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Technicality done right for a change - 90%

webbtje, March 18th, 2009

Fancy some truly heavy progressive music? Music with groove, with speed, with powerful vocals, technicality? Look no further than this album.

Outcast's formula isn't strikingly original; they write a kind of technical progressive death metal, with melody and breakdowns (gasp - don't worry, along the Meshuggah/Gojira/Suffocation line, not Parkway Drive). The way they execute it, however, is excellent, and just different enough to differentiate them from the horde of Gojira worshippers flooding the scenes everywhere. They're as tight as a gnat's anus, but don't let that fool you into thinking they're mechanical: far from it. The leads and drumming spice everything up just enough (incidentally, the solo in Autonomy in Progress is performed courtesy of Jeff Waters...). On top of this, the song structures are dynamic and unpredictable. No verse-chorus-verse here – the songs have a clear progression with plenty of variety. Let's break up the second song, Denial of Elapsed Time, as an example. It starts off with a prog-metal time signature bending mindfuck, and is heralded by a gutteral “GO” into a tight, chuggy section, before breaking into the grooviest riff and verse I have heard in a long time. That's right, all that happened in the space of one introduction; far from being disjointed, it actually gives the song incredible power, and the amount of distinctive riffs which these guys pour into the songs is incredible. I won't bother doing the rest of the song, as breaking into hyperbole would be inevitable and a little tedious for ya.

It isn't perfect; occasionally, the songs have a feel of being a little overlong, even if they are full of variety. Taking a step back though, to me, I think that this is mostly just because of how dynamic the songs are rather than repetition or anything like that. If anything, this band use repetition just enough to create consistent themes, but they don't as such end up repeating themselves, if that means any sense. In short, prepare to be surprised at the twists and turns the songs take. You should also be surprised at how surprisingly melodic the songs are once you dig down a little.

We've got ourselves a cracker here; Outcast join the increasing number of bands on the French scene that seem to communicate telepathically to achieve levels of tightness and accuracy which are rare elsewhere. The riffs surge from nowhere with mastery. Here's how skilled they are at songwriting: there's a brief free jazz break in Reversal which actually didn't make me vomit (!). Eat your heart out, Cryptopsy.

Is this an overly high rating? No. This CD has been in my player constantly since I got it in mid-2008, and it's not leaving anytime soon. As far as I'm concerned, if this band had more exposure, this album would be topping more 'Best of' lists than you might expect.