The new album from Eighteen Visions could be a lot more important than it seems on the surface. On paper, this is a band who have never broken beyond a cult following ending their decade-long hiatus, but XVIII can also be seen as the album to dictate whether Eighteen Visions will follow the same path as any of their former peers, or create an entirely new one for themselves. It’s a varied selection too, given where the other acts who originated in the Orange County metal scene have gone, whether it’s Avenged Sevenfold rising up the ranks to become true superstars of modern metal, or Atreyu, enjoying a brief success upon their return, only to shrink away into the background again when their designated time slot was up.
The same thing could happen to Eighteen Visions, if it wasn’t for the crucial factor that XVIII is build on greater intent and rawness. As much as Eighteen Visions have never received the same crossover success as some of their peers, XVIII is an example of metalcore done right, particularly six albums in and with a sound that eschews any notion of polish or compromise. Instead, there’s the menacing, low-slung groove of The Disease, The Decline And Wasted Time that surges with grit, the heavy influence of traditional hard rock and grunge on tracks like Laid To Waste In The Shit Of Man that’s carried by the darker, heavier tone, and James Hart’s alternations between piercing, terse shrieks on Crucified and belly-dragging grunge drawls on Spit that honestly wouldn’t sound out of place on an Alice In Chains album. It’s a blend that the band manage to pull the absolute most out of, taking the rusted, industrial grind of bands like Cane Hill with lyrics that span threats with an air of intimidation that feels completely believable to warped love songs that have a similarly sinister grin plastered on.
Granted, this does have the ability to run its course fairly rapidly, and XVIII unfortunately does fall victim. The lyrical well isn’t particularly deep, meaning that later tracks like Fake Leather Jacket do end up returning to some old ground, with the same going for the instrumentation too, with Underneath My Gun and the puzzlingly brief Oath feeling comparatively stagnant and running around in circles rather than making much instrumental progression. To be fair, the necessity for XVIII to be a hugely diverse album isn’t there, with its best moments like Spit and Laid To Waste In The Shit Of Man able to maintain momentum by virtue of vibe and tone alone, but it puts a cap on how far Eighteen Visions can really take this sound. There are moments that feel like they can break out into further territory than they’re letting on, and that they seem so reticent to prove it can be frustrating.
Still, XVIII is an easy album to like regardless, especially for those with a higher tolerance for more ragged, abrasive sounds in metalcore. Even with the holding pattern it can fall into, Eighteen Visions have made a refreshingly heavy, dark take on a genre whose recent incarnation is notorious for being anything but, and with the clear grunge and hard rock influences that actually feel weaved in rather than just tacked on, there’s something that sets them apart beyond some slight variations on an omnipresent theme. Perhaps Eighteen Visions are a bit too late to set the world on fire, but it’s good to have them here regardless.
For fans of: Cane Hill, Bleeding Through, Hopesfall
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘XVIII’ by Eighteen Visions is out now on Rise Records.