Outlaw – Reaching Beyond Assiah Review

Outlaw is a young band hailing from Sao Paulo, Brazil by way of Hamburg, Germany. They play a dense, melodic style of black metal. Or is it a more blackened style of melodic death metal? I confess this is one of those times where I’m not sure what to call it. Their third full-length album, Reaching Beyond Assiah may have a title that reduces Dr. Grier to boyish snickering, but make no mistakes, it has plenty of brutal riffage to kick your Assiah. The name itself – a variation of the biblical “Isaiah” – is a Hebrew term that means “God made me.” As we reach beyond the sacred and into the profane, we’ll see if these South American Europeans have what it takes to go toe to talon with the dark lord. Is Reaching Beyond Assiah a satisfying reach around or should it be outlawed?

These types of reviews are the most difficult to write. While very little on this album grabs me after giving it due diligence, I know that there’s definitely talent behind it. Let’s start with the good: Reaching Beyond Assiah has two excellent tracks. “To Burn This World and Dissolve The Flesh” is a banger with some serious hooks that get things moving in the right direction. “Beyond the Realms of God” follows directly and is a gorgeous example of melodic death metal done well. Both songs feature lush tremolo harmonies, galloping double bass drums, and an impassioned vocal delivery. They demonstrate the band’s ability to construct complex song structures and deliver a consistent performance well over a six-minute running time. Unfortunately, the rest of the album feels like the drawing board versions of these songs. There’s a patchwork of moments that hint at greater things but it becomes a Frankenstein of clunky parts that are better than their sum.

Ambition may be this Outlaw’s downfall. On all their records, they consistently produce songs in the five-to-eight-minute range. Now, I love a good song that takes its time to explore terra incognita, but it takes a lot more craft to pull it off. Outlaw prove they have the chops to do it but not consistently. “The Unending Night” starts strong enough with solid harmonized riffing similar to the previous to tracks but the song ultimately lives up to its name. I had to check repeatedly to see when it was over. “Everything Becomes Nothing” benefits from a strong melody line at the start but becomes bogged down in a less-than-memorable verse and chorus. Like much of the album, it sounds like a thick death metal paste that lacks clear direction.

Reaching Beyond Assiah lacks the highs and lows that make this type of music pop. The music slogs along at an almost identical tempo for much of the time and each song follows the same template with a short slow breakdown in the middle. Instead of giving the songs dynamics and making the more energized parts pop, these middle sections feel tacked on. They aren’t allowed to develop into something greater and they don’t take the songs to a new place. By song #3, you know you’re going to be crushed beneath a wall of guitars 30 seconds after the interlude. There is little build-up or subtlety. Despite its compositional shortcomings, Reaching Beyond Assiah sounds good. The band have found a mix that makes their bombastic style of melodic black metal soar. There is an epic quality that is enhanced by the warm mix. This could make it a gateway album to share with those friends who haven’t learned to appreciate black metal. Yet. Probably what I love most about this record is the emotion behind the vocals. Often, the shrieking and growling in black metal can feel like a gimmick more than a vehicle. Here, Daniel Souza sings his heart out and you can feel his anguish with every line. I wish the material gave him more room to let his voice take center stage.

It’s likely that you’ll have one or two favorite tracks on this record and possibly ones that are different than my picks. However, I’d wager that at least half of the album doesn’t stick for you. There’s some good stuff brewing on Reaching Beyond Assiah but it gets lost in the repetition. I’ll add my favorites to my up-and-coming playlist and hope that Outlaw lives up to their name next time around. I hope these fugitives do something a little more adventurous when they plot their next crime.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: AOP Records
Websites: outlaw218.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/OutlawBlackMetal
Releases Worldwide: March 31st, 2023

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