Phoenix, AZ post-hardcore impression makers Eyes Set To Kill (ESTK) have been around since in one incarnation or another since 2003. Led by sisters Anissa and Alexia Rodriguez, this intriguing quartet has recently signed with Century Media and is set to release their fifth studio album, Masks, on September 17. When it was submitted for review, upon first listening to it in its entirety, on thing stood out above all else: maturity. While sometimes construed as a “bad” thing in the music biz, in this case, maturity means taking control and owning their sound. ESTK has deviated a bit from their earlier sound into something that feels better than everything that came before.
From the very beginning of album, the title track ”Masks” makes a soft intro, like a whisper in the dark backed by almost ceremonial drums as it fades in with Alexia’s soft vocals followed by the screams of Cisko Miranda. This rolls right into the “Killing In Your Name” almost seamlessly. While usually brought in entirely by Caleb Clifton, drums on Masks were assisted by the usually euro-blasting Alex Lopez of Suicide Silence. The adjustment to ESTK doesn’t seem to have posed much of a problem for Lopez as the drums on this album are rolling and rollicking across the board. A personal favorite, “Lost And Forgotten,” has an attractive catchiness to it that seems to spawn from the collusion between the speed and character of the guitars, bass and drums underneath the raw screams and laced over with Alexia’s glossy, echoic vocals. “Where I Want To Be” has an early Lacuna Coil feel to it with the thunder in the drums and the reverberation of the vocals over the top of it all. Jagged guitars slice their way through this powerful love song where it’s clear that the message is all or none. “Don’t want a part of you, I want everything. You’re where I want to be."
Songs like “True Colors,” “Nothing Left To Say” and “The New Plague” accent the dichotomy between the screams of Miranda and softer intense melodies of Rodriguez. The screams and shredding guitars paired with the bold bass lines and rumbling drums create a vortex of sound and fury that encases the listener like the eye of a storm, spinning and swirling all the while being carried away in the current. Miranda brings a kind of ruthlessness to the mix that plays well against the even smoothness of Rodriguez, whose voice wraps around like a sheer, icy veil of haunting echoes. That seems to be the common thread on Masks the beautifully haunting, ethereal tone throughout the entire album.
“Little Liar,” “Surface” and “Haze” all have an In This Moment meets early Flyleaf (Lacey-era) sense, with their hard rock compositions highlighted by heavy metal breakdowns and vocal diversity. The final song on the album, “ The Forbidden Line,” is a heavy hitting, deep cutting track that pulls no punches vocally or musically. There are crashing drums, heavy metal riffing, and pounding bass lines behind the vicious screams and melodic vocals, resounding across the entire track. These songs carry key messages wrapped in intense sonic, emotional fury and calculated extrasensory intention.
This is what others may classify as a “crossover” album, as if there is something to crossover from, but making the transition from diligent post-hardcore to a more melodic nu-metal sound is not a crossover, but rather a development and growth. ESTK is free to roam the musical landscape however they choose, but this sounds feels good for them. Masks marks a time of transition for these young rockers and the best is yet to come. They are no longer wearing their own “masks” and have found their voice, their sound, their identity. Bridging the gap from perception to reality, ESTK is breaking through old expectations and unveiling a new revelation: self-discovery is freedom and they are finally free.
You can check out Masks for yourself; it's streaming on Purevolume right now!