As we go into the fourth month it is increasingly becoming apparent that the choosing of an Album of the Year when December closes its darkened eyes is going to be a task and a half, the amount of impressive contenders already building up into a formidable challenge even this early into 2012. Well that was until French metalers Outcast stole a march on everyone with their staggering new album Awaken the Reason. The release is truly immense in sound, power, and invention. It is a disruptive and addictive maze of ingenuity and invigorating ideas, a maelstrom of unpredictable diversions, senses twisting manipulations, and a beast of intriguing mischief and heightened intensity. It is simply brilliant, an album that sets the heart on fire, sends the mind racing, and triggers deep emotions to an orgasmic conclusion.
Outcast is like an alchemist come sonic chef. The band takes ingredients from previous inventions, as well as flavours and spices borne in musical recipes elsewhere to turn them with their own special ingredient of imagination, into something completely and stirringly new. Awaken the Reason is an explosion of innovation and a seemingly chaotic tapestry of sounds, a mighty journey that challenges, hypnotises and offers something new on each quest taken within its pulsating metallic walls.
The Parisian band formed in 1998 and originally under the guise of Overlander, started grabbing attention from the French underground scene with their death metal tinted thrash flavoured debut 4 track CD The Source Of All Creation in 2002. March 2005 saw the release of First Call/Last Warning, a ten track album blending the power of Swedish thrash metal with the intensity of death metal whilst bringing in passion fuelled melodies. The current line-up of vocalist Wilfried Fagnon, guitarists Jean-François Di Rienzo and Nicolas Soulat, bassist Clément Mauro, and Mathieu Santin on drums, was established in 2007, the quintet releasing the second Outcast album Self-Injected Reality a year later and the emergence of a diverse and technical sound alongside their enflamed melodies that has evolved wonderfully in Awaken the Reason.
Released via Listenable Records on April 4th this metal/progressive jewel is set to place the band firmly in the eyes and ears of the world. If the likes of Uneven Structure, Texture, and Meshuggah get your juices dribbling, Awaken the Reason is an essential must, but there is so much more within the release and its creations. The progressive metal Outcast unleashes has essences found in the likes of Between the Buried and Me and Circles, the aggressive uncompromising intensity they grip the ear with can be heard from the likes of Bloodsimple and especially vocally Society 1, whilst the sheer eccentric and unpredictable conjurations remind of bands like Five Star Prison Cell. All this is disassembled and designed into something wholly unique and wholly Outcast.
The album breaks out with the opening frenzy that is Elements, the track taking no time in sending splintered acidic melodies and grunting riffs through the ear whilst seeking and filling every corner of the senses with progressive meanders seeded in insanity and upon an intimidating metallic vein. Flitting through chaotic changes and detours the song never sits still or leaves one time to grab a deep breath, its driven manic evolution surprising and pure temptation from beginning to end.
Every aspect of the band and songwriting is at a staggering height, from the manipulative guitars that mesmerise and exploit with intrusive riffs, the acute and scorched melodies that sear the senses with innovational skill, through to the uncompromising yet stunningly and attentively crafted rhythms. Adding vocals that bring a caustic menace and expressive added texture to the brilliantly conceived constructs of sound, the likes of Abysmal, the epic A Solace from the Shade, and the metal wildness of Isolation, emerge as the astonishing results.
Awaken the Reason – Part IV: When Dawn Brings Clarity slows things down with a beautifully atmospheric piece of music, the haunting ambience and piano/string grace striking at a personal level as it transports one to a lonely shore and mind. It finds a climax that unravels within a distorted cloud to turn to the best track on the album in Spin Angular Moments. The track blisters the ear with stupefying acute explosions of melodic insurgency and uniquely structured provocative rhythms and malignant toned growls and power. The senses are then blindsided by wonderful progressive invention before succumbing once more to the psychotic nature of the composition. It plays like the continually shifting mind of a madman, a glorious ingenious kaleidoscope of warped brilliance.
There is not a weakness on the album as the likes of What Would be my Final Commitment? and the closing Awaken the Reason – Part XI: Reprise prove. Mixed by Jochem Jacobs (Textures) and mastered by Alan Douches (Mastodon, Dillinger Escape Plan) Awaken the Reason is truly a masterful and magnificent feast. Outcast have probably escaped the attention of a great many until now but with this stunning album that is just about to change.