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I remember catching Escape From L.A., the rather lackluster sequel to one of my favorite John Carpenter flicks, a couple weeks ago and that famous cliché line Kurt Russell keeps repeating about how “The More Things Change”, and I couldn’t help but notice a huge parallel between that film and this rather unfortunate album. Unlike “Escape From New York”, “Burn My Eyes” was not a terribly enjoyable experience, but otherwise the analogy fits quite well. Regardless to whether or not Robb Flynn lifted the title for this off of that quote, essentially you’ve got the same story, but without the power of a few generally good ideas. This sounds like a watered down, dumbed down, less metallic version of the overt mishmash of Pantera grooves and “Sound Of White Noise” atmosphere, with more of the flaws and less of the charms to boot.
Some are pretty quick to start pointing out the KoRn influences, but objectively speaking, this isn’t a whole lot more mallcore sounding than the previous release, which will become the case upon the advent of future releases. There is a tiny bit more reliance on poorly placed harmonic notes to give that irritating, nails on a chalkboard sound associated with the various enemies of metal. We also have a really obvious rip-off of the aforementioned mallcore pioneers first radio hit “Blind” in “Struck A Nerve”, which copies the general riffing concept of the former, but superimposes it on a groove based format where the guitars have slightly, and I emphasize slightly, more gusto to them. But the principle offender here for all those wanting something metal-based is still that grungy goodness that all of the sweaty lawnmower men get off to, particularly the cases of Flynn’s really cheap John Bush imitation clean vocals and on those slow atmospheric sections where the groove shifts completely to the drums and the bass, while the guitars all but fade into an ether of limp-wristed chord outlines.
The primary thing that really sinks this album is the lack of distinction between songs, as the band keeps going back to the same well of 2 or 3 ideas over and over. A couple songs like “Ten Ton Hammer”, which falls short of what its name implies by about 9.5 tons, make vain attempts at incorporating elements of what gave the first couple of songs on “Burn My Eyes” a little bit of punch, but they tend to fall into the same trap of morphing into softball grunge rock at key points, and put a lot more emphasis on banal, 2 note rhythmic drones, rather than finding a signature riff like the one that kicks off “Davidian” and really ramming the point home. “Violate” and “Blood Of The Zodiac” are served slightly better by being longer in length and managing to find a few good ideas in their epic meandering. What emerges from these ventures a tiny bit closer to sludge territory ala Crowbar, which is a step up, but still well below where it could be. Ultimately, listening to this entire album is an exercise in differentiating between the weak and the utterly atrocious moments, though generally things tend more towards the former.
This can still be categorized as groove metal, though it sometimes has trouble maintaining the second half of that label. There’s a few good guitar solos here and there that avoid the wretched, effects smothered drivel put out by Sepultura at around this juncture, but they become fewer and farther between than were the case 3 years prior to this. If nothing else, it indicates that Flynn seems to have the desire to fully jump on board with the rest of the Fred Durst crowd, but just can’t quite make the plunge at this point. As the Escape From L.A. quote goes, “The more things change, the more they stay the same”, and here the resulting sameness is another mediocre offering from a band that is changing in its levels of bringing on the boredom. There’s nothing more to see here, so please move along.