Wednesday, 26 December 2012

The Heavy Eyes - Maera (album review)

The Heavy Eyes are one of the most enthusiastic bands out there.  The Tennessee three piece blues rockers released two singles leading up to the release of 'Maera', one of which was a two song demo of unfinished songs.  I love that, it says they're excited about what they're doing.  They know they make great music and they can't wait to unleash it on the public.

Their self-titled debut, just a little over a year old made many 'End Of The Year' lists and deservedly so.  It was an uptempo affair from beginning to end, a rock solid album featuring one great song after another.  So needless to say expectations are high for the band to repeat their earlier success.  'Maera' is in a lot of ways a slower, more midtempo record overall, but that's okay, they wear it well.

After kicking things off in high energy fashion with the excellent "Levantado" (No. 1 in the Doom Charts), the band quickly gear it down.  There's a lesson to be learned here, one that every doom metal band in the world knows quite well, that is: the slower the tempo the heavier the riff, and in the case of The Heavy Eyes in particular, the slower the tempo the more funky and groovy the rhythm.  The restraint shown by the band by the tremendous opener giving way to a clutch of slightly more laid back and groovy material creates tension, which infuses the album with a lot of pent up energy on a bushel of tracks, most of the first few in particular, "One Hand on the Buffalo", "Maggie" and "Mind" all slow things down a notch.  Maybe it's a case of familiarity with the band creating expectations of faster rhythms, but the way the band manages to slow things down here is a point well taken.

"These Men Are Wolves", released earlier in the year as a single b/w a terrific version of "Catfish Blues", one of the legendary songs that started it all in this rock & roll thing, is recorded for 'Maera' in slightly slower fashion to great effect.  The slightly slower tempo certainly suits the lyrical content of the song better, lending the song a more sinister vibe, making the warning in the lyrics less implicit and more visceral.  Maybe it's a technique of recording and studio production that only makes it seem slower, maybe it's only 1/64th slower but there's something there that thickens the pace.  It was a great song in May, it's an even better song now.

"Parado" is a juggernaut of blues funk that stomps confidently into Black Sabbath territory.  One thing you can say about the band is that they don't overstay their welcome.  Some bands can pull off extending a song and repeating a riff for seven-plus minutes and come out smelling like roses.  The Heavy Eyes riffs are monumental and they would be forgiven for keeping the groove going for an extra minute or two longer as they sometimes did on their self-titled debut, but they don't do that here.  They keep things tight and for the most part under four minutes, with a single exception on this collection of eleven songs, which is really nothing unusual for the band, but the riffs here are bigger and more memorable.  None are bigger than the snaking riff of "Lately".  It's the kind of riff one can only write after spending the night at the crossroads and waking up 21 grams lighter, so to speak, it's that good.

Closing track "Aplomado" is the final installment of a trilogy of Spanish titled songs along with "Levantado" and "Parado".  It's a funky seven minute instrumental jam where they finally do that thing I said they didn't do, which is to just repeat a great riff and extend a song to seven-plus minutes, twice the length of any other song found on this collection.  Well, The Heavy Eyes come out of this one smelling like roses, too.

The Heavy Eyes play a groove-laden style of blues with a hard and heavy edge.  There are no major departures on 'Maera' from the identity the band established for themselves on their self-titled debut.  The Heavy Eyes find their groove on 'Maera' allowing the blues to wash over them in a rising tide of fuzz, riffs and crash.  I start to wonder if these lads are incapable of recording a bad song, I haven't heard one from them yet.  I'd be surprised if this and future albums don't gain the band a lot more attention above and below ground.  There are so many gigantic riffs on display on this album that taken as a complete work 'Maera' is truly staggering and definitely the best new blues/rock album I've heard since The Black Keys' 'The Big Come Up' way back when.

Highlights include: "Lately" and "Levantado"

Rating: 5/5

Total Run Time: 41:48

From: Memphis, Tennessee

Genre: Blues, Hard Rock, Stoner

Reminds me of: Black Keys, Dirty Streets, Monster Truck, Sheepdogs, The South

Release Date: December 14, 2012

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Bury your problems down at the bottom of a river

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