Eight Lives Down – Humans
U.K. groove-thrash metallers Eight Lives Down have been on my radar for a while now, mainly thanks to Greek vocalist Aliki Katriou, whom I discovered through her other projects (Desolate Plains, Tattered Pages). And I must confess that this band’s primary genre orientations don’t really fit in my area of expertise, but the affinity for prog and tendency to mash various influences into their sound was definitely a strong enough incentive to have me throw an ear at their new single ‘Opening Shots’. Once that little beastie hit me in the face, a full-album analysis was inevitable.
To get properly into what they do, the keyword here is RIFFS! From low-end chugs to fast thrashy patterns, dynamic grooves and a consistent display of Gojira-style scrapes and pinch harmonics, it feels quite natural for me to state that the guitar work here covers all known levels of nasty. Being delivered through a highly abrasive overdriven effect, the overall feel is quite dirty, primitive and aggressive, but the playing and production value are on point, guiding the filth on a very musical and engaging course. Bassist Marcin Orczyk boosts the nasty attitude even further, giving his instrument a very strong presence throughout each track on the record. Oftentimes he is given plenty of space to play around over grooves or spotlighted on certain transitions, to the point where the bass parts become highlights of the record and offer an indispensable surge of badassery.
When it comes to guitar solos, the screamy shredding approach you often see in classic thrash metal acts like Pantera or Slayer is the way to go here, but sometimes a slower, more melodic and expressive tone comes through, as for example in the solo on the 9-minute long album closer ‘Why’.
Eight Lives Down – Opening Shots (click here if the video doesn’t play)
It turns out that despite the high-octane, in-your-face style that first ambushes you, Eight Lives Down aren’t just a bunch of thrash addicted kids who want to smash stuff. Musically, this album is very eclectic and proves them to be skilled and refined artists, although admittedly, with a very strong temper. The progressive side of their nature permeates the songs with an air of unpredictability, allowing sudden transitions to fully change the sound and pace mid-song and keep you on your toes at all times. It’s not overly nerdy or complex and there are plenty of hooks to satisfy an average metal listener. But the unusual song structure and attention to detail definitely elevates “Humans” above the average of the genre. The detailed drum work plays a valuable part in the full dynamic and energetic effect of the music, mainly by enriching the rhythmic patterns with clever cymbal-work and infectious thundering on the toms as well as occasional syncopated moments.
Furthermore, the musical diversity on this album reaches outside of the metal world. Occasional folk influences make their way into the mix every now and then, enhancing the expressive and atmospheric dimension. The album closer is quite a stand-out when it comes to clean sections, allowing some jazz tunes to seep in and creating a great back and forth effect between heavier and softer movements. Also, a slightly Spanish styled acoustic guitar passage in ‘From the Cradle’ made an impression on me as one of the strongest stand-out moments. And to top it all off, there are even some operatic hints. That’s where we start talking about the vocals.
Aliki might be the most technical vocalist I know, being easily capable to touch on a wide variety of vocal styles, harsh or clean. But most importantly, she’s completely nuts and she totally knows how to make her delivery fun and engaging. Whether she’s dropping the gutturals, belts the highest possible shrieks (see ‘Angela’), or rests in a mid-range growl/scream, her tone and pitch is flawlessly controlled and the clarity is spot on, while still delivering a ton of energy. Same holds for the cleans, whether it’s high or low operatic tones or the mid-range rock/metal singing styles. It even gets to a point where she blends melody into screams or grittiness into singing to a level where there’s no clear separation between clean and harsh vocals. Also, her pronunciation is flawless and the vocal lines are incredibly infectious and well placed over the music.
Eight Lives Down – Making of “Humans” (Vocals) (click here if the video doesn’t play)
To top it off, the lyrical themes cover societal or political and psychological themes. That plays well into the dark and angry vibe of the album but at the same time doesn’t prevent it from being a lot of fun to listen to. “Humans” is both raw and refined, brutal yet eclectic, catchy and unpredictable. It pieces together many elements that set it apart from anything I’ve ever heard but it still also has the familiarity of a thrash/groove metal record. The album is out on September 5th on Cult of Parthenope and y’all should definitely check it out.
- Opening Shots (03:50)
- Misguided (04:01)
- Angela (03:57)
- From the Cradle (07:40)
- Sacrifice (03:53)
- Organize Your Mind (04:20)
- Colder (04:21)
- Why (09:03)