Smile at Strangers – Eclipse – EP Review

Smile at Strangers are a relatively new band for me, I’ve seen their name pop up posters for gigs and judging by the line ups they’ve played on I’m expecting a reasonably heavy riffy rock band, despite the name not really giving that impression, it seems I’m pretty much right on the money, maybe its a bit less riffy than I expected but its loud, noisy, nasty rock, and I mean that in a good way of course.

The opening track of this EP “Watch Me Bleed” starts with a nice filthy sounding bass intro that sounds quite grungy with the guitars smashing in later, very much on the same vibe, before the song settles in to a rolling groove and the raw vocals kick in. Its all sounding quite 90’s in a sort of heavy grunge with a little bit of punk sort of way, these boys definitely listened to some Nirvana at some point. Its a pacey little number this tune, its full of an angry sounding energy thats only added to by the vocals seemingly being on the edge of breaking any second, its an attention grabbing opener for sure.

“Hurricane” is track number two and its just as powerful as the first track but a bit more driving, the drums certainly push the song along a bit more on this one and keep it flowing, there’s a little bit more space in this one and the guitars sound bigger for it. Those vocals are right on the edge again and there’s some screams on there that reinforce that 90’s rock / grunge sound to me, that is till we get to the drop out which is a nice little half time groove – albeit very briefly – followed by a short blast of much more traditional “metal” guitar soloing that does actually break the song up nicely

After an intense opening two tracks third track “Fallen” is nice contrast, its much lighter and airier and the guitars have been toned down to more of a gentle crunch compared to the full on distortion of before. The vocals still sound on the verge of breaking when the chorus hits but are much more laid back for the majority of this tune, Its a tune with a more relaxed groove to it but still goes with that 90’s alternative rock feel even if this one leans more towards the “college rock” sound than the louder grunge / punk feel from earlier, its well placed on the EP and contrasts nicely without being too much of a departure.

Track four is a tune called “Serpent” its much more of a groove based start to this one as the long intro builds in to a nice big riff based groove before cranking it up a gear as the song drives forward and the energy levels increase its a good tune this one, probably my favourite so far. Just when they settle back in to that opening groove there’s a nice dropout section that starts the build in to the outro, which leads us in to a slightly off kilter guitar solo that’s accompanied with vocals to see us through to the end of the tune, its still got the energy and intensity in this one but with a bit more groove added.

“Down and Out” is the final track on this EP is right on that heavy grunge rock sound, that guitar intro could be from any one of about 20 different mid to late 90’s grunge / post grunge bands, especially with that gritty almost breaking vocal over the top of it, not to say that’s a bad thing though, I’m just here to try and give you an idea what it sounds like, the drums have a bit more groove to them than the average tune from back then and the overall sound is bigger and fuller its a catchy tune this one though with a good vocal hook too, I don’t know if they’ve released any of these tunes as singles but if you ask me this is the one that should be a single.

Its a big loud heavy collection of tunes this EP, its grungey, alternative rock that’s been well produced and recorded with plenty of energy, the guitars sound nice and dirty but full at the same time. I’m not sure where they recorded this but whoever produced it did a good job. If you like heavy alternative rock go check out Smile at Strangers

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