With a perpetual cock of the eyebrow, Helsinki-based Gothic rock dramatists The 69 Eyes draw on subcultural imagery and lore to craft overblown, almost tongue-in-cheek dark fantasies where nevertheless you’ll find some deeply heartfelt themes. Birthed initially as a glam metal outfit, the band soon fell under the spell of the emerging Goth scene and its distinctive, gloomy aesthetic. Following in the footsteps of acts such as Sisters of Mercy and hooked on the dreamy, hedonistic atmospherics of films like The Lost Boys and The Crow, the group quickly established their highly stylised, punk-edged signature ‘goth n roll’. A velvet embrace of surreal, synthesised decadence with a backdrop of powerful guitar-work and hardened, industrial bass, Jyrki69’s rich, chocolate vocals purr through lyrics saturated in all the seductive allure of doomed passions.
With several platinum-selling albums to date, their latest opus West End marks their 30 year milestone - but although it’s a pretty package that will please some fans this is no 'Savage Garden' or 'Blessed Be'. Released with much hype and ceremony on Friday 13th, expectations were understandably high, but unfortunately while the album shows all the signs of the band’s usual trademark style, it lacks the spirited, energetic fervour and affecting emotional depth of their earlier oeuvre and is unlikely to make much of a splash in the Goth movement’s endless lake of tears.
Featuring Dani Filth, the official video for first track 'Two Horns Up' sees the Cradle frontman cavorting about dressed as Lucifer and flicking his tongue in an exaggerated, flirty caricature of himself. A catchy little number that will no doubt make a stellar dance floor track, 'Two Horns Up' is fun but fails to draw on Dani’s deeper infernal genius. For much of the album that follows it feels as if the band’s heart isn’t really in it; '27 & Done' disappoints with overly repetitive choruses and tired clichés about dying young while tracks such as 'Burn Witch Burn' drip with a lethargy more akin to simple boredom than the languidly beautiful inertia of previous releases. 'The Last House on the Left' has a rollicking hard rock feel, while 'Death & Desire' is slower and more melancholy, featuring some powerful, deep-diving riffs and mournful solos, but although they are worthy of note for a little more variation in style neither really scratch below the surface. However, luckily a few standouts swim against the tide. 'Black Orchid' is the track that best channels the 69 Eyes’ late 90’s/early 2000’s heyday, with a doom-weighted base and hypnotic, reverberating backbeat. With its dramatic solos 'Change' is perhaps the most emotionally resonant, while the grinding riffs of 'Cheyenna' tell a biker’s tale filled with all the fateful romance of Highway 69. Final track 'Hell Has No Mercy' is a delicate, night-flowering bloom seeped with intensity of feeling and echoing with soulful, blues-y cadence which almost makes up for those earlier disenchantments.
Worth checking out for nostalgia’s sake, The 69 Eyes haven’t quite re-captured their glory days and it feels very much as though a riskier, yet braver boldness of artistry has been sacrificed for easy commercial gain. 'West End' is a decent, solid effort from an experienced and highly skilled band with a few gems hiding amidst the filler, but as a whole ultimately forgettable compared to the sparkling treasures of their backlist.
'West End' is out now on Nuclear Blast