Everybody's born, everybody dies; we're scared of what happens after, so we try to have a good time -- this seems the central storyline of The 69 Eyes' music, give or take a few vampire girls, a devil or two, and Dracula. And in the hands of this Finnish band and its subsonic singer, Jyrki69, it's a grimy, sexy, fun and even weirdly charming tale.
If the band's "goth 'n' roll" sound and style seem old-fashioned, it's taken The 69 Eyes awhile to reach our shores. Having formed in 1989, the "Helsinki vampires" managed a hit single in Finland a decade later, and broke out in 2002 with the Paris Kills album. The band really started to gain traction in the U.S. only with its past two albums, Devils (2005) and Angels (2007).
This Wed., Oct. 28, the band returns to Pittsburgh for an all-ages show at the suitably cavernous Ches-A-Rena. So why is this 20-year-old band expecting a young audience? As Jyrki noted, when I spoke with him on the Angels tour, the band has older fans, but "we have also, every year, coming up, new young generations, who still get excited about black leather jackets, black sunglasses and black hair. And loud guitars."
Last month, the band released Back in Blood, its ninth album, with producer Matt Hyde (Slayer, Monster Magnet) at the board. The record goes further into hard-rock territory than the band has lately, especially on opener "Back in Blood." Meanwhile, "The Good, The Bad & The Undead" sounds like Gary Glitter covered by a gang of fun-loving demons. More a rock 'n' roll band than a metal or goth band, The 69 Eyes have plenty of swing in the hips.
As always, Jyrki's voice is the band's trademark. His low, threatening croon falls into the fine tradition of Type O Negative, Danzig, Nick Cave and -- as he pointed out to me -- Elvis. This quality, a bit obscured on the rockers, comes through on more melodic, doomy tunes, like "Dead N' Gone" and "Some Kind of Magick."
Despite the grim fixations, Jyrki can be quite funny, with tongue-in-cheek lines like "blood is the new black," and occasional lost-in-translation lyrics. On the band's sleazy vampire video for "Dead Girls Are Easy" (which debuted, appropriately, at Playboy.com), he repeatedly chants "dead girls rock!"
Also strangely endearing is Jyrki's professorial appreciation of American pop culture, and the band's habit of naming songs after favorite horror films. While past albums have featured tracks like "Lost Boys" (yep, about the Keifer Sutherland film), Back in Blood features popcorn songs "Lips of Blood," "The Hunger" and "Night Watch" (which cops some guitarmony from Blue Öyster Cult).
The album closer, "Eternal," is a strings-laden ballad -- almost an oldie. When Jyrki croons, "Through these walls to the other side / Where our souls collide / Never to die," you have to wonder if maybe Elvis has been giving him a few pointers from the other side. What the hell, maybe Jyrki is Elvis, back from an Orpheus-like ramble in the underworld. It's between him and Danzig, anyway.
The 69 Eyes with Dommin and The Becoming. 7 p.m. Wed., Oct. 28. Ches-A-Rena 1216 Pittsburgh St., Cheswick. $17. All ages. 724-725-7625 or www.chesarenapgh.com