Pittsburgh hard rockers Rated Eye bring apocalyptic menace on their self-titled debut album | Pittsburgh City Paper

Hard rockers Rated Eye serve apocalyptic menace on their debut LP

click to enlarge Four band members with light skin sit at the edge of a rooftop beneath several thick power lines
CP Photo: Mars Johnson
Members of Rated Eye John Roman, Anthony Ambroso, Dan Tomko and Albert C. Hall pose for a portrait on May 6, 2024

An intense yinzer accident is to blame for the name of the band Rated Eye, who have been making ferocious, acute hard rock around Pittsburgh since 2021. It stems from a conversation drummer John Roman once overheard between two older music fans, where one of them said “I’m rated eye.”

“We weren’t pigeon-holing ourselves into … a certain expectation with the name,” said Roman. “We weren’t calling ourselves something like ‘Death Lust’ where it’s a bunch of guys that wear black and probably play death metal or some sort of goth.”

While the name gives Rated Eye room to wiggle, ideal for the group’s relative sonic diversity, Roman eventually realized what one of those music fans was saying.

“John heard it and he was like, ‘Rated eye? What?’ The more he thought about it, he was like, ‘Oh my god, [the yinzer] said, ‘I'm ready to die,’” explained lead singer Albert C. Hall. “But the dialect smashed those words into what sounded like ‘Rated Eye.’ We took that and ran with it.”

Rated Eye’s well-oiled machine defies easy signifiers, acting as a gumbo of post-hardcore, metal influences, and heavier classic rock like Black Sabbath. On their debut album, Rated Eye, they balance Hall’s apocalyptic lyricism with shivering, unsettling grooves.

click to enlarge A man with light skin wearing a ballcap and sporting a mustache screams into a microphone
CP Photo: Mars Johnson
Rated Eye vocalist Albert C. Hall performs during rehearsal on May 6, 2024
“I think the one thing we wanted to avoid when we started this band was [if] we all had a preconceived vision of what was going to happen,” said Roman. “There's not any one point where we [went] okay, that's our sound!”

“Mia Demon II” was their first single, built from each drum hit ricocheting off the last and a sweeping, quick guitar part to offset it acting as an instructive introduction to the band. At times, Anthony Ambroso’s guitar tone sounds like it escaped from the score of a horror movie, crawling across the song like a colony of ants, while Dan Tomko’s bass rings out like a threat.

“It's still fun watching them write all of these songs because I feel like maybe John and Dan have a more angular approach,” said Hall. Meanwhile, he calls Ambroso’s guitar playing "virtuosic:" "he’ll just play this disgusting, blistering rock sweep. And we're like, okay, let's use that.”

Roman is no stranger to harsh, surprisingly infectious music. In the late ’90s, he played with Tomko in the noise-rock group The 1985, while also playing in dissonant math rock band Microwaves. Years before Rated Eye started practicing, Hall and Roman had played together in Night Vapor, a similarly heavy experimental rock quartet.

“I've been in bands with Albert and Dan before, they came from two little corners of the world,” Roman told Pittsburgh City Paper. “That just seemed like an interesting mix to put them together, wouldn't be too much of a stretch, and see what happens.”

When Roman reached out, Hall was more than ready to start playing music again. During the fall of 2020 in cautious practices, Rated Eye started to compile their best material while avoiding a COVID outbreak.

“At the end of 2019, Night Vapor ceased to be. I think John had been playing with Anthony and Dan, they hit me up and John was like, ‘Do you still want to sing? I was like, yeah; I miss it a lot,” said Hall. “Night Vapor was metal for weirdos, while Rated Eye is rock and roll for weirdos.”

click to enlarge A drummer with a salt-and-pepper goatee and trucker hat has blurry hands in a shot of him pounding the toms
CP Photo: Mars Johnson
John Roman of Rated Eye plays the drums during a rehearsal on May 6, 2024
After feeling comfortable with their early songs, Rated Eye played their first show in fall 2021 at Mr. Smalls Funhouse, debuting several of the songs that make up their debut album. But last fall, the quartet finally entered the studio to track their debut album.

“Because we had been playing 80% of these songs for the better part of three-ish years, a few of the songs we got in one take,” said Hall. “We got them so locked down that it was a pretty easy recording session. What we came into the studio with was pretty much the album.”

Constructed around surprising moments, like Ambroso’s virtuosic guitar lead on “Economy Boro,” the chunky, strutting beat of “Miss Bliss,” and Hall’s ominous, regularly double-tracked vocals, Rated Eye is a no-filler, direct album from some of Pittsburgh’s best journeymen.

The debut album arrives today digitally and on vinyl along with a release celebration tonight at Brillobox. But Rated Eye isn’t stopping with this release, as the quartet has been steadily writing their next release.

“It's interesting when you have all of this material from three, four years of writing and playing and touring a little,” said Hall. “I will be happy to have the songs out there for people to check out and say, ‘This is a band that I want to see live,’ and we’ll be able to go from there.”

Full disclosure: City Paper editorial designer Jeff Schreckengost designed the album art for Rated Eye.

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By Mars Johnson