I would very much have enjoyed to be present in the early planning stages for An Outsider, the sophomore release by Seattle’s Rhine. They were presumably too sincerely engrossed in masturbatory discussions of how their favorite bands have “influenced our sound” and solemn declarations that “I just wanna make good music man, fuck genre-conformism” to notice that the net result is beyond kaleidoscopic. “Opeth, you say? Great shout! Burzum? No problem! Sonata Arctica? Why the fuck not?!” I am not exaggerating when I say this may be the most bizarrely diverse metal release I’ve heard, drawing on the metal’s entire spectrum in forging an album which is assuredly not lacking in shock value.
Henceforth begins the Great List ov Little Regard to Consistency ov Music that Rhine Wished to Incorporate into An Outsider™. Starting at the start, I was first struck by tinges of The Ocean and Between the Buried and Me on opener “Dreaming of Death.” “Fine,” I thought: we have a modern progressive metal band with chuggier, core-ish rhythms. A noodly breakdown after the 6 minute mark grants some respite from the technical riffs and just as it crescendos to re-enter the fray, there’s a quite comical transition into incredibly-smooth clean vocals. They’re solid and the melody is very pleasant but the transition is just… awkward. This becomes a motif throughout An Outsider. The remaining second half of the track progresses through lush acoustics (think The Fall of Every Season), a highly engaging violin and guitar harmony, before finally reaching its end with 40 seconds of thunderous blackened riffing. While the proggy opening is somewhat flavorless, the strange thing is that each of the styles in the second half is very enjoyable.
This is just the beginning on the diverse and disjointed journey that is An Outsider. “Spell of Dark Water” strongly evokes Opeth in its heavier passages and jazzy drum fills and “Paralyzed” picks at a classic metal string, utilizing 80s wailing vocals and an extended, meandering guitar solo around the middle. Blast beats and trem-picking rear their heads sporadically throughout, notably on the very atmospheric and very Burzum-y “Shipwrecked in Stasis.” Stranger still is the upbeat, folksy tack taken on “P.R.E.Y. Master” (Korplikaani-esque in its merry chorus) and the Europower keys in the opening of “Into the Unknown.” The only core sub-genre I can confidently say isn’t represented is thrash.
Among such trend-fucking song-writing, there’s sure to be something you’ll enjoy. But it cannot be said to be a great demonstration of compositional dexterity, as it exemplifies the ‘throw shit at a wall and see what sticks’ approach. This is compounded by the clumsy transitions which exacerbate the feeling there isn’t a grander scheme of subtle genre-manipulation – rather, the stitching together of styles that Rhine enjoys. It’s also discouraging that on a release so eager to diversify and fluctuate to find that some passages actually long outlast their welcome. The title track and the ambient closer, “Fragments,” are as such. This only supports my contention that Rhine is unaware of what will actually embellish and improve the album. Extraneous passages are carelessly tossed into the mix in the hope that something good happens, often detracting from any sort of mood which the music is striving towards. Given the sheer variety of metal paraded in front of you, it’s no surprise to add that An Outsider runs about 20 minutes too long, aggravating these existing issues.
Despite the clear and acute deficiencies in the construction of not just the album but also most songs themselves, I tentatively proffer An Outsider forward for your own inspection. There are fragments of brilliance and it’s such a smorgasbord that I imagine it will have an audience with those whose tastes conveniently align with it. An endlessly interesting release, if imperfectly formed.