Photography and editing by Perry Westphal
It has been a fair time in the coming but the highly anticipated debut Hacktivist album is finally about to be uncaged. It is a rage living up to the heights and promise of the UK band‘s previous self-titled EP whilst pushing further the band‘s imaginative distinct fusion of nu/alternative /progressive metal with extreme and electronic textures aligned to rap/hip hop fuelled incitement. In some ways it is not bold enough in its exploration and creative drama. Occasionally there is the feeling that the band missed opportunities to create a landmark proposition, but truthfully from start to finish Outside The Box leaves an already established appetite for their sound more than thickly satisfied.
Emerging in 2011, it is fair to say that the Milton Keynes quintet has been leaving deep marks on the British metal/rock landscape whether through their ravenous live presence or that aforementioned EP and surrounding singles. They have been devoured by fans and media alike even with a sound naturally which is going to make as many enemies as long term friends such its unconventional and unpredictable character. Festivals have equally have embraced the band, and Hacktivist them by lighting up the likes of Reading, Leeds, Sonisphere, Rock Am Ring, and Rock Im Park these past years. So as suggested, Outside The Box has bred plenty of intrigue and expectations in the wait for its eventful arrival, a pressure it more than deals with, if without quite realising its own potential at times.
The album opens with Our Time; a track featuring Marlon Hurley which lays out a dystopian atmosphere as an emotive climate springs from keys and spoken vocals before the muscular weight and intensity of the band bears down on the senses and imagination. It is a stalking rather than an assault but with djent spicing to its teeth, the track is a waking up of attention for the following tempest of Hate. An electronic coaxing entices ears initially, though its touch is as sinister as it is magnetic, especially once the subsequently duelling and colluding vocal rapacity of J Hurley and Ben Marvin steer the descending storm. Like a cantankerous cousin to The Kennedy Soundtrack, the track lures and berates the senses; eventually unleashing its full animus with intrusive grooves from Timfy James and predatory rhythms spawned in the creative venom of bassist Josh Gurner and drummer Rich Hawking.
The track is a gripping affair followed by Deceive & Defy. It is the first in a trio of re-recorded older tracks amongst eight new provocations, and features Jamie Graham from Heart Of A Coward as guest vocalist. With ambience soaked smog around a rapped narrative, the song’s entrance is restrained yet dramatic, increasingly so as firmly swung beats and agitated riffs build towards an open almost carnal hostility of sound and tone. The track swiftly and increasingly pleases yet it is one which maybe holds back and never quite delivers the raw intensity and explosive adventure hinted at and expected.
It is something Taken certainly offers; its snaky steel lined tendrils of guitar and combative mix of melodic, raw, and spat vocals firing up the passions for antagonistic confrontation alone. The band builds on that with imaginative slips into harmonious vocals and warm melodies shared by James, moments which surprise and reveal the blossoming invention of the band’s songwriting. With Rou Reynolds from Enter Shikari guesting, the song leaves ears and thoughts eagerly involved as does the instrumental, The Storm. It is an evocative moment in time reflecting the physical and emotional aspect of its name, time giving the listener time to regroup before No Way Back launches its dissension. With a scent of Heart of a Coward and Monuments to it, the track badgers and tears into the senses with its jagged stabs of guitars and barbarous rhythms, soothing the wounds with the sighing caress of keys whilst a triple threat of vocals keeps ears consumed and eager to embrace the volatile textures being blended.
A re-working of False Idols comes next, the song moving from an opening romancing to a mountain of groaning rhythms and gnarly riffs bound in viperish grooves. The track certainly pleases without making a big stir in its opening moments but as each passing minute uncages more creative and intimidating adventure, the song blossoms to impress in a way fresh to its original version, even though the differences are not as dramatic as they might have been. The track is a standard bearer all the same but eclipsed by Rotten which sees Astroid Boys and Jot Maxi involved. Weaving essences reminding of Tech N9ne and Twizted into a progressively atmospheric climate, the track simply seduces the imagination as it provides a new strain of invention and diversity to the album.
Elevate has been re-tuned for its place within Outside The Box, given new sonic oil and vocal attitude as it builds build on its first outing in the band’s earlier EP. It is a dogfight for ears and a showdown for emotions as it attacks and stirs up a bedlam of carnivorous textures and electronic trespasses. Melodic and harmonic caresses add a great tempering but they never subdue the thrilling discord and friction of sound and voice.
Lyrically the band is as sharp and incisive as expected but at times they seem to carry a chip on their shoulder which does not lie quite as well as their more politically incited targets. It is something which can be said about the album’s title track where, even with the broadening investigation of its narrative, it captivates most potently in sound.
The album is brought to an exhilarating close by firstly the volcanic and bestial enterprise of Buszy, a deft entangling of contrasting textures in a maelstrom of ire and creative intensity, and lastly by The Storm II, a melodically elegant and sonically ravenous flight into uniting emotional resonance and turbulence. Both provide a climactic and impressing close to an album which itself is only striking.
Whether Outside The Box could have been even more impressive and impacting will surely be debated, our thought being that maybe it missed a trick or two knowing the invention and craft of the band. From start to finish though, it had ears and emotions enthralled and greedy for more; a success no one can turn their nose up at.
Outside The Box is released March 4th via UNFD / Rise Records through most online stores and @ http://www.hacktivist.uk.com/store/products/outside-the-box-cd-2/
Pete RingMaster 03/03/2016
Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright
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