I remember the profound consternation I had working my way through Eken Is Dead's first effort Amendment: the frustration of deciphering modern hard music. EiD returns with a second effort What Lies in the Mirror, and some of those feelings returned when listening. If anything, Eken Is Dead is a work in progress, and always will be. Considering the mixture of predictability and eclecticism on What Lies in the Mirror, the band offers, once more, a challenging work. Or perhaps not.
In the opening tracks, I'm wondering if EiD has taken three steps backwards to take two steps forward. Excepting the instrumental intro, the first three tracks smack of post-punk, post-hardcore, screamo modern rock. That's an obvious generalization. Lights Out offers a punk thrash screamo mix with an actual guitar solo (and there's more throughout). At Any Cost is fast-paced screamo, with a nice bass line. Inhuman Instinct is more heavy rock, tunes down the screamo vocals, offers a good groove, and a very interesting instrumental segment about three and a half minutes in. So far What Lies in the Mirror is becoming a work made interesting in moments.
To these ears, things begin to improve with Deployment, a heavy rock number with a startling good guitar solo two minutes in. It also shows that vocalist Chris Navarrete can equally sing as scream, though it's still much the latter. Tour Map maybe the real highlight: a real punk feel with a rock groove, and very catchy. It's back to scrambling screamo core stuff with Face Value. Then, slap me if you must, a ballad with Navarrete singing over acoustic guitar in a post grunge, emo, alt rock thing. Damn, he can sing. There's that eclecticism I mentioned earlier.
On that note, I'll jump to the end. Somewhere in the Trenches is Eken at their most provocative: defying categorization by mixing genre in a modern progressive metal fashion. There's notes of traditional metal with the modern, but also those punk and thrash vibes, and a few other acoustic nuance just to throw you off. This Eken Is Dead at their most intriguing and innovative; I only wish there was more.
Briefly: kudos to the excellent artwork, but not the typography: I had to go to CD Baby to read and understand the song titles.
On What Lies in the Mirror, Southern California's Eken Is Dead continues to progress and confound; it's modern metal, both conspiring with and against current trends. Though I will likely not pull this one off the shelf anytime in the future, What Lies in the Mirror certainly offers new interest to this old school metalhead.