Music Reviews
Heavy Eyes

Basement Revolver Heavy Eyes

(Sonic Unyon) Buy it from Insound Rating - 8/10

There's no way to escape Chrisy Hurn's inner turmoil on Heavy Eyes. Frequently we hear about how artists discharge their emotions through catharsis, and how they find strength by sharing cringingly uncomfortable details about their lives. Hurn is as raw as they come, an unconcealed narrator whose broken confessions anchor the mercurial urgency of Basement Revolver's muscular indie rock. Hurn also isn't shy about proving that her emotions come from a genuine place - a couple of months prior to the release of their debut full length, Hurn opted to share the personal stories behind some of the singles instead of relying on a prim, judiciously redacted press release.

One of these first attempts was when the Hamilton, Ontario trio unveiled their second single, Baby. At first glance, the theme behind the gently-latticed waltz is commonplace - she's apologizing for being an unreliable partner, though what's more devastating about her guilt is that she has no way to fix it. There is no correct way for Hurn to alter her feelings when they're practically unexplainable, and the song's positively anthemic chorus projects this frustration with a beatific fusion of escalating guitar work and thundering sonic ambiance. Hurn adds to the dramatic effect, a malleable tour-de-force whose mournful vocals evoke a middle ground between iconic college rock singers Karen Peris and Dolores O'Riordan. And much like her nineties counterparts, she - alongside band members Nimal Agalawatte and Brandon Munro - tempers the heavier side of grunge with a softness that is free of any cynicism.

It's through Hurn's crushing melancholy which we learn about her range as both a songwriter and a performer. On the haunting sludgefest of Dancing, Hurn wishes to break free from the shackles of her misery over a gloomy blanket of noise. Basement Revolver's writing tends to be direct, and just like Hurn's willingness to expose her secrets, they densely pack them with chiming melodies that get straight to the point. The trio creates a mood above anything else, and they build upon that less-is-more approach. Take the two songs based on a subject named Johnny - the first part plays more like a sugar-coated indie pop anthem with some bite, while the second part changes gears with an almost improvisational structure which adopts the tightly coiled progressions of slowcore.

Heavy Eyes is also one of those albums whose ambitious grip is presented with a meek, surprisingly deferential generosity. Most of the lead-off singles to the album release make up a large part of the album's first half, but it's during its quietly accomplished second half where Basement Revolver reveal their gorgeous squall. Some of these, like Words and Knocking, had been floating around the Internet for close to two years, but it's the ones we hadn't heard of yet which take on their hard-rock influences. The sustained chord changes of Wait dilly dally between clean and muddy, a slow-paced scorcher which emulates the downcast rhythmic groove of Black Sabbath. And they almost save the best for last with You're Okay, a straightforward pop song where Hurn tries to let out her inner optimist before they quicken the tempo with a rousing, amplified finale that would make Mogwai proud. These different iterations of the band only broaden their appeal, even if their classic balance of delicacy and rockist showmanship isn't fashionable anymore.

In a time when confessional bedroom lo-fi gets celebrated, and more high-stakes indie rock gets dismissed, it's a minor miracle to hear how an album like Heavy Eyes conflates both sentiments with such aplomb. An essential part of that is Hurn herself, who not only elevates these songs with her crippling, yet convincingly emotive self-doubt but also takes command of the project's overall structure. She gathers all these feelings and communicates them with an affectionate balance of openness and intimacy. And though the challenges she faces are hers and hers alone, they're still told in a strikingly relatable manner.