Retro Review: Bastard Eye Scream

So you might wonder why I’m writing about a small band that hasn’t released any music since July 2013 and probably more importantly doesn’t technically exist anymore. Well hopefully this short piece will justify itself, but in a sentence; Bastard Eye Scream encompass every aspect of music I love and they do it in a way that feels chaotic yet calculated. You can consider this little known group of musicians from East Sussex the new standard to which I judge all other music. In the space of about five minutes these bastards will throw everything they have at you and will continue to do so song after song. This, at first, can be intimidating, but allow me to explain.

Trying to combine the forces of raw emotion with a high level of technical musicianship is the musical equivalent of nuclear fusion; it requires a LOT of energy to achieve, but done correctly, the payoff is overwhelming. The journey that is a Bastard Eye Scream song is often not an easy one at first due to the various onslaughts of sonic seduction you’re about to experience. At times their sound is incredibly dense and intrusive, at others delicate and standoff-ish, but at all times communicating something worthwhile.

I think it would be an insult to their memory if I reviewed individual songs, it would likely detract from the experience you would get from listening to them yourself (it also feels a bit cruel to dissect something I consider so brilliant). Instead let me focus on the overall picture.

As I keep hinting at it’s a multitude of often counter intuitive elements that makes this music so special. From the enraged pained and yet somehow contained wails of (at times) every member, to their calmer harmonious vocal melodies. From the chugging hardcore guitar riffs, to the delicate math pop twinkle tapping that rivals TTNG. From drums that sit perfectly behind the band to furious rudiments that punch through to the foreground of the song even when it’s at its most intense. Everyone bounces from strength to strength on a second by second basis, no one member ever being forced in to the background (or centre stage for that matter). Everyone’s style, both vocally and within the confines of their own instrument, are entirely unique and you’ll learn to appreciate that after a few listens of any song. Whether it’s Ben’s talk-rock inspired vocals and guitar riffs, Alex’s maniacal screams and inhuman bass lines, Lex’s shouting and unique use of the fretboard, or Weezey’s natural ear for harmonies and persistently frantic but thought out drumming, the overall dynamics always fit together uncannily.

I’m also a huge fan of shifting time signatures, considering it an untapped mine for creating original and interesting sounding music. While it may be unintuitive to some, it’s well worth investing some time to appreciate. Bastard Eye Scream are not afraid to play around with time signatures and tempos, something that keeps every moment fresh and helps create diverse soundscapes across individual tracks.

Something I rarely pay attention to in modern music are the lyrics, they often feel thrown in due to the misconception that bands need vocalists. But this is a band where I felt compelled to study the lyrics; at first to help solidify the songs in my mere human brain but later out of genuine interest. The lyrics project similar concepts to the music itself, dancing between the deadly serious and utterly ludicrous, with what are clearly rather personal experiences mixed in with disney quotes there’s really nothing out there quite like it. The sheer number of unique vocal lines in any given song is likely well above the universal average to say the least. It does make potential hooks often hard to discern and recall but ultimately it makes each song worth coming back to again and again.

While I’m on the subject of lyrics and the ludicrous, I’ve always thought song names that lazily declare the chorus hook are somewhat of a cop-out. So it’s always refreshing to see titles like “Pevin Kietersen”, “Quasimodo Doesn’t Know-Know About This DISCO”, “I Blew Up Megaton And Goddammnit I’d Do It Again” and so on.

I should add that you can get a damn fine impression of all this from the multitude of material, new and old, they have available on their bandcamp page. If, however, you were fortunate to be one of the lucky few to catch them live you would know that none of this was “put on” for the sake of a recording. Their live energy was upped to 1000% as they powered through each set, with band members in the crowd more often than not, trying to break through the barrier the stage constructed between them and the audience.

There are two collections available online; the “New Material Promo” and an album “Jenova Drinks Colours”. I would advise the former as a starting point for a newcomer. With a higher production value and a more refined sound, these three songs are more immediately accessible.

I was sadly clued up to Bastard Eye Scream in the autumn of their years as a band and was surprised at how sad I was at their final local show, another way to justify my enthusiastic, slightly kiss ass, praise. Weezey and Alex have moved to pastures new with their new 3-piece Exploder Than You, which is about as close as you’ll get to the bastards these days. I urge you to check them out, they’re awesome, in an entirely different way.

So why do I think these guys matter so much? If I had to be as brief as possible I’d say their music feels like an extension of their personality. Human beings are complex misunderstood vessels brimming with conflicting feelings and emotions and as a species why should our music be anything but that? I think it’s a shame that this calibre of artistic expression is generally shunned by the public at large, if people were honest with themselves and gave these bastards the time of day, they’d have likely found a way to connect with them.

Word By Daniel Gibbon

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