Finnish vampire rock is a pretty narrow genre, so saying the 69 Eyes are the best of the bunch isn’t saying a hell of a lot. The powerful hard rock band, however, expertly uses a potentially disposable and kitschy premise as the foundation for an energetic, dynamic and all-around excellent goth-flavored 10th album, Back in Blood. It’s a record that should find fans beyond the Helsinki undead community.
Songs like “Kiss Me Undead”, “Lips of Blood”, “Dead Girls Are Easy”, and “Some Kind of Magick” continue the 69 Eyes’ tradition of vampiric themes. It’s all done with a melodic sense and consistent conviction by Jyrki 69 (vocals), Bazie (lead guitar), Timo-Timo (guitar), Archzie (bass), and Jussi 69 (drums). The songs are taut and often heavy. The production by Matt Hyde (Slayer, Monster Magnet) is pristine yet organic. Jyrki recalls the Cult’s Ian Astbury, Billy Idol, and to an extent, Peter Steele of Type O Negative with his deep, rich vocals.
The title track is also the opener. I’s a good choice, with an effects-laden intro and a catchy guitar riff setting the pace. There’s some swagger to the chorus, thanks to Jyrki. The 69 Eyes take on a sleazy dance-rock groove for “We Own the Night”, and it’s a fun listen. You can picture pale leather-clad girls writhing to the rhythm (which will probably be the case if the band makes a video for this one).
“Dead N’ Gone” is another standout, with Jyrki singing “d-d-dead and gone,” creating syncopation and tension. Bazie and Timo-Timo’s guitars intertwine and set each other up. Jyrki’s stadium-rock chant of “hail rock and roll!” opens “The Good The Bad and the Undead”, a straight-driving song that avoids the dance-rock shimmy of some of the earlier tracks. Jyrki lowers his voice into a creepy, Type O-like baritone for “Kiss Me Undead.” You might hear some nuanced echoes of Queensryche’s Geoff Tate in there, too.
While the band has a signature sound it doesn’t veer too far from, there are variations on that template, like on “Dead Girls Are Easy”, the lead single. The song deploys some wah-wah guitar on the verses and old-fashioned metal riffing on the choruses. “Dead girls are easy,” Jyrki sings. “All they wanted to do is rock.” “Night Watch” follows and is an about-face, stemming from a Blue Oyster Cult-esque twin guitar attack and developing into a layered, mood-jumping quasi-ballad. “Hunger”, is a more traditional ballad, as is the haunting and poignant closer “Eternal.”
It’s been a long time since a band created its own mythology, which makes it more fun and more of an escape to be a fan. With Back in Blood, that legion of 69 Eyes followers could — and should — grow exponentially.