CLT DRP‘s Without The Eyes is versatile, uncompromising heavy music at its very best, and one of the most exciting debut records of 2020.

Release date: August 28, 2020 | Small Pond Recordings | Facebook | Instagram | Bandcamp

If 2020 has been good for anything, perhaps ‘genre agnosticism’ can be considered a small addition to the list. Many acclaimed releases of late have taken a liberal attitude towards genre experimentation, and artists are increasingly charging forward, doing whatever they want stylistically and exploring the frontiers of sound design. Frankly, I’m all for it.

Now, CLT DRP are about to join the fray with their impending debut album Without The Eyes – a wild concoction of punk, electronic, metal, and alternative, the sum of which is truly a unique take on aggressive music.

We’re no strangers to CLT DRP here at Everything Is Noise, and it’s great to finally be able to dive into the album after it saw a fairly chunky delay to its original release date (formerly May 2020). A quick Google search of the band yields an impressive degree of coverage for a new act on the scene; it’s fair to say that they’ve drummed up quite the buzz, and deservedly so. A steady stream of singles teasing the record – and keeping fans happy in light of the delay – have given a fair indication of what to expect, but now that it’s finally arrived, how does it all fit together?

Suffice to say that if the singles left you expecting a wild ride, you won’t be disappointed. From the intro titled, erm, “Intro”, things are set in motion quite unlike the many other records of late that slap on a one-minute prologue to pad things out. What you have here certainly isn’t superfluous time wastage. I won’t spoil it, but “Intro” is unexpected, humorous, sets the tone for what’s to come, and segues perfectly into the album’s stomping opener “I Don’t Want to go to the Gym”.

This first track proper waltzes in with attitude enough for multiple records. The guitar chugs along in the distinctive hyper-compressed way that will come to define the album’s signature style. It’s difficult to pin the sound down, but it’s somewhere between industrial grind, nu metal bounce, and the smokey alternative rock championed by P.J. Harvey back in the 90s.

The mix of sounds heard throughout the album sees CLT DRP exist as many things simultaneously. This is not an eclectic album in the sense that the styles are significantly changed up from track to track; rather, the sound design and songwriting work together to create a unified vision where the digitized bludgeoning can be interpreted as aggressive beats or downtuned riffs depending on what your musical reference points are. This is an album that would succeed equally in a live underground punk setting, a rave, or a metal festival. It’s a special kind of versatility, and a niche the band shares most notably with The Prodigy, while managing to sound very little like The Prodigy.

If the takeaway so far seems like this is a 90s throwback album, let me sort that misconception out right now. While it is clearly indebted to music of that era, there’s little indulgent nostalgia to be heard. In just one song, “Speak to My” perfectly encapsulates the forward-thinking musical mutilation that rips through the entire album, cramming its four minute runtime with all manner of obnoxious subversiveness (a good thing). On Without The Eyes, there’s little respect for how instruments ‘should’ be played, and you can expect everything from the guitars to the vocals to be torn up and pieced together in various unexpected – and often confrontational – ways.

Distinctiveness is achieved by other means too, notably in the vocal performance of Annie Dorrett. The aggression in her delivery evokes the deliberate atonality of punk, while on rare occasions eschewing aggression for a jazzy, almost sultry tone. Her performance is controlled chaos, the voice of a terrific singer who chooses to tactically assault your ears. She sounds like she’s constantly on the edge of an outburst, slipping into falsetto, or dropping off key when things begin to sound too pretty.

There’s an argument to be made that Dorrett’s voice is the most distinctive in heavy rock since Serj Tankian hit the scene with System of a Down back in the day –  for better or worse, and therein lies the album’s only potential weakness: its all-in approach.

The price that comes along with such an uninhibited and uncompromising sound is that it becomes a love it or hate it affair. Fortunately for CLT DRP, the positive reception so far seems to suggest their distinctive take on heavy music resonates with listeners more than it alienates them. I for one love everything about what they’ve managed to accomplish on Without The Eyes, and I look forward to eventually seeing these songs performed live, where their cathartic qualities will ultimately thrive the most.

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