Produced by Chris “Zeuss” Harris (Killswitch Engage, Soulfly), Eye of the Storm is the new E.P. by New York City’s Eye Ra Haze and it’s mighty impressive. In fact, its three songs are the most potent female-fronted hard rock I’ve heard since Evanescence’s Fallen, which was released 10 years ago. Since then, an awful lot of bands have tried to do something similar — Flyleaf and Lacuna Coil come to mind — but I’ve always felt like they fell a bit short of delivering the sort of powerful emotion that pours out of every song on Fallen. (For the record, I’m a fan of Flyleaf and Lacuna Coil; I simply feel like Eye Ra Haze deliver more of the brand of raw, bleeding-heart emotion heard on Fallen.) Even Evanescence themselves have failed to live up to the exquisite caliber of Fallen, if I’m giving my honest opinion.
I should probably mention that the band doesn’t describe themselves as hard rock. They actually describe themselves as alternative/progressive. I don’t think that’s an incorrect description of their sound, but whenever anything is described as progressive I tend to expect 7 minute songs that constantly take unexpected turns just for the sake of taking unexpected turns. Most progressive music today tries to be too progressive, to my ears. It’s like independent cinema, how so many filmmakers make their films super quirky now just because they want to fit in with the indie crowd and that’s what we’ve come to expect from independent cinema. Ultimately, they’re trying to make a copy of copy on some level. I suppose I think the same thing about much of today’s progressive music scene. And so I was afraid that I was not going to like Eye Ra Haze, but I fell in love with the three songs on Eye of the Storm the very first time I listened to it. (And, just for the record, the longest song on the E.P. is 5:16, so, no, this isn’t a band trying to be Dream Theater or Rush.)
The E.P. opens with “New Beginning,” which starts off with some mellow and haunting guitars by Nicole Papastavrou. Bass and drums soon join the mix along with what sounds like dark synth off in the distance. It’s all very ethereal. “I can see through your eyes by the light of the silvery moon,” sings Natasha Nicholson, her gorgeous voice sounding slightly ominous yet entirely captivating. Although it’s very beautiful, the song feels like it’s an omen. It’s not unlike listening to a siren lull you to your death. She sounds so sweet that you just can’t resist, even if you’re keen enough to realize that something very bad is about to happen. By this point, classical pianist Karine Catenacci has joined the mix, her notes making the song all the more emotive and hypnotic. “If I could trust you, I know I could love you,” Nicholson sings, sounding entirely like a person obsessed with another. But it’s a sentiment that most of us have experienced at some point in our lives and so the song feels accessible if not entirely relatable.
The middle of the three tracks, “Quiet Storm,” opens with a trippy bassline courtesy of Berklee-trained bassist Chris Marrone. It’s just a matter of seconds before drummer Kevin Corcoran begins delivering some insistent beats and the rest of the band joins in, Catenacci’s piano being especially noteworthy for sounding gloomy and pretty all at once. The song gradually builds, growing more and more emotional, Nicholson’s voice full of pain and longing. Like “New Beginning,” it sends a chill running through the listener’s spine. “She makes the waves / crash on the shore,” Nicholson sings, again making one think of sirens. But the song would actually seem to be about desperately wanting another. “I won’t rest until I’m back by your side,” Nicholson sings later, almost screaming, once the song has exploded with ferocious guitar riffs and boisterous drum beats that leave you feeling like you’ve been kicked in the chest.
Finally, we have “Warships,” which begins faintly with waves of dark sound not unlike horror movie score. The guitars and bass soon join the mix, sounding equally menacing. “Remember who set this place on fire,” sings Nicholson, her voice gloomy yet passionate, before she dares the person her words are directed at to “try” and “lie” and “hold your head high.” By that point it’s obvious that it’s a break up song of some sort. It could be about a couple parting ways or it could be about a person leaving someone abusive. Or something else entirely. The lyrics cleverly refrain to get so specific, allowing listeners to interpret it their own way. “You could take anything / if it means that I can breathe again / you take the sunshine / and I’ll keep the moonlight,” Nicholson sings during the fervent chorus. It fills my head with visions of a wiccan casting a powerful spell to banish someone. In fact, the whole song feels a bit like a spell and it truly over-takes you, being ever so alluring.
Suffice to say that Eye Ra Haze are one to watch if not a force to be reckoned with.
The band will be doing scattered dates throughout the Northeast this summer and will enter the studio in July with songwriter/producers Bob Marlette (Alice Cooper, Saliva) and Jasen Rauch (Korn, Breaking Benjamin). Find them online: