“Kings Of John Payne”
October 29, 2013 - Victory
It’s never easy when a band lose a longstanding vocalist, not least since some of their identity inevitably departs along with them. So Close Your Eyes are to be commended for not digging in their heels and enlisting someone to mimic Shane Raymond, but rather replacing him with Blessed By A Broken Heart’s Sam Robinson, who adds distinct new flavors to their hooky punk. While Line In The Sand manages to maintain much of the sound the band developed over their first two albums, Robinson’s British cadence and intonation brings a perhaps earthier, almost folk feel to proceedings, and in this marking a new era in the band’s life.
On all of their records to date Close Your Eyes have had a tendency to mix the catchy and memorable with the forgettable, having failed to deliver a consistent album, coming closest with 2011‘s Empty Hands And Heavy Hearts. This is not a flaw they fix here, and a third of the 15 songs are easily disposable. In the plus column, there’s plenty of frantic thrashing to keep the moshing masses happy, the likes of “Days Of Youth” and “The End” (the latter of which features Ignite/ex-Pennywise vocalist Zoli Téglás) capture the band at their best. However, rather than remaining at breakneck speeds, CYE mix things up with varying results. The radio rock of “Frame And Glass” is bland, while “Sleeping Giant” is straight-up shouty metal and would have best been left as a B-side. However, they also confidently stroll into the kind of sweeping epic territory inhabited by 30 Seconds To Mars on “Trends And Phases,” and the Foo Fighters-esque anthem “Kings Of John Payne” is by far the album's best song.
With their spirituality often pushed to the forefront in the lyrics, CYE don’t soften their beliefs in the hope of garnering a wider, more secular audience, and that is admirable, though may leave some cold. Robinson’s voice brings a new dynamic to their sound, and not just in regard to his accent but in the organic manner in which he concocts melodies. Not all of these stick in the head, but those that do are not going anywhere any time soon.
It will be interesting to see how Close Your Eyes' fans react to the substantial change this album brings, and whether or not this helps them reach out to new listeners. As it stands, Line In The Sand is not going to be their defining release, but hints of potential greatness continue to tease, and maybe next time out they can finally get there.