Blackgazes's break into the mainstream brought influence from post-hardcore and late 90's screamo, which Bay Area up-and-comers Outlier have dabbled in for the past two years. Their debut full length dives into this combination of scramz and modern black metal to a tremendous effect. Through A Set Of Rose Shaded Eyes builds stylistic bridges through the four-piece's superb execution and emotive power.
Blackened hardcore has grown as a trend in recent years, but it only takes two tracks to prove that no one does it quite like Outlier. No, that's not hyperbole — the way the etherial intro "Presidio" builds to the the icy blast beat and tremolo picking of "Mecca" creates a genuinely original aura.
If Refused ran with Deafheaven's style, it wouldn't be too far off from what's in this album. Raw, stripped down production coincides with an impressive dynamic range emotional potency. Even while jumping from Define-era Underøath to passages straight out of the Scandinavian handbook, Outlier sound remarkably natural, as exemplified in the gut-wrenching conclusion of "Mecca" ("Will I become my own worst fear? 'Yes, you will.' Yes, I will.'").
Guitarist Adrien Fonda seamlessly blends uplifting melodies and sinister dissonance as Aaron Horwitz's acrobatic percussive energy carries the band from the angular proginess of "Skin Walker" to the visceral fervor and seismic finale found in "Dove Pan." Buoyant and lofty, yet blunt and aggressive, the latter track succeeds incredibly as each member pours their heart and soul into it. Josh Smith's bass lines balance primal growl and harmonic stability in a similar way Griffin Slinker embodies the menacing snarls of George Clark and a frenzied catharsis akin to Denis Lyxzén.
Slinker's performances remain particularly strong throughout the album, as do his vulnerably esoteric lyrics. "Birdland," entrenched in the struggle for stability with carnal vices, retains the right amount of elusiveness as the song's 6/8 feel gives ample room for unexpected dynamic accents, mournful guitar strains and dense rhythm. Even during softer passages, his shrieks cut through the mix like a blade. This frigid brittleness may catch listeners off guard, but soaking in Slinker's harsh honesty adds thrilling impact to Through A Set Of Rose Shaded Eyes. However, vocals never overshadow the album's instrumental diversity.
"Montauk" transcends the pitfalls of interlude tracks many bands shoehorn into their albums to fein versatility as its spiraling melody and forlorn swells continues perfectly from previous song and fits perfectly into the album's flow. The style Outlier have settled on is far from a gimmick, as is proven by the evident confidence they show in juggling math-rock and post-metal in "The Jewel" or the way "Undesirable" charges the engrossing majesty of Deafheaven's "Dream House" with hard-hitting punk rock. This band never hides behind trends, letting their memorable arrangements speak for themselves.
Saving their two most confrontational tracks for last, Outlier throws a couple more curveballs before the album closes. Though very different in translation, both "Three And Five" and "Eclipse" provide unique genre amalgamations. The former features the shrill hypnotism one might expect from Burzum, but gritty low-end and syncopated beats still keep one foot in Today Is the Day-esque dregs. These hair raising qualities also translate into the final track, but within a heavier context. The most recognizably "metal" track on the album, foreboding undertones and unique chord choices keep it out of clichés as Slinker's parting words tackle existential turmoil with a sense of awe and serenity. From start to end, Through A Set Of Rose Shaded Eyes provides consistent creativity with a poignant core.
BOTTOM LINE: At first listen, one might not completely understand what Outlier have accomplished with their debut. Though unafraid to wear their influences on their leave, their songwriting chops manifest in vibrant sonic hues that they can call theirs and theirs alone. Through A Set Of Rose Shaded Eyes sees Outlier come to their own and present an authentically extraordinary sound.
STANDOUT TRACK: "Dove Pan"
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