Review Summary: Outside the Box, there's nothing to get excited about. If you want Hacktivist with a bit more passion, listen to the self-titled EP.
I admit that when I first heard the term "rap metal", I was pretty skeptical. It didn't help that Hacktivist was smeared all over the UK media as loosely as diarrhoea after a bad curry night, but then again, this band actually had a purpose in the beginning. I mean, fusing rap with metal is now just as inviting as any two seemingly contradictory genres (pop and thrash, classical and black metal, rock and drum n' bass, etc.). It certainly worked for Hacktivist with their debut self-titled EP, as the band's fan-base instantly grew bigger and bigger over a very short period of time. Youtube views rocketed sky-high, venues were packed, magazine covers were sprawled upon. So, it only makes sense that Outside the Box
, Hacktivist's first full-length effort, would build on this success and make something revolutionary, wouldn't it?Yeah, that's not quite how things have turned out.
You know this album is going to fall flat on its face pretty much from the beginning, but that depends on whether or not you can cope with the woeful boredom of "Our Time" and "Hate". "Our Time" attempts to set a standard of some sort when guest vocalist Marlon Hurley informs us all that If you listen to this album, we thank you
. Awww, well isn't that nice? At least the band are grateful. Unfortunately, this is as passionate as it gets, save for the Rou Reynolds-led chorus in album highlight "Taken" and the interlude that is "Storm". Elsewhere, it feels like the band are just chugging for the sake of it. It's only a forty-minute long record, but it feels so much longer. It just drags
, for want of a better word. Even the shortest songs here give you the impression of a band already on their last legs. Just listen to "Hate". The title for this track alone should inspire some explosive feeling or passion, but it never actually gets around to it. It just plods on at half the pace it needs to even interest the listener, and there's simply nothing to get excited about. All the energy that was flooded into the self-titled EP a few years ago now seems awash with such a lack of energy, that Hacktivist have unfortunately failed to do what they wanted to do.
It's not all bad however. "Taken", for instance, is by far the best song of the album, and that's simply because there's feeling in the songwriting, musicianship, and especially within Rou Reynolds' guest vocal performance. Of course, Reynolds could make a lump of coal seem colourful if put in front of him (no sarcasm), but the surrounding instrumentation, even the rapping moments seem fulfilled with vigour and panache. It's as if from somewhere, a creative spark set alight that little fizzle in the band's performance and suddenly made the listenere wake up from a monotonous slumber. The two interludes are decent as well. "Storm" and its second part later on in the album seems to make for a nice change in pace, and although it only details a break from the monotone djenty heaviness, you can almost breather for a few minutes. That's about it for highlights however. Elsewhere, the band's musical palette has such little inspiration that they may as well be the next Meshuggah clone, and even then they could probably get away with more success.
What I'm saying here is, Outside the Box
feels like a failure. Not for us, the listeners, but for Hacktivist and their until now very promising future. I mean, they've played gigs before and practically half of this album dominated the setlist, so it's not like you won't have heard any of the songs here before. If you're new to the whole "rap-metal" approach this could be a decent starter, but it won't be a landmark for the sub-genre, and never will be. And the reason why is that there's nothing here to get excited about. Nothing which brings perks or sets your ears alight with delight. It's just a forty minute album which, if anything, seems too over-hyped for its own good.