The Metal Observer. “Stendhal Syndrome” Review

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Rusty Eye – Stendhal Syndrome (9/10) – USA – 2006

by Jonathan “Hell’s Unicorn”

Playing time: 33:32
Band homepage: Rusty Eye
There is a strange, enigmatic beauty to this peculiar mishmash of Doom, Thrash, Grind, Death, 70s Rock and Punk styles that simultaneously captivates and eviscerates my ears.  A label such as Progressive obviously comes to mind with them, but often this tends to denote a uniform movement of DREAM THEATER and OPETH worshippers so one should take care to note the variance that this particular act has with any established scenes.  By their own testimony, RUSTY EYE take pride in avoiding the common practice of pigeon holing oneself into an established clique or dogmatic style, and it shows on every single track on this compact collection of metal concoctions.

Naturally for most would be newcomers to the band, drummer/vocalist Miss Randall would tend to be the primary point of interest due to the infrequency of a drummer taking lead vocal duties, let alone the rarity of women drummers/vocalists in the Metal world.  She holds her own and proves capable of handling a lot of complex tempo changes, fill-ins, and fast work without sacrificing any level of accuracy in her singing.  But one should also remember that there are two other extremely competent musicians in bassist Mr. Rust and axe man Baron Murtland, both of who put forth a unique blend of active stylistic devices that refuse to conform to any singular discipline within the metal umbrella.

Now as to the particular character of the band’s sound, though they tend to be all over the place, there is a dominant tendency towards the style of several 70s Metal/Stoner Rock bands.  The songs tend to vary significantly in time length, but make a point of exploiting the full talents of both the sum and its parts.  Off the cuff tempo changes suggest an extremely tight and together trio, while regular break away lead sections with complex bass work would indicate a band that isn’t afraid to loosen up and experiment with the individual characters of each instrument.  Bands who likely influenced this extremely individualistic approach, but themselves sounded completely different would include RUSH, YES, BLACK SABBATH, DEEP PURPLE, MANILLA ROAD and TROUBLE.  One might say that RUSTY EYE have engaged in the ultimate fit of nonconformity by adopting the attitude of the late 70s Punk scene and married it to the Progressive Rock music that the former derided as pretentious and phony.

The all encompassing opus “Stendhal Syndrome” has a little something for everyone.  For Speed Metal fanatics with a tolerance for some harsh Death/Grind vocal detailing and some rather unusual sounding Progressive breakdowns, “Birds Of Prey” delivers a solid helping.  A straight up, catchy Heavy Metal fanfare with a peculiar Pop/Punk interlude known as “Turn It Up” follows after, carrying just a few too many changeups and turnarounds to qualify as overtly accessible.  The band next elects to stay close to their progressive roots and delivery a beautiful yet gloomy acoustic instrumental in “Fear Of Heaven”, which also showcases a fine production job on the part of the band.  So called newer metal bands like THE SWORD could take a lesson from Miss Randall and company on how to properly mix an album, particularly the percussion section.

However, the band doesn’t truly start to shine until we arrive at their two closing numbers, which essentially repackage the original Progressive/Doom Metal format put forth by Sabbath into something that words can’t truly do justice to.  The closing number and title track takes the free flowing concept behind classic metal jam sessions such as “A Bit Of Finger”, “Megalomania” and “Wheels Of Confusion” and melds it with a series of seemingly random spoken samples and vocal ad lib work.  The featured hit of sorts in “Mr. Cannibal” stands alone as one of the most twisted musical marriages of Traditional Doom with gore infused lyrics.  Picture a more complex version of “Fairies Wear Boots” with some gravely shouts, twice as many lead licks, and one of the most disturbing collections of words ever sung in a microphone.  Much like the classic scene in Reservoir Dogs where Michael Madsen cuts of the ear of a cop causing Wes Craven and one of his special effects personnel to leave the theater in a disturbed state, the odd sense of realism might be enough to actually make the cartoon-like prognosticators of human consumption CANNIBAL CORPSE wince.

The band also included 3 songs from a previous EP on here as bonus tracks which are quite different in character, thus they tend to deserve their own review.  But as for the rest of what’s on here, if you like experimental projects involving a host of Traditional and more extreme styles of metal, this is something to keep a close eye on.  If unique is your preference in selecting what to blow part of your paycheck on, this trio personifies the concept.  And judging by the band’s extremely competent live work, that plane ticket out to California might not be as expensive as I first thought it was.

Tracklist:

  1. Birds Of Prey
  2. Turn It Up
  3. Fear Of Heaven
  4. Mr. Cannibal
  5. Stendhal Syndrome
  6. Vermin (Bonus Track)
  7. Cryonic Suspension (Bonus Track)
  8. Zombie (Bonus Track)