New Zealand rock band Villainy have released their latest album “Dead Sight” last month, and thanks are in order to record label Collision Course, who have only added to my addiction to music from the Outback and its surrounding areas. Ranging in sound from rock, metal, and industrial, I couldn’t help but underestimate Villainy’s sound from their first single entitled “Syria.” Sounding somewhere between Finger Eleven and Our Lady Peace, I was expecting an album full of radio-friendly rock and metal tunes. To my surprise, “Dead Sight” packs one hell of a punch, one that I deserved for my preconceived opinions. Sure, it’s an accessible album for anyone who listens to rock music in general, but varying rhythms and sounds help make this album more than just stereotypical “radio rock.”
Starting at the beginning, “Give Up The Ghost” begins with a heavy dose of rhythm guitar reminiscent of industrial giants Nine Inch Nails. What makes this track complete is the deep drum beats of Dave Johnston, with bass pedal stomps at tempo and cymbal hits in the chorus. The following tracks “Safe Passage” and album single “Syria” contain memorable vocal performances by Neill Fraser, altogether catchy and aggressive alongside sludgy guitar rhythms. Finally, the effect-driven guitar rhythms of “Love & War” are extremely catchy, something I would love to see performed in a live setting with numerous fans dancing to the beat. Much of the first third of this album caters to the familiar rock and roll sound that one would hear on the radio, but further incorporating melodic passages that push each song past the four minute mark.
Skipping to the middle of the album, the listener experiences the title track “Dead Sight,” following much of the same direction as the previous songs, but instead blending the heaviness of metal with the popularity of radio-friendly riffs. The quick running “Nothing Ever Changes” feels more ambient than much of the album, a change of pace from the previously immense tracks. Exploring the negative space of the track, noise is present throughout the song without taking too much from the singer, guitarists, and drummer. I love this approach, making the song sound simpler than it really is. Meanwhile, “Tantalus” provides yet another ridiculously catchy chorus, featuring lead guitarist Thom Watts’ pull-off’s and hammer-on’s. It’s a great track, being one of my favorites off the album.
The first two-thirds of “Dead Sight” is a definite winner, but unfortunately the last few songs as a whole lack in intensity and drive. Two of my least favorite tracks appear on the backend of this album, but ironically contains my personal favorite song in “The National Guard.” Again exploring the ambient side of their music, Villainy masterfully performs a dancey, weightless track all while keeping things “rock.” The clean guitar arrangements blend perfectly with the effect-driven bass grooves provided by James Dylan, while the light touch of the acoustic guitar add to the mature voice vocals of Fraser at the end of the song. As the album hits its highest point, we’re dropped off with “No Future” and “Ginzu Knifing,” which sadly are my two least favorite tracks. Sounding much different than the previous eight tracks, I feel that bands like Jet and The Strokes hijacked “Dead Sight” to promote two completely different tracks before giving the album back for the final track “The Great Unknown.” The fast-paced closer completes the album in a way that complements the opening tracks. I especially enjoyed the intricate drum beats during the song’s chorus, along with the fuzzy guitar arrangement in the verse.
All in all, Villainy’s “Dead Sight” is misleading. Despite its commercial success in New Zealand, it is anything but cliché radio-friendly rock music. Containing numerous moments of massive sounding guitar riffs, bassy drum fills, and eloquent vocals, “Dead Sight” is a great album, even for someone who might lean towards more pretentious music like myself. For fans of bands like Dead Letter Circus, Birds of Tokyo, and Fair to Midland, I urge you all to give this album a listen, or at least nine of its eleven tracks. Please support Villainy by checking out their website, and by following them on their Facebook and Twitter pages for band updates. They are currently preparing for an Australian tour in support of their album. For readers in Australia, please let me know what you think of their music and live performances!