The debut album from Chicago’s Radar Eyes, on HoZac Records, was an echo-drenched, pinwheel-eyed batch of psych songs designed for shutting down and dropping out. Vocalist Anthony Cozzi was way, way, way down in the mix, with deference given to foamy washes of guitar. It was a durable, impressive entry into the constantly-growing catalog of post-’10s psych rock.
But it was in no way a prelude to follow-up Radiant Remains, on which the band shakes off the THC malaise, turns off the lights and commences a chilling Saint Vitus Dance. Cozzi is bellowing now, terrified and terrifying, and opener “Dreaming of Giants” comes on like a sudden chill in an empty house—a tip-off that something supernatural has entered the room. Over the course of the album’s 10 songs, Radar Eyes combine the fanged severity of death rock with a newfound sense of tunefulness and dynamics. “Giants” works its way up to a cataclysmic chorus, chords crashing and banging like glassware hitting concrete. “Between Two Worlds” is more reserved, its loosely-knitted guitars recalling the early days of R.E.M., when they were still siphoning the darkness from the American south and turning it into song. What strikes most about the record is the band’s drive and force—all of the songs seem propelled by a sense of sweaty-palmed desperation. “Hungry Ghost” claws its way forward, Cozzi wailing like a freaked-out undertaker over the taut wire guitars.
The album’s true showstopper is “A Daughter’s Hymn,” on which Cozzi duets with Angela Mullenhour of Touched by Ghoul. Over a funereal synth line, the pair spin the kind of tale that wouldn’t be out of place in a Lovecraft story, full of black nights and sinister creatures. It helps that Mullenhour’s approximation of Siouxsie Sioux—in tone, accent, delivery and nuance—is so dead-on anyone without the album credits on hand might wonder how the band netted such a marquee guest star. But like all of Radiant Remains, the song transcends mere homage to become something stark and chilling in its own right. The album’s overriding mood may be despair, but rarely has a band sounded so energized reveling in it.
—J. Edward Keyes