7 Aug 2020
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Outland Sessions - EP Review: Darkness

26 Jul 2018 // A review by Steve Shyu

The Outland Sessions is the result of a large collaborative project between 20 Kiwi musicians who gathered in Pahiatua over February 2018 to jam, write and record songs. The end products are twenty entirely different-sounding songs, mixed and mastered by Mordecai Records and released as three separate EP's.

Part 3 of these acts is entitled DARKNESS, and Paul T Gheist had the pleasure of hearing these new, unearthly creations. It appears this time the Outlands have given way to a crevasse, where some of the most sinister exist...

1 – Orchestrated Plagues

Only a second into the track, one immediately knows what to expect. The night has fallen, and everything wild has come out of the shadows.

By all definition a death metal song, filled with groove riffs courtesy of the drums and palm-muted guitars, interchanged dutifully with blast beats served up by the drummer.

This tune is certainly not your house-party average, with themes that address societal discontent and discord, with the most notable being the chorus line “ignorance is your submission, orchestrate the plagues”. How delightfully deep!

Without fail, a guitar solo is lashed out in a number of bars, wild enough to not feel too short.

The ending unfolds to a heavy series of punches as the tempo drops, and the scream vocals shift between shrieks and growls, then descends into grunts.

Without a doubt, this track is miles removed from the light-hearted outings from the first EP, and one suspects the remainder of this journey will be equally dark.

2 – The Process: Hibernation

The energy and pace of the trilogy of EPs reaches a new peak with this track.

Bearing no semblance of melodies, this extreme metal number is a maelstrom of pummelling rhythms and frenetic fretboard-work.

Technical in drumming, guitar-playing and basslines, with notes flying in from high and low on the strings, and the scream vocals is equally unrelenting, guttural to the very end.

The tempo of the song very gradually slows to a muddy groove, but still pounding away in all aspects until the very end.

If one salivates for technical death metal, then this piece will be worth your time.

3 – Electric Fence

The third tune is another fast-paced one, as announced by the guitar chords at the intro.

This one proudly bears the hardcore punk badge, albeit with a fairly polished sound. Perhaps the main feature are the grunty-punchy guitar riffs, beefed up with a murky yet full sound, contrary to the hoarseness of its punk forefathers.

Boasting a surprisingly positive energy, this track is easy to headbang and mosh to, even at a small venue bar.

The sounds are well-balanced, and thought is clearly put into the song execution. For a hardcore number, however, the final cycle of pre-chorus/chorus could have been dropped and cut straight to its sharp ending to reduce risk of the vocals getting stale.

Overall, this is an EP highlight, and if you’re having a Double Brown on a Saturday night, be sure to put this on the flat stereo a couple of times.

4 – Valley of Snakes

To welcome listeners to the second half of this act, a black metal vocal shriek takes one in, and

Definitely a headbang-worthy selection on the EP, there is enough variety of tempos and guitar riffs to keep the common metal listener engaged.

The thrash-paced guitar picking set to speedy double-kick drums drives the song with unstoppable energy, with certain passages even echoing German thrash icons Kreator in the harmonised guitar lines.

The peak of the track comes as the time signature changes, giving the song some air, and an expansive soundscape is momentarily developed as the guitar solo soars through.

Wrought with lyrics and themes surrounding reincarnation in a mythological setting, armed with an epic yet sinister feel, this track is arguably the most potent number on this EP.

5 – Zero Sum

The fifth segment of the set opens with gusto at mid-tempo, and a slight math-metal bounce in the middle of the guitar riffs.

Only one minute into the frenzied grooves, the tempo sharply drops to a circle-pit worthy trudge, beating down repeatedly with a stout and booming bass sound, partnered with grinding and gruff guitar tones. The vocals sear across the mixture, giving a good balance against the low instrumental grunt.

The sludgy, mulching riffs occupy the remainder of the track, with the mid-tempo opening rhythms nowhere in sight.

Certainly, no traditional metal song-writing, and credit should be given for the unconventional structure. However, in the context of a live performance, spectators and moshers alike would probably crave for the first third of the song to make a comeback.

6 – The Statue Outside

The first thing to catch one’s ear is the keyboard synth, shrill and dramatic, like a whistling kettle, slowly building energy. In support of the synth are light, muted guitar pickings and fingered-bass chromatics, creating a haunting atmosphere.

Given the song title, one can’t help but conjure images of giant beings made of stone, shifting slowly and watching through windows in the dark.

The hypnotising introduction is brought to a halt, and the scene is reset. Some tunefully-creative tapping of guitar strings is heard, resembling that of an old telephone ringing.

Crunching, palm-muted guitar chords are then brought forth, and growling vocals drive up the energy multiple notches.

Throughout the later passages, the track grows more into the progressive metal style, with the main highlight being the lead guitar’s long notes sprawling underneath the sharp scream vocals.

Special mention must also go to the bass-playing, as it tastefully weaves in and out of the mix, adding fluidity against the staccato rhythm sections.

This is one dynamic track, with a dramatic build-up and epic instrumental sections that would make this song both interesting to see performed live, but i also great fun to air-guitar in front of living room speakers.

END OF THE ROAD

Thematically, provided the title of this EP is called Darkness, it’s no surprise that it would be packed full of thrashy, gloomy metal.

Compared to the first two acts, this particular collection is less diverse in genre. Most fall within the realms of death metal, with variations on blackened, progressive and melodic, adding influences of grind and hardcore at certain points.

When considered as a collective, the most important thing that these three EPs showcase is the massive diversity in sound that can be created between different musicians of different backgrounds in New Zealand, and the range of styles prevalent in so many scenes.

Needless to say, very few of these twenty songs sound the same, and traversing from the light and melodic into the brooding and harsh has been a spectacular experience.

Guess now we all have Volume 2 to look forward to!


Review written by Paul T Gheist

 

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