Friday, September 28, 2012

Outwailed - Black Earth (EP) (2012)

Don't be fooled into thinking you will get more than you expected. Simply accept what IS. So goes the thought process that we all go through week in and week out when we search far and wide for new metal. When Finland's Outwailed make into your queue, which they hopefully will, don't think about all of your favorite Finnish metal bands, and hope that they follow suit. They don't. Don't stare at the cover and wonder what subtle beauties will lie within. The answer is none. What you have, instead, is three tracks and nearly half an hour or post metal mixed with sludge, plain and simple. No solos, no wild vocal lines, no problem. This EP, titled "Black Earth," is about as cut and dry as could be.

Throw subtlety out the window, as you are greeted with ear grating screams immediately on "Wolves' Hour." The crushingly slow backdrop is a fitting canvas for the style of vocals on display, with short bursts coming from the throat of frontman T. But don't let these few opening stanzas fool you into thinking this a one trick pony. Quite contrary, there is some more deft musicianship to come in the form of some winding clean guitar parts that, while sparingly used, help to further the overall sound. There is a heavy reliance on cymbals, with a constant sizzle coating the mix. Unfortunately, the vocals do little to prove themselves worthy, until a surprising clean portion cuts through in the latter stages. Even slightly off key, it does wonders for the track, injecting a touch of fresh air to the dark sludge of distortion. And while "Gown Of Moss" looms as a nearly eight minute piece, it doesn't feel nearly as long. A lone guitar starts things off, with a riff that is both soothing and slightly evil. The simplistic beginning is joined by those same quivering clean vocals, only this time to much less fanfare. But what follows is the pure strength of the band, an eruption of post metal instrumentals and pure sludge vocal lines, crushing everything in its path. Tying all of the pieces together is the underlying doom vibes, the slow, deliberate pacing that keeps the musicianship firmly rooted.

The last of the three tracks, the staggeringly long title track, follows a similar pattern of quiet to loud, but in a much more dynamic way. Light beginnings immediately followed by a blast of distorted guitars and drums, the pained vocals return to finish the job. But rather than long alternating portions of light and dark, there are shorter segments pieced together, continually jumping back and forth. There are is a lot of weight resting on the low end, both in the bass and kick drum, so much so that it can leave the track feeling bottom heavy at times. And while this can't be construed as an entirely bad thing, it makes the work of guitarist V all the more difficult. Combine that with an already overpowering vocal, and he may be fighting a losing battle against the mix. The free form middle section, which allows the band to tear the mix down, and rebuild it from the ground up, may be one of their strongest moments. By the time they get back to full steam, they have successfully constructed a monster wall of riffs and raw power. Not sure if the nearly thirty seconds of feedback at track's end was necessary, though.

There is something in the way Outwailed play their version of sludgy doom that makes you want to keep listening. It isn't the top notch musicianship, because you won't find that here. It isn't the visionary structures, because those don't show up. Hell, it isn't even the virtuosic vocal performance, because you have the wrong band for that. But when you invest 25 minutes into this EP, and really take the time to digest it, you won't be disappointed with what you here. It's like the Hollywood blockbuster action trailer that shows you two explosions, a car chase, and scantily clad supermodels. You know exactly what you are going to get. So, when you look at the cover of "Black Earth," know that there is a fuzzy wall of post-sludge waiting for you inside.


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