Five Of The Eyes bursts onto Portland rock scene with dynamic, energetic debut EP

Darrell Foster was in the audience for a Chaos Sauce show in Portland back in 2013. He recalled being very impressed with the huge amounts of energy and musicianship the funky prog-metal band exuded onstage. Foster, formerly the lead singer of the now-defunct soulful rockers Mother Leopard, knew right then he wanted to play with them.

“I just remember really digging their high energy on stage,” said Foster, a Knox County native who has lived in Portland since the late 2000s. “I knew I wanted to play with them.”

That band, Five Of The Eyes, just put out its first EP this month; a self-titled, self-produced first studio effort that’s arrestingly dynamic, heavy yet danceable, and deceptively melodic. It draws on the progressive metal roots of many of the band members, but it brings in further Latin, funk and pop elements. It’s one of the strongest debuts from a new Maine band in the past two years, and it’s already helped the band garner some early buzz as a seriously awesome live act.

Five Of The Eyes — vocalist Foster, guitarist Tim Meehan, bassist Thomas Meehan, drummer Peter Griffith and guitarist Ned Rich — first tested the waters of playing together about a year ago. It clicked rapidly, and with good reason. The brothers Meehan have been playing together for years, drummer Griffith and guitarist Rich were in Chaos Sauce together, and Foster was the charismatic front man for Mother Leopard, wailing, screaming and running around the stage. You know — like a front man should be doing.

“What makes the whole thing click is the dedication of everyone in the group,” said Foster. “We love the music, but I think the driving force is that we’re all willing to push each other, speak our minds, and put the time in to be the tightest group we can be.”

Though comparisons to bands like the Mars Volta or Faith No More are inevitable, Five Of The Eyes draws on an eclectic array of musical elements aside from the descriptors generally applied to those two bands (progressive, psychedelic, experimental, dynamic, dramatic). There’s a swinging kind of Latin groove to many of the songs on the EP, most especially on “Firing Squad” and “Eos,” both of which merge meaty rock riffs with an exceptionally funky rhythm section — without the deft, confident skills of Meehan and Griffith, I’m not sure Five Of The Eyes could pull it off.

Amid all the big riffs and grooves, however, there’s an accessible core. Foster’s got a knack for creating a vocal hook that will get lodged in your brain after a few listens. Between the stylistic and dynamic twists and turns, the EP doesn’t veer off into the incohesive. The enthusiasm and musicianship apparent on every track keeps them on track.

“We’re a high energy prog/rock/funk/Latin group with a dash of metal and a dash of pop hooks… our music is still evolving,” said Foster.

Five Of The Eyes will perform with Portland rockers Murcielago and Boston band Never Got Caught on Saturday, Feb. 28 at Port City Music Hall in Portland. The show is 18 plus, and admission is $8 in advance or $10 the day of the show. The EP is available on Bandcamp or Spotify as well as on fiveoftheeyes.com.

-Emily Burnham, Culture Shock, Bangor Daily News