The Exploding Eyes Orchestra craft shadowy, dramatic debut record ‘I’ that haunts the soul

Photo by  Jarkko Pietarinen

Photo by Jarkko Pietarinen

Over the past few years, Jess and the Ancient Ones have become a revelation in the world of metal and extreme music. Their haunting occult-based sound is infectious and enrapturing, and their powerful singer has pipes that can put the world to shame. Seeing them open for King Diamond last year was a highlight, and their music is some that I revisit with great regularity.

But apparently the members of the band, primarily guitarist/songwriter Thomas Corpse, have plenty of other material brewing that wasn’t quite right for the JATAO setting. Corpse felt strongly about the material and seeing it move forward, thus the Exploding Eyes Orchestra was born. This group contains five of JATAO’s seven members, and definitely does go down far different avenues than their main band. But damn right these songs are worthy and should be out there for consumption, and their debut record “I” certainly sets itself apart from what the band accomplished with their main vehicle. In fact, I have just as much fun listening to these songs as I do the Jess material, and it’s a pretty neat thing hearing this band divide their talents into two pretty different personas.

Exploding Eyes coverObviously we noted Corpse, the main driver behind the Exploding Eyes Orchestra. Joining him are four others members of the Jess band including powerful vocalist Jess, who shows a completely new shadow of her persona here. Not terribly certain which of the other three Jess members appear here (their profile has been kept relatively shadowy), but they do a damn fine job bringing out new sounds. There is a lot of soul to these songs, as well as a deep serving of blues. The tracks have a great amount of attitude, they sound fantastic, and while they might not necessarily be tried-and-true metal, this music certainly can trickle over and find much favor within that audience. The other bit of good news if you’re into this collection is that they have a second full album of material ready to go for next spring.

The record gets off to a great start with “The Smoke,” a psyhedelia-filled track that has Jess commanding over the verses, with a spoken section complementing her work. “Did you hear the news? They say someone’s going to die tonight,” she wails, as the band backs her with ample swagger and fire. “Crazy Heart” is an early show stopper, a moody, dark ballad that can rob you of your control. The guitar work here is heavily textured and rich, with some brass bleeding in later, giving the track a bit of a ’70s feel. The song is swelling and emotional, and the vocals are just powerful. “My Father the Wolf” gets sinister, with keys emerging and the whole thing taking on a Deep Purple feel. The song is catchy as well, with one hell of a great chorus, and the back end of this thing really starts to gain steam and gives the track a sweltering conclusion. “Drawing Down the West” also is slower and more somber, with Jess belting out her words, vowing, “I will return.” The intensity kicks up later, with warm guitars lathering and the singing taking on a new level of intensity.

“Two-Zero 13” agitates the prog end of their sound, with spacey keys zapping, noise ringing out, and the guitars feeling pretty damn glammy. “Suicide baby, it’s the end,” Jess vows, as the heavy psychedelic rock strains come pounding down and the buzzing takes over your head. “Black Hound” is a hell of a journey, with lines from H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Hound” woven into the mix. The track has a tasty bluesy haze, with harmonicas sprawling, a smoky ambiance cutting through, and the melodies swelling and stinging. The danger of this one is apparent, and the end burns pretty slowly. “Farewell to All-in-One” takes a little time to open itself, and the story that emerges is a sad one with a bleeding heart attached. “I’m so happy she found love, now she’s going to hide it away,” Jess sings, letting you see the scars and open wounds that sparked this tragic song. The whole thing really pulls at you—the words and the music combined—and it all fades out into the ether, leaving your soul heaving.

It’s tough enough to come up with one band that’s compelling and powerful, but to now have two bands that are operating at a high level is a major accomplishment for the members of The Exploding Eyes Orchestra. “I” is an excellent debut record that proves just how much creativity these musicians have in their tank, and with a second collection on the horizon, who knows what their limits are? If you’re already a Jess and the Ancient Ones devotee, go out of your way to hear this thing. If you’re new to their magic, you might find a new world in which to get totally enveloped.

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