As someone who raised himself on 80’s hardcore and 90’s Lookout pop punk, the appeal of metalcore has never really been clear to me. I get that some kids like their music loud and heavy, but at some point there has to be a line drawn somewhere… right? And since there has to be a line that’s drawn anyway, why not draw it before you reach the point in which throaty Cookie Monster growls and heavy riffs converge with melodic 80’s synth lines and soft, autotuned singing?
Unfortunately, no such line has been drawn. And out of that comes bands like Outline in Color.
Following in the footsteps of bands before them like Attack Attack!, Memphis May Fire, or Bring Me the Horizon, the members of Outline in Color collectively believed that it was a wise decision to mix and match moments of a melodic synthesizer in with their own personal brand of dual vocal (one clean singer, one growler- of course) metal-core. The result is the band’s debut album, A Jury of Wolves, and while it may sound slightly different than the aforementioned bands, it’s close enough that you wouldn’t have to actually listen to any songs on the album to know what it sounds like. The clean singing is high and nasally and is a stark contrast to the deep roar, the guitars are tuned low and breakdown every two minutes, the synthesizer is uncharacteristically poppy, the drums pound on until the next song and the bass is… wait, is there even a bass in this mix? I can’t tell – aside from the synth and clean vocalist everything about this album just sounds so muddy and low.
This is by no means an attack on the musicianship on the album- the boys in Outline in Color definitely know how to play their instruments well enough (except for maybe that bassist, but there’s no real way of knowing). But the songs all sound the same, so similar that there’s not even a way of telling when you’ve moved from one track to the next. An individual track is made up of a heavy intro followed by a slower, synth and vocal driven segment, before being hastily thrown back into the heaviness. This disjointed formula is employed so often that the songs bleed into each other seamlessly, which is actually kind of a good thing as it creates a much better flow from song to song. Still, it would be nice to know when one song ends and another begins from time-to-time.
I can’t really comment much on the lyrics, mostly because a majority of them can’t be understood. There are moments of decency during the clean singing, such as in “The Chase Scene”, which features an extended clean segment about not giving up and fighting through the things that drag you down- a very familiar subject to any punk rocker, even in odd musically territory such as this. But then the heavy riffs and vocals come back and any shred of good will the song has built just gets lost in the jumble of loud noises.
Outline in Color was courteous enough to include some bonus tracks on the album, including an original that sounds like it came from a different recording session, a cover of N’Sync’s “It’s Gonna Be Me”, thus fulfilling the “ironic pop cover that will get the band featured on the next Punk Goes… comp” quota, and an acoustic version of an album track that really makes you question if the band understands what “acoustic version” means (hint: it doesn’t mean play an acoustic guitar but then still use the electric synth and autotune).
A Jury of Wolves follows every single rule in the “How to Be a Metal-core Band in the 2010’s” guidebook to a perfect T. Unless Memphis May Fire is one of your favorite bands, and you look forward to each new Fearless Records compilation, I recommend that you stay far the hell away from this.
RIYL: Memphis May Fire, and that’s about it.