Review Summary: Catchy and energetic thrash-influenced progressive death metal that pushes the scene forward
It's hard go into listening to another semi-underground progressive metal band with an open mind. With all the bands of the like that have been coming up lately, the expectations aren't going to be set very high, and creativity isn't what one would be prepared to hear. That's why the French progressive metal band Outcast surprised me so much, because what I heard from them wasn't stale chugging and palm muted riffs; what I heard was refreshing. Perhaps not completely original, with a sound most akin to Gojira for their heavy groove style, but also comparable to The Dillinger Escape Plan for their spastic technicality and slightly jazzy approach, and even earlier Meshuggah for their mathematical musical precision and thrash influence. Regardless, their influences blend together well and they maintain their own identity in the process.
Outcast aren't new to the game, they've been around since 1998, starting out as Overlander before changing their name in 2002. They've got their experience and Awaken the Reason
, their third full length, is their most fluid and unique by far. While keeping many of the same ideas from their previous effort, Self-Injected Reality
, they flow together much more seamlessly. Their jazzy elements used to stand out like a sore thumb, now they're integrated just fine alongside the melodic, shredding leads and moments of crushing heaviness, which are never more than a minute or two apart. The song writing never fails to impress; remarkable technicality that never feels like it's just for the sake of being fast. There's real structure and emotion going on here, best shown in 'Abysmal' or 'Last Man's Failure'. The breakdowns on this album are, while sparingly used, always executed at just the right spot to sky-rocket the energy of the song. If there's one thing that Awaken the Reason
does perfectly, it's keeping the energy high. There's rarely anything that takes away from the momentum of the song. With the monumental build-ups and occasional softer interludes that shoot straight into another heavy section, these are the kinds of songs that were made for a live setting.
For an album that clocks in at just under an hour, Awaken the Reason
barely ever gets boring. It's consistently fresh and exciting enough to keep any dull moments away. There are stand-out moments in just about every song, making them easy to tell apart from each other. The attention-grabbing solo in 'Spin Angular Momentia', the breakdown at the end of 'Fallen Year', and the entirety 'Awaken the Reason Part IV' which is an orchestral-like instrumental track are just a few examples of the moments that keep this album's replay value so high. I don't hum along to extreme metal often but there are parts of this that are so catchy, it leaves me no choice. The vocals are especially memorable, comparable to a more melodious Jens Kidman, vocalist of Meshuggah. As for the rhythm section, the bass is quite shy but the drumming more than makes up for that fact. There's no double bass abuse or reliance on pure speed, instead using intricate patterns and keeping things interesting, not to mention the production is perfectly crisp, clean, and absolutely sublime, just like the instrumentation itself. The previously mentioned energy of the album is captured in the right spot with such polished production, with every intricacy audible and every heavy moment made that much more brutal.
Occasionally, the band takes that energy and replaces it with a more atmospheric setting, which is definitely not a strength of theirs. During those moments, such as in 'Isolation', the music becomes somewhat messy and disjointed in places. For a band as precise as Outcast, this can't really be used to their advantage, especially when found in the atmospheric parts instead of the energetic parts, where it could just be overlooked. The band has not quite perfected their craft but they've gotten so good at it, there's no telling where they could go from here. Provided they have enough ideas to keep them sounding as fresh as they do here, they could grow to be just as heralded as fellow death metal countrymen Gojira. They certainly deserve to be, and if they continue in this direction, they're bound to be.