Faces Of Eve is a four-piece band from Hertfordshire, UK. They call their musical style “progressive metal”, but what they play could be better described as falling into that weird nether region between melodic metalcore and djent. This self-titled release has 9 songs, lasts only 28 minutes, and it too falls into an awkward borderline between an EP and a full-length album (By 80s purist standards, Faces Of Eve is one minute shorter than Reign In Blood, so it counts as an album). This appears to be their second overall release.
Faces Of Eve’s press release for this album talks them up quite a bit, saying they “stand above their peers in the British progressive metal scene.” The sarcastic response would be “this does not say much of their peers”, but when a band comes from the same country as TesseracT, Monuments, Haken, and many other brilliant bands, such a statement is too bold by half. Faces Of Eve does not live up to that. The same press release describes Benjamin Black’s “expressive clean vocals” and Dan Sloane’s guitar work as “furiously frenetic.” In fact, the vocals sound rather anemic, sort of like Dan Tompkins (TesseracT, Skyharbor) with less range and power. Faces Of Eve’s overall sound follows suit, showing too much restraint, too few ideas, and not enough writing. The production, however, is excellent. Thank Tim “Timfy James” Beazley of Hacktivist for that.
Flaws with Faces Of Eve immediately become evident within its first song’s first second; This is no joke. The clock does not reach the 00m01s mark in “Sanctuary For Heavy Hearts” before the singing starts and therein lies the problem. The song has no intro. Two measures of a standard thrash riff — the song’s main riff — and there’s the voice. One interpretation: Faces Of Eve (the band) made an aggressive start to give Faces Of Eve (the album) some energy. Another interpretation: Faces Of Eve did not spend enough time and effort writing this album.
Next comes the album’s first single, “Dreamcatcher.” Granted, it has some imaginative guitar work and riffing. The drumming, however, saves the song from any sort of progressive technical brilliance. Add in the aforementioned weak singing along with some uninspiring vocal melodies, and we have some lost opportunities to make good music.
One interpretation of “Dreamcatcher’s” slightly-less-than-three-minute running time would be that Faces Of Eve were able to say all they needed to say in half the time (or much less than half the time) that other prog bands need. Another interpretation: they did not spend enough time and effort writing this song and have an insufficient grasp of the prog or metalcore idioms to know even how to fill out a tune. Do you want a too-short song to be proggy? Easy, just noodle for a few minutes – your singer will love you for it. Would you rather go the metalcore route? One word: breakdown. Faces Of Eve did neither and the lack of effort shows.
Elsewhere, Face Of Eve’s fourth song has the visionary title “IV” and starts off in a djenty way, evoking After The Burial. It sounds like the intro to a gnarly, heavy song but it ends after 1m40s and doesn’t have any singing. Faces Of Eve took their best riff and their most creative instrumental arrangement and they wasted it on a Tool/Gojira-esque pointless interlude; yet another opportunity for brilliance wasted by bad artistic judgment. If only Faces Of Eve could have written a song around this. If only they could have used it as a breakdown in one of their vocal numbers. If only they paid attention to the importance of writing! If only…
Then we get to the closing tracks of “As Above” and “So Below.” They are littered with hateful, swear-word-infused lyrics. Those sound much better when a singer with a backbone belts them out, or even screams them. Sadly, the weak style adopted by Benjamin Black does not even elevate these lyrics to unintentional humour territory. Instrumentally, the song is, well, as above: nothing memorable; and so below, it could have been better.
What Could Have Been
Faces Of Eve have talent. Dan Sloane has ideas, can play well, and bassist Owen Morris can keep up with him. Drummer Conor Prentice (assuming Faces Of Eve’s drums were not programmed) has the basics down, and there are hints that he can play more rhythmically imaginative lines, and that he wanted to. The rest of the band should have let him.
Back to the press release: it says Faces Of Eve is “unafraid at times to demonstrate a more pop and soul sound”, but this is simply not to be heard on this album. Australia’s Voyager do a much better job at realizing such an aesthetic and it helps that they have a better singer. To make it work, Faces Of Eve need more slow, arpeggiated passages with some funkier drumming, and Black needs to belt it out more. Such slow passages naturally segue into instrumental noodling or even heavy breakdowns (as above). Writing along those lines could have saved Faces Of Eve from mediocrity.
Notable Tracks: “IV”; “Dream Catcher”; “As Above”
FFO: Trivium, TesseracT, Killswitch Engage, Coheed and Cambria