By Outcry Collective
'articles,' the debut album from Surrey quartet Outcry Collective, was recorded in a pig sty that the band gutted and converted into their own recording studio. Thankfully, the album itself is just as attention-grabbing as its backstory. Album-opener 'Out Of My System' kicks off with a taunt, trembling bass line and a long, slow, wonderfully self-indulgent guitar slide that couldn't sound anymore rock 'n roll, and is guaranteed to grab the listener's full attention.
The rest of 'Out Of My System' doesn't disappoint, delivering a shot of spiky hardcore-punk, with grating guitar lines that gather to bristling, buzzsaw peaks, and a chorus that harks back to the stomping heavy rock of days gone by. But, the thing that'll really catch your attention, is frontman Stephen Sitkowski's voice. He pauses before each word, audibly gathering himself up to unleash a tormented bellow that sounds as though it's causing him some serious physical damage. While the lags between each word do have the potential to become rather annoying, they also make for compelling listening, and will have you hanging on Sitkowski's every word. 'Out Of My System' is hardcore-punk with a focus on heavy riffing, rather than speed and overt aggression, with impossible to ignore vocals.
Album highlight is easily 'Dead In The Water,' which features 'articles's heaviest chorus. The punishing riffs are accompanied by Sitkowski doing a surprisingly good impression of a deathcore vocalist, but it's during the stripped-down verses that 'Dead In The Water' really sets up camp in your memory banks. Its combination of scratchy chords that trail off in long, trembling whines, and boneheaded, pumping drumbeats not only makes for ridiculously catchy listening, it also highlights all the stresses and strains in Sitkowski's gut-wrenching vocals.
'Saviour Stranger' is another song that uses heavily repeated drumbeats. That relentless thump gives 'Saviour Stranger' both an impossible-to-forget underlying beat, and an irresistible, cocksure swagger.
Outcry Collective put the pedal to the metal and make it clear why they were selected as support for The Ghost of a Thousand's recent album launch, with the chaotic hardcore-punk of 'Clock House and 'Straight From The Throat.' The latter sees Sitkowski abandon his apocalyptical bellow, in favour of a more traditional hardcore gnashing. The freer-flowing vocals are accompanied by a rush of circular riffs and galloping drumbeats. 'Clock House' is just as fast, but even more chaotic. There are times when the guitarists, drummer and vocalist all seem to be providing the noise for completely different songs. But, just before the chaos becomes overpowering rather than invigorating, 'Clock House' opens up into an expansive soundscape of dreamy vocals and swaying guitars, as Outcry Collective prove they have an instinct for when to bash the listener's ears, and when to give them a breather.
While Outcry Collective are clearly influenced by hardcore and punk, there's a definite metal vein running throughout 'articles. This is particularly apparent on 'Moonlight,' 'A Great Day For The Crows' and 'Homecountry Killer.' Both 'Moonlight' and 'Homecountry Killer' hunker along to a steady, ponderous beat. 'Moonlight' is a plodding beast of a track, where the booming drums and carefully metered-out vocals play second fiddle to a groaning bass line, while 'Homecountry Killer' is underpinned by ingeniously lurching riffs that seem to be about to creak to a standstill at any moment. Both songs' emphasis on steady intensity, gives them a more heavy metal slant than much of this album. However, on the downside, when Outcry Collective dismantle 'Homecountry Killer' down to rumbling drumbeats and spoken gang vocals, the song's previous swaggering, sonic assault works against it, and the spoken vocals sound plain cheesy.
'A Great Day For The Crows,' meanwhile, has a more doom metal slant. It boasts an attention-grabbing opening to rival 'Out of My System,' as the guitars groan over a driving bass pulse in a dark and doom-drenched fashion. And things don't get any lighter, as Sitkowski's tormented bellow keeps the tone suitably black-hearted. When Outcry Collective pick up the tempo, 'A Great Day For The Crows' does become slightly less affecting, as the punkish clatter of the choruses lack the intensity of those slow, snarling verses, but on the whole 'A Great Day For The Crows' is 'articles' at its most intense.
For those who aren't favourably inclined towards metal, 'Crystal Clear' is a more accessible take on Outcry Collective's sound. It even has a chorus where you can decipher some of what Sitkowski is screaming about, meaning you could sing (as oppose to scream) along if you so wished.
Outcry Collective inch out of their comfort zone for the psychedelic 'Prepare Yourself For The News.' Their sometimes-metal, sometimes-rock-and-roll, hardcore-punk clatter is replaced by swirling, trippy guitar lines, and even Sitkowski's bellow gets an overhaul, as it's drenched in crackle and distortion. The choruses may be more recognisably Outcry Collective, but they still manage to put a fresh spin on things, as an acoustic guitar can be heard clattering away beneath the usual buzzsaw guitars and driving riffs. 'Prepare Yourself For The News' is a necessary change of pace and sound on an album that - like the majority of hardcore-influenced music - does have a tendency to sound samey.
'articles' is a difficult album to pigeonhole, taking British hardcore-punk, ala The Ghost of a Thousand, and mixing in metal and rock 'n roll influences, not to mention one of the most agonised-sounding vocalists I've heard in recent times. It's a consistently strong album, however, there is a distinct lack of standout tracks. You just may get to the end of this album with no burning desire to play any particular song again, even though you'll be convinced that Outcry Collective have a lot going for them. Outcry Collective are a talented and distinctive sounding band, who have yet to pen that one, impossible-to-ignore anthem.