Label: Season of Mist
Release Date: 05/07/2019
At this point in time, you gotta be living under a fucking rock or have no interest in metal (in which case, the fuck are you doing on Tempelores?) to not know who Abbath is. The man is the stuff of legend, both through his work with Immortal and his ventures off the well-beaten path with both his self-titled project and with I. He is back, three years after the critically acclaimed self-titled debut to give us another dose.
Abbath’s approach to music is one that gracefully avoids being pigeonholed. Outstrider is not strictly speaking a black metal record, a black’n’roll record, a death metal record, or a rock’n’roll record – it manages to be all of these things and none at the same time. The riffs that form the backbone of the record switch modes between these genres, and sometimes mixes them. These riffs are backed up by frankly impressive drumming, a rumbling (yet indistinct, more below) bass and Abbath’s signature frostbitten vocals croaking and growling through the tracks (there’s even a chant-like crescendo in Bridge of Spasms that has to be heard to be believed).
So far so good. I mean, it’s Abbath, after all. You expect some degree.
That said, I have three major problems with this record. Here’s where I earn myself a badge of hatred from the fans.
The main problem I have with Outstrider is a lack of focus and the strange belabouring of the tracks. If I had to define the majority of the record in one word, that would be rigmarole. This is apparent in the opening track, Calm in the Ire (of Hurricane) which keeps up a pretty impressive front, considering that the song is a mess that just scatters around in every direction. This scattershot approach leaves the track bereft of any memorable moments. On the opposite side of the trend, there are songs that outstay their welcome (Bridge of Spasms and The Artifex.) In fact, I would say the only two tracks that do not suffer from this as a whole are Harvest Pyre and Outstrider and even then, they linger on for a touch too long.
The second major problem is that Harvest Pyre is such a show-stopper that the rest of the album, meaning the three tracks that come before and the five tracks that come after, all pale in comparison. This renders the rest of Outstrider mediocre at best, which does not work in its favor. It would be one thing if the other tracks could at least hold their own, but the focused energy of Harvest Pyre is simply a few steps above everything else on the album.
The third and perhaps the most major problem is in the mixing. Not that Abbath’s first solo outing was anything to write home about in this department, but the uneven, muddy, sloppy mix of Outstrider is far, far worse. For one thing, Mia Wallace’s bass is almost completely swallowed by the mix, being featured as some kind of distorted rumbling in the background. The kick drums are way too front-and-center, the snares often get lost in the shuffle, and the guitars are way too thin for an album like this. The industry-standard overcompression doesn’t help.
Now, if I can get over myself for just a second (which is difficult, given that I am writing this and not some bot) I will say this: what I think of this album is not going to change anyone’s mind about Abbath, mainly because his name speaks for itself. But, I walked away from Outstrider with the impression that while the name draws you in, the album doesn’t really make you stay. Especially with the first album as a yardstick, the sophomore effort seems to have suffered a lot from the dreader “sophomore slump.”
In summation: I was extremely disappointed with this album. However, you might like it. Abbath fans, Immortal fans curious about his work (who should check out the first album first) and people who want to hear something different definitely ought to check it out. Even at its worst, it still has better ideas than easily half the stuff you’ll hear out there.
Abbath – vocals, guitars
Ukri Suvilehto – drums
Mia Wallace – bass (if you can hear it properly)
Ole André Farstad – lead guitars
01. Calm in the Ire (of Hurricane)
02. Bridge of Spasms
03. The Artifex
04. Harvest Pyre
05. Land of Khem
09. Peace ‘Til Death (Bathory Cover)