Judging from the lyrics on Eighteen Visions' self-titled new album, it seems like frontman James Hart has had his heart broken, torn out, stomped on and consumed.
And now he's pretty mad.
In the band's new single "Victim," he shouts, "Give me one good reason I should be forgiving you," and on "Burned Us Alive," he declares, "You burned me once but you won't burn me again." But Hart's not griping about his shattered love life. It's everything else in his world that has left him seeing red.
"I was just going through a very dark period in my life, and that was when I wrote most of the lyrics," he said. "One of the worst things was I recently lost my grandmother, which was really hard to deal with. I've never had anyone die that I was close to for so long, and it made me question a lot of things and think about mortality."
Grandma isn't all Hart was thinking about when he worked on the band's third LP, which came out July 18 (see "Eighteen Visions Might Be Thanking Avenged Sevenfold In 2006"). He was also motivated by a friend who spiraled into the abyss of addiction; someone who unforgivably betrayed him; and the band's last two managers, who didn't see eye-to-eye with Eighteen Visions.
"When we released Obsession two years ago, we started off at a high point," Hart explained. "We had a few great support tours, and we had two managers. Then one of them left, and we were stuck with someone who wasn't on the same page with us. Everything went downhill from there. We didn't get as many tours as we wanted or the kinds of tours we wanted. We just needed to take some time and fix the machine."
Those were difficult months for Hart, and he found that the best way to cope with his misery was to write. "The record definitely has that feeling of emptiness and loneliness and despair and even hatred," he said. "Those were the emotions I was experiencing at that point, and I was able to get them all out through this record."
Anyone hoping Hart's woes and frustrations triggered a return to the harsh metalcore of the first two Eighteen Visions records will be disappointed by the anthemic verses and radio-ready refrains of Eighteen Visions. Those who enjoy the electrically charged melodies of Velvet Revolver and Def Leppard, however, will enjoy the mix of pop, hard rock and '80s metal.
"I guess we're more rock now and less metal, but that's the direction we really wanted to go in," Hart said. "It's not like we don't like to play metal anymore, we just feel like we can't do it as well anymore, so why should we try?"
Just because Eighteen Visions isn't metal doesn't mean it's not still heavy. The guitar fills are dissonant, the beats crash and there are even a few chugga-chugga breakdowns — they're just cushioned between layers of multitrack vocals, sugary melodies and '80s rock hooks.
"We all grew up in the '80s, so I'm big on GN'R, Skid Row and Def Leppard, and there are bits of that here and there," Hart said. "But what we really wanted to do was take some of those ideas, modernize them, and implant them into our songs to see if they would work."
The album is self-titled because, to them, it signals a rebirth. To Hart, it's the first album that really expresses the band's new, um, vision.
"It's kind of like opening a new page in the book and moving on with a different type of band," Hart said. "On Obsession, we changed our sound, but we played it safe at the same time. With this record, we wanted to go balls out. We didn't care about what people would think. I just know this record is leaps and bounds beyond the last one."
Eighteen Visions started writing the new disc two years ago, as soon as they finished tracking Obsession, and by November 2005 they had stockpiled 30 songs. They quickly narrowed the number down to 20 and then entered an L.A. studio in December with Machine, who has also worked with Lamb of God and Bloodsimple. The producer's perfectionist work ethic and over-the-top exuberance was an asset for the band.
"He's a maniac, which is awesome," Hart said. "He was literally bouncing off the walls in the rehearsal space and he was totally in your face, pounding his fists as we recorded. The energy was unreal, and it brought something special to the record."
Currently rocking the Warped Tour, Eighteen Visions will begin a solo jaunt August 15 before heading to Europe in September.
"Everything's going great," Hart enthused. "A lot of new people are checking us out and getting into us, and that's what we wanted. We're not necessarily leaving everything else behind, but we're kind of saying, 'Hey, this is who we are and what we're doing now, love it or leave it.' And that seems to be working."