Eye, from Columbus, Ohio, were originally formed by keyboardist Lisa Bella Donna and sticksman Brandon Smith and, according to press blurb, have experienced "significant personal and personnel changes leading up to the release" of their latest work, 'Vision and Ageless Light'. No further information has been provided with this promo, but the two named players remain in Eye's lineup, alongside bassist Michael Sliclen and guitarist Jon Finley. And these four musicians have succeeded in creating something truly special with 'Vision and Ageless Light'.
After a three and a half minute, instrumental intro piece, titled 'Book of the Dead', that takes a good two minutes before it starts to develop into anything vaguely interesting, I don't have high hopes for 'Vision and Ageless Light' from the off. This opener feels a little tacked on and superfluous and, when the first track good and proper, 'Kill the Slavemaster', starts, the build-up begins again, and it's nearly 90 seconds of instrumentation before vocals kick in. However, when this song finds its stride, which is when it seamlessly switches both tempo and time signature, with an infectious rhythmic impetus, it proves to be an amazingly riveting listen. As is the rest of the album, including an epic closing piece, 'As Sure as the Sun', which clocks in at a whopping twenty seven and a half minutes.
Eye are a fine example of a band who've been able to balance out their technical chops with some fine songwriting, so that the former is flawlessly fused with the latter. Technicality and virtuosity, of which Eye seem to have in abundance, are never forced through; rather, they've been able to combine their high level musicality with their compositional skills, so that one is never sacrificed at the expense of the other. That's a rare achievement these days, particularly within the generic prog scene where all too many bands (post-Dream Theater clones, for example) seek to impress with an unnecessary bombardment of worthless virtuosity with little thought for how their technical skills might actually be benefitting a composition.
Within songs' retro prog stylings, rock and metal influences of yore have been seamlessly combined with psychedelic and folk elements, and to the point where it feels like a bunch of musicians jamming out and playing off each other in naturally conceived ways. There's no stilted, prog awkwardness here. It's all very organic sounding. But, I gather Eye have utilised a whole range of vintage instruments to achieve a degree of authenticity in their sound. Sure, the production could be regarded as a little muffled/dampened, although it could also be perceived as beautifully warm in all of its analogue glory, and this undoubtedly works in the music's favour, with its free-flowing prog dynamic.
With Eye fusing early 70s prog, rock and metal idioms, this is not simply a mash-up of Pink Floyd. The Moody Blues, Deep Purple and Uriah Heep. Press blurb mentions these and other bands from said era, although they really should be considered as nothing more than mere reference points. Sure, there's a discernible influence of said acts in Eye's music, but what they've created on 'Vision and Ageless Light' is a twenty first century take on what it once meant to be a progressive band, by building on the foundations established decades ago by the genre's forefathers. They're not attempting to force innovation into their sound just for the sake of progressing something; rather, they've taken prog in its original conception and stylings, and progressed age-old idioms within their own impressively progressive space. As such, 'Vision and Ageless Light' is both thoroughly retro and yet also thoroughly refreshing at the same time. That's oxymoronic, I'm fully aware of that, but this is precisely the vibe I get from listening to Eye.
'Vision and Ageless Light' is like an album from a bygone era with its unashamedly retro flavours while, simultaneously, feeling like a timeless work of art that I imagine will be as relevant in forty years' time as it is now, and as it could have been forty years ago. An astonishingly awesome work, this is incredible stuff.
The Laser's Edge
VISION AND AGELESS LIGHT
Review by Mark Holmes
18th Nov 2016
1) Book of the Dead
2) Kill the Slavemaster
4) Dweller of the Twilight Void
5) As Sure as the Sun
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...like an album from a bygone era with its unashamedly retro flavours while, simultaneously, feeling like a timeless work of art that I imagine will be as relevant in forty years' time as it is now, and as it could have been forty years ago."