Album Title: The Awakening
Label: Rockshots Records
Date of Release: 13 May 2022
Overtly Gothic-sounding music is not normally something that I gravitate towards. Within my collection, I have plenty of material by the likes of Type O Negative and Paradise Lost, but then who doesn’t? That aside though, my quota of Goth rock/metal is pretty sparce to say the least. However, taken by the stark black and white cover artwork that adorns ‘The Awakening’, the fifth album from Outshine, and because I generally trust the music that comes from the Rockshots Records stable of late, I thought I’d give it a cursory listen at least.
Formed in Sweden in 2007, Outshine is predominantly a duo, featuring Jimmy Boman on guitars and vocals alongside bassist Niklas Ingvarsson, with other instruments performed by guests as required. They do reference Paradise Lost and Type O Negative as influences, but the press release also namechecks the likes of HIM and Sisters Of Mercy, bands with which I am far less familiar. Nevertheless, from what I do know, these are reasonable comparisons and influences to name, because the music here does have a hefty Gothic edge to it.
Predominantly, the Goth sheen comes from the vocal delivery from Boman, who has that rich, deep croon down to a tee. But that’s not all, because the music itself is generally a mid-tempo, with chunky riffs that straddle the rock and metal spheres, whilst each of the compositions is literally bathed in rich, dark, atmospheric synths and the classic tinkling of piano keys. I have to be really in the mood to enjoy this kind of thing, but there is one big ingredient in the favour of Outshine -the guitar tone. At one point of another in each of the songs, there is a note or three that is so deep, heavy, and resonant that I can’t resist it. Often it is accompanied by the rumbling bass to accentuate its heaviness and accompanied by strong atmospheres, but when it arrives, it makes me smile.
The other ingredient that works in Outshine’s favour is their ability to write songs that are catchy and melodic to a point where any misgivings seem to be a little mealy-mouthed. Not every one of the eight songs is a dead-set winner, but there is plenty enough throughout ‘The Awakening’ to ensure that my overall impression is one of positivity and enjoyment. Add to this a lyrical content that doesn’t just peddle the usual Gothic tropes, but instead explores the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the music industry and the effect of the ruling elite on society as a whole – it’s all just a little different, and I like that.
It helps that the first song on the album, ‘It’s All Lies’ is a bit of a belter. At over seven minutes in length, it opens with some bold synths and piano notes which take their time to resolve into the central melody of the song. The mid-era ‘Draconian Times’ Paradise Lost influences loom large, but when that guitar tone enters, I’m not really thinking of much except, ‘heck, that’s a nice sound’. From there, we get the ubiquitous synth-drenched chugging riffs whilst Boman explores thoughts about whether the media and the ruling elite can be trusted in the modern age. The closing sequence is suitably rousing and anthemic in nature too, rounding off a great opening composition.
The electronic sounds are fairly bold at the beginning of ‘Our Misery’, a shorter track that’s generally much quieter than its predecessor. There are some big riffs, but the verses are more stripped back, focusing on the vocals and melancholy atmosphere. ‘Love Is Dead’ then brings out the Type O Negative worship just a little more, with an altogether creepier tone to begin with. However, when the more opulent orchestration and piano notes kick in, followed by a strong, catchy chorus, the immediate similarities remain but are less immediate. At the end of the day, it’s just another strong, memorable composition that works to its strengths very well indeed.
Despite being a fairly consistent album in terms of quality, there are a couple of tracks that I’m less enamoured with, such as ‘Swe Hates Me’, or ‘No More Reasons’, even if the former is heavily influenced by Type O. For some reason, it just doesn’t have the same level of magic despite featuring some of the heaviest guitar notes on the album.
All is forgiven though with the introduction of the best song on ‘The Awakening’, which arrives in the shape of ‘Darkness Within’. For my money, it is the most sombre and melancholy of all the songs, which is saying a lot to be honest. It combines the misery with strong melodies, beautiful atmospheres, a killer chorus and stark lyrics, such as ‘It’ll be all over soon enough, you won’t feel a thing, this I promise you. I am the one you turned your back on’, which really have an effect on me.
In a nice moment of symmetry, the final track is another seven-minute track, ‘We Know Who You Are’, thus bookending ‘The Awakening’ with slightly longer compositions. It isn’t quite as powerful as the opener as far as I’m concerned, but I do love the final stages where you think the song has died in a sea of static, only to be resurrected via a moody orchestral section that has a vague Cradle Of Filth interlude quality to it, complete with ominous whispered vocals that see the album to a dark, uneasy end.
As I said earlier, this wouldn’t normally be high on my list of musical choices. However, because of the quality of the song writing and the performances, ‘The Awakening’ by Outshine is a really nice listen, with lots of ingredients that make it a record that I like returning to on a regular basis. It all means that if you’re partial to a spot of Gothic rock/metal, then I have no hesitation in recommending that you wrap your ears around this record at your earliest convenience.
The Score of Much Metal: 80%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
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