When Eighteen Visions released "Oath," the first song from their new album, XVIII, it was more than just the ode to straight edge its lyrics exuded; it was also a promise to longtime fans that the exhibited screams and chugs of their earlier work were back.
The band make good on it throughout the album. Second single "Crucified" maintains the straight edge theme but instead cuts with speed, coming out of the gates in a manner similar to Until the Ink Runs Out opener "She Looks Good in Velvet." Its follow-up, "The Disease, The Decline, and Wasted Time" plays out like a sequel to "Tower of Snakes," with its straightforward groove and build-up to a massive breakdown — this one going just long enough on low-end alone to get you antsy before adding some high-pitched dissonant chords to its second half.
These comparisons aren't to say Eighteen Visions are simply rehashing their past; rather, they serve as touchstones for older fans that may have moved on as the band increasingly focused on hard rock over hardcore. Rather than abandoning the bent of their mid-2000s material, they distil it into choruses here, with the exception of mid-paced stomper "Picture Perfect," which seems flat in comparison.
Another retained feature from their self-titled album is the production value, this time courtesy of Anaal Nathrakh's Mick Kenney. Great though they were, the recordings on Until the Ink Runs Out and Vanity — the albums to which these songs bear the most resemblance — are indicative of the Y2K metalcore era during which they were recorded. The chaotic crunch works, but the clarity here boosts the emotional heft of their tribute to late bassist Mick Morris, "Live Again," and piles more weight onto crushers like "Spit" and "Underneath My Gun."
That latter song begins with a quote from They Live that summarizes a feeling that pervades XVIII: "I have come here to chew bubble gum and kick ass, and I'm all out of bubble gum." (Rise Records)