,” or “Youʼve got a fucking disease,” and “Youʼre just a fucking leach,” it’s not just par-for-the-metalcore-course — you can tell that the dude really is legitimately pissed off on this track. Rising to Hart’s level of sonic disharmony, Barney injects the track with a stomping chorus riff and a white-knuckled breakdown, gripped with dissonant, panic chords.
From here on, Eighteen Visions re-contextualise their back catalogue on ‘XVIII,’ using a bold metalcore sound and crisp production courtesy of Mick Kenney from Anaal Nathrakh. ‘Oath’ functions as a bludgeoning, two-minute ode to straight edge dedication, while the haphazard structure of ‘Underneath The Gun’ (with the so-corny-it-totally-works intro film sample from the John Carpenter classic, They Live) mixes rocking verses, with whispered vocals and a crushing, mid-tempo breakdown. While the shorter cuts on the album might recall the chaotic destruction of past efforts like ‘Until The Ink Runs Out,’ the band also aren’t afraid to bring some actual melody into the mix more. The harrowing ‘Live Again’ functions as a tribute to Morris’ passing, and the ‘Obsession’-era banger ‘Picture Perfect’ features a wicked guitar solo from Barney, alongside an undeniably sleazy chorus line: “Picture perfect with your rock cocaine/Smoking glass, ainʼt got no shame.”
On longer compositions (see ‘Spit’ or closer ‘For This I Sacrifice’), Eighteen Visions often utilise stark transitions for dynamic effect, switching from crushing bottom-end and primal screams, to delicate, melodic refrains in an instant. The attentive listener may also notice subtle hints of nu-metal stylings creeping in across ‘XVIII,’ – picture something like Deftones being felt-up by Machine Head in a dimly-lit nightclub stall and you’d be pretty close. However, the group is wise to keep such moments pushed out to the periphery of the record, and for the most part, it elicits more of cheeky, sideways grin than an open, cringe-induced wince.
Ultimately, the very best moments of ‘XVIII’ come when the band truly embraces their simultaneous penchants for ball-breaking heaviness and huge, stadium-ready choruses. When Hart screams “Liar!/Sadist!/Corporate!/Rapist!” on the vengeful take-down track ‘Fake Leather Jacket,’ it’s definitely an album highlight, perfectly embodying the band’s strongest qualities. Likewise, the ferocious ‘Laid To Waste in the Shit of Man’ takes what could have easily been a Throwdown outtake, and jazzes it up with stellar verse riffs and accented double kick from Friedrich, before boiling it all down into a full-blown rager.
(*) Strap yourselves in, this is some six degrees of separation shit! The Orange County scene was home to bands like Eighteen Visions, Bleeding Through, Atreyu and Throwdown, who all exploded in popularity during the early 2000’s metalcore boom. Bleeding Through vocalist Brandan Schieppati played guitar in Throwdown and Eighteen Visions in the late 90’s-early and 2000’s, before starting his own side-project, which would eventually become Bleeding Through and his full-time endeavour. While Schieppati was in Eighteen Visions, eventual rhythm guitarist Ken Floyd was formerly the band’s drummer and spent time playing drums in Throwdown as a touring member. Eighteen Visions lead guitarist Keith Barney and current Throwdown vocalist Dave Peters also did some head-spinning switcheroos, with both men playing guitar and performing lead vocals for both groups, albeit at different times. Peters replaced Schieppati as Throwdown guitarist before eventually replacing Barney as vocalist, who then moved to guitar, before being asked to step-down, and eventually just focused on Eighteen Visions. Schieppati also provided vocals for a group called Suffer Well with Eighteen Visions drummer Trevor Friedrich and Mick Kenney from Anaal Nathrakh, who coincidentally, recorded and produced ‘XVIII’ for Eighteen Visions. Post-Bleeding Through, Schieppati formed I Am War with Atreyu frontman Alex Varkatzas, releasing one album, and another side-project with Kenney, called The Iron Son, also releasing one album. Can anyone say ‘Welcome to the O.C. bitch’?
If devoted Eighteen Visions fans had ever wondered what a revisionist album would have sounded like, had the band not ventured into wannabe dad-rock territory a decade ago, and doubled-down on their aggressive metalcore past instead, then ‘XVIII’ is the likely answer. Will they ever write anything better/heavier than ‘Tower of Snakes’? No, probably not. Should that stop you from listening to ‘XVIII’? Absolutely not!
As far as comeback albums go, ‘XVIII’ sticks the landing and effectively wipes the slate clean for Eighteen Visions. All their trademark elements are here, and with Kenney’s production, they’ve never sounded better as a (mostly complete) group. ‘XVIII’ is heavy, catchy and rocky in all the right places, and should certainly please 18V fans both old and new.
- The Disease, The Decline, and Wasted Time
- Underneath The Gun
- Live Again
- Laid To Waste in the Shit of Man
- Picture Perfect
- Fake Leather Jacket
- For This I Sacrifice
‘XVIII’ is available now via Rise Records, and can be purchased here. If you’re curious to know what Eighteen Visions sound like, after so long an absence, then here’s a video below of their first set since reuniting: