Eight Lives Down are like a school of excellence for professional musicians across the world. Based in London and Leiden (Netherlands), vocalist Aliki Katriou leads the quartet with the remaining three hailing from France, Poland and Brazil. Their nationalities may be diverse, but their influences are even more varied. This is heavy music grounded in the crunch of groove metal and the vigorous genre-hopping of alt-metal yet also incorporates the demonic vocals synonymous with death metal. We can spend all day analysing the foundations, but we should not overlook the most important thing – these guys are exceptional musicians and skilled songwriters.
The most obvious comparison is Jinjer. Close your eyes and you can even hear ‘Outlander’ from Jinjer’s 2014 debut in the intro riff for the first track, ‘Opening Shots’. Yet this song will soon disabuse you of your preconceptions when you experience the awesome tempo change at 01:35 seconds and marvel at the shredding guitar. It sets up the finale for a run of chunky riffs supercharged by bass guitar. You might be tempted to scream “Machine Fucking Head” in ecstasy. But restrain yourself. Eight Lives Down deserve their own adulation for such a crushing intro to an album.
Bassist Marcin Orczyk is the lynchpin of the rhythmic groove on this record. On ‘Misguided’ you hear shades of vintage Rollins Band and ‘Angela’ could be Sepultura at their mid-90s best with the chug of his four-strings sustaining the audio assault like a dense wave of low-end foreboding. It gives guitarist, Paul Allain, the platform to unleash an arsenal of colossal riffs and expressive melodies on ‘Organize Your Mind’ and to take us through an impressive range of styles on ‘From the Cradle’, which, somehow, incorporates melancholy acoustic arpeggios in the same song as stomping Lamb of God riffs and fast-picked Greek guitar melodies. It will leave you wondering what just happened and set you up for the nine-minute epic end to the album with the extraordinary, ‘Why’.
If the music is thrilling and unpredictable, the charismatic vocals of Aliki Katriou are just as interesting. They’re also the most contentious aspect of the music, for Katriou is unable to decide which style to adopt on almost every song. On ‘Opening Shots’ she alternates between ear-piercing throat lacerations and a dry head voice that would benefit from more power from her stomach. The same problem persists on ‘Angela’, where her pitch is flat in the clean parts but manic and monstrous in the harsher verses. At times she sounds like a more aggressive version of Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell and it will take some getting used to for listeners unfamiliar with this style. Yet her Greek soliloquy in ‘From the Cradle’ is stunning and followed up by a melodious croon that could reach the higher notes of a flute in its delicate beauty. On ‘Why’ she rivals Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries for the melancholy of her verses. Nobody can doubt her talent and one can imagine her fitting into a reggae band just as easily as a metal outfit.
There’s a lot to enthuse about here. Eight Lives Down are not the finished article and sometimes get lost in the relentless miscegenation of rock and metal genres bursting through their creative minds. When it works, it’s unbeatable. ‘Colder’ delivers a metal groove in the verse, a punk rock bridge and a death metal chorus with an epic guitar solo, yet it could easily be the lead single. How they pull it off is a mystery but one that speaks volumes about their capabilities. Make no mistake: this is heavy music thanks to the metal crunch of Paul Allain’s riffs and Aliki Katriou’s obvious anxiety that political apathy will give us the rulers our democracies deserve – however incompetent and shallow they may be.
Like London metal sensations, Phobetor, this quartet have a bright future and a fearless mentality. Expect to hear more from Eight Lives Down over the next five years.
Release Date: 05/09/2020
Record Label: Cult of Parthenope
Standout tracks: Opening Shots, From the Cradle, Why
Suggested Further Listening: Jinjer – Cloud Factory (2014), Phobetor – When Life Falls Silent (2020), Sepultura – Against (1998)