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Monday, October 3, 2022

Review: Eyesburn – Troops of Light

Label: Mascom Records

Date: August 12th, 2022

Much like the career of this band, the review you’re about to read will take a few twists and turns to end up where it will.

At first, I’ll be opinionated. Because one needs to be when discussing Eyesburn. The band that went from modest, yet promising Serbian hardcore scene, in the midst of the turbulent 1990’s, to become one of the most original in the whole wide world, with everything working their way for a successful international stardom, into mediocrity that followed the past two decades of Eyesburn’s existence.

Meanwhile, nobody was ever quite sure are they alive or in a deep slumber. Especially with a couple of side projects Mr. Kojić, participated on during the past decade. But I guess one needs to live off of something. And there’s this one thing average Serbian rocker cannot live without. Nostalgia. Because who cares about the young, newborn acts if we can always rehash the heroes of our youth. Eyesburn had their heyday in the midst of political turmoil, at the turn of the century. Hence, nostalgia focuses on those days which coincide with the undisputed highlight of the band’s discography. The 2000’s “Fool Control”. The last of major Serbian revolutions (so far) was largely backed by songs off that album. Arguably one of the best rock albums ever published in this country.

What followed it was, mildly spoken, blind quest for the same success. Just as there was a push from, one and only, Mr. Max Cavalera for the band to exit the country and display their potential abroad and go for a wide recognition, Eyesburn entered a series of subpar releases that basically showed them as a one-off spark of bright light.

Gone were the early days when hardcore ruled over subtle reggae influences. Just as the days of equal sharing between the two, which made “Fool Control” stand out even far outside Serbian borders. Enter “Gabau!” EP which was basically pure reggae. Then “How Much For Freedom?” which was Eyesburn’s “Load” record. In other words, an attempt to replicate their most successful album. “Reality Check” is a mediocrity beyond any words I can utter here.

Now, naturally, since the band needs to sell that nostalgic feeling I mentioned above, twenty years’ anniversary of “Fool Control” was celebrated with the vinyl version of it. And this here record, “Troops of Light”. This prolonged introduction exploded in my mind for the simple presence of the opening track, symptomatically titled “Back in the Days”. Turn the nostalgia up to ten! Talk about the “Fool Control” times and the revolution, backed with a duo of famed Serbian hip-hop singers. A slightly pathetic set of lyrics, but a promising start to the record nonetheless.

It gets even better as we get further down the album. We’re being reintroduced with that “x factor” that made Eyesburn what it was back in 2000. A cohesive mixture of reggae and hardcore where the two share the space in the spotlight for the better part of the recording. Rest of it swerves a bit to this or that side, but remains filled fairly inspired throughout.

Some novelties appear here and there as well. Most notably, a couple of lead guitar melodies that were previously nowhere to be found. Like almost a traditional heavy metal one that opens “Movin’ On”. Also, a slight nu-metal influence also lurks within. On the other hand, I would say that Mr. Kojić’s vocals are much more peaceful and relaxed. The anger that so beautifully portrayed the yearning for change on “Fool Control” doesn’t exist anymore. Even if the lyrics are still very much aware of the same need for a different, better way of living. Nowadays, the message seems to be needed on a global scale. The music on “Troops of Light” goes for it, but the vocals are lacking the fierceness needed to convey it properly.

However, that’s probably the only fault I find on the record. I mean, sure, it’s still nowhere near the masterpiece that was “Fool Control”, but in its own category, it holds up shoulder to shoulder with “Dog Life”, for instance. Perhaps not top notch, but a damn fine album that goes to show what Eyesburn is capable of, when at the height of inspiration. Basically, had “Troops of Light” been the successor of “Fool Control”, I have a feeling we would now be speaking of superstars of the global music scene. Something like Rammstein. Not musically, but in respect to the success of a geographical underdog. This way, the Serbians need to start all over, though I’m afraid the moment has passed. Then again, this is a good start.