Reviews of Obsession, the recent release from Eighteen Visions, invariably liken the Orange County-based Hot Topic heartthrobs to the Stone Temple Pilots. That would be an encouraging comparison for a fledgling glam-grunge hybrid, but because 18V once played concrete-cracking hardcore, some longtime followers bristle at hearing the band's bazooka breakdowns replaced by a velvet revolver.
Alarmist warnings from bitter fans aside -- and despite its fondness for adorable matching outfits -- Eighteen Visions has not become a headbanging boy band. However, it has softened its sound, smothering its larynx-lacerating howls with a plush melodic pillow. Post-mortem twitches surface in several songs, especially the incongruously intense title track, as chugging riffs and primal screams reveal traces of the group's less accessible incarnation. Just as soon as the rugged elements appear, though, a crooned chorus absorbs them.
Lyrically, not much has changed. James Stephen Hart's dizzy head remains filled with "angry horrors" and "so-called murders." But he can be subtly subversive -- a trait best illustrated when he fills the catchy unplugged anthem "The Critic" with savage preemptive strikes directed at just the sort of purist who would go apoplectic about catchy unplugged anthems.