The Game of Fear

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French metal quintet Eyeless' second album (the first on the high-profile Season of Mist label) blends technical speed metal's fondness for on-a-dime dynamic shifts and time signature changes with grindcore's punk-influenced thrash and a singer whose vocal style is a curious midpoint between the usual Cookie Monster grunt and a more melodic clean vocal. It's an odd choice -- most singers alternate between the two instead of trying to do both at once -- but that's representative of The Game of Fear as a whole. In taking elements from two metal genres with subtle but important distinctions and adding an increased melodic sense that finds the quintet's pair of guitarists occasionally flirting with actual tunes instead of the usual unison riffs, Eyeless are able to resist sounding like yet another cookie-cutter metal band. For example, the closing instrumental "Forgotten" takes an increasingly tired metal trope (the acoustic coda or interlude track) and refashions it into a genuinely tuneful, melodic end to an aggressive album climaxed by the straight-up hardcore blast "Crushing All My Enemies." That two such different songs could sit side by side on The Game of Fear without the album as a whole sounding unfocused is proof that Eyeless are on the right track musically.

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