Royal Anguish - Tales of Sullen Eyes



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You know, the more I listen to this new EP by Royal Anguish...the more I look at my top 10 list for 2004 and wonder to myself...gosh, this disc is so's gotta be higher than 8th on the list. And you know, it probably is. I agonized putting it as low as 8th when I originally made the list and the more I get myself hooked on the fantastic music here, the more I begin to regret putting them that low. But alas, I'm not gonna change the list. It's set in stone. But I'll do my best in this review to let you know how excited I am about this band and amazing this new work of art is.

Where Mysterion was an album by a band that had a hunch that they were really good. And they went out there and tried to show the world that they had great talent. Tales of Sullen Eyes is a band that KNOWS that they are really good, and they are confidently flaunting that talent through all five incredible songs on this album.

One big difference you'll notice on this EP is who produced it. The band ushered in Erik Rutan (Morbid Angel/Hate Eternal) to work his magic and then they called on Derek From of Sympathy to master the album. The result is a full, killer sound that is heavier than Mysterion and one that many bands on major labels would be jealous of. 

Oh yeah, and then there's the music. While every song on this EP is flat-out amazing, the two that hold it together on the ends are where the band shines the most. The opening song "Twisted Angel" is a powerfully heavy song with probably the best death vocals that Matt Knowles has ever laid down. They are deeper than before, and spouted out with a commanding force that really grabs your attention. And don't even get me going about Katy Decker's, sweet female vocals. While the female vocals on Mysterion were very well done, I just love them on this disc so much more. There are the perfect amount of female vocals and they are perfectly intertwined with the aggressive and deathly growls of Knowles. What is really good about Decker's vocals are that at one moment they are beautiful and floating, and the next moment they are sinister and haunting. You could take some of the more popular female vocalists in metal (Nightwish, Lacuna Coil, etc.) and stick Decker right up there with them. And before I heep too much praise on the vocalists in the band, you can't forget the guys forging this great hybrid metal sound. Anthony Smith is a monster behind the drums. He'll blast away at incredible speeds when it's called for, but the more impressive thing is that he's always in control. It's hard sometimes to not let your mind drift away from the music as a whole and just listen to Smith wail away behind the kit. And the drum sound you ask? Yeah, you know it's all good. Then let's not forget Marius Kozlowski on lead guitar. Dude, there is some sweet guitar playing on this album. Smokin' leads and some solos that pratically grabbed my arms and forced me to play the air guitar along with him. And then Matt Knowles pummels his way on rhythm guitar with some brutal riffs that just slay. The most addictive of which is the one in the title track "The Tale of Sullen Eyes." That song in particular gets me so excited about this group. Musically, the song is epic and sweeping with a passion that just drips from every note. The love story of the lyrics is emotionally bounced back and forth between the growls of Knowles and the soothing vocals of Decker.

And speaking of lyrics, the band does an excellent job throughout this 5-song album. "Twisted Angel" and "Until I'm Dead" both seem to talk about Satan and do it in a way that really conveys his evil to the listener, while showing a rejection of him as well. In "Twisted Angel" the band sings, "Twisted Angel/offerings so sweet/darkened one/bringer of disease/bribing my lusts and my flesh/compounding my slide into denial/....Twisted Angel/so pungent and so vile/darkened one/I curse you back to hell/Twisted Angel/impotent and weak/darkened one/I curse you back to hell.....Is there any relief/from this twisted angel/this dark one this thief/I search for the light." 

"Until I'm Dead" also has cool lyrics stating..."Bind my hands/enslave my will/take what's yours and leave my fragile until/I do what you want/I do what you say/until I'm what you desire/and I'm no longer in your way/supress my needs and clip my wings/lock me in this cage while you pull my strings/while you pull my strings/I do what you want/I do what you say/until I am what you desire/and I'm no longer in your way." However, towards the end of the song, the person singing changes to sing, "I will not do what you want/or do what you say/you're not the one that I desire/you're no longer in my way."

I guess when you compare this disc to Mysterion, while they are both easily recognizable as Royal Anguish, there are some pretty big differences. Vocally, the band doesn't utilize clean male vocals anymore and Matt Knowles' death vocals are more clearly death vocals. On Mysterion they had a little bit of a raspy, black metal shreiking at times mixed in with the growls. Also, the band always advertised themselves as hybrid metal. I think this disc leans away from that sound quite a bit at times. While the band can still bear the hybrid metal tag, I think they've forsaken some of the "hybridness." This EP is also devoid of any acoustic guitars and violins that were very frequent on the last disc. And overall, I think Mysterion was a darker, more emotional, more sorrowful, and more gothically influenced album. The EP, however, is still very melodic and keyboard friendly like Mysterion.

With all that said, is this disc not as good as Mysterion? Well, it's hard to compare full lengths to EP's. Plus, there is no guarantee this is the new direction of Royal Anguish. They could've just been getting something out of their system. Whatever it is, I hope that have much more where this came from, cause I'm loving this album. Now we just gotta get the record labels out there to get a clue, cause this band is more than deserving. (Review by Matt)