Black Coast – ‘Outworld’

By Ian Kenworthy

Once upon a time, nu-metal was everywhere. Everyone wanted a piece of it (go back and there are some really embarrassing entries in many established metal band’s catalogues) but it was a passing trend, the market was oversaturated, and the proliferation of bands who were style over substance started to make it deeply unpopular. Even its proponents like Linkin Park and Papa Roach turned their backs on the genre. Nu-metal didn’t so much die, as exit the mainstream like an extra-spicy street vendor curry. Of course, it never completely went away; other big bands who built their careers on the groove heavy nu-metal sound kept it on life support, but it was very much out of favour. The words ‘nu-metal’ were often greeted with an eyeroll of derision but over the last few years the sound has been quietly reclaimed. Everywhere you look, nu-metal seems to be creeping back from the edges of the music world.

Step forward Black Coast with their debut album ‘Outworld’. There is nothing quiet about what they’re doing here.

If you haven’t encountered Black Coast yet, their most recent EP ‘Ill Minds Vol.2’ was a blistering take on Architects’ sound, one definitely worth checking out, and it set the bar extremely high. Having established themselves as a force to be reckoned with, it was time to step up to the big leagues, and to make an album. It’s no wonder, then, that they have searched for a new path to explore, after all if you’ve already proved you’re awesome at something, why repeat yourself? If you haven’t twigged yet, they’re worshipping at the church of nu-metal, but let’s not get carried away, this is not a complete reinvention, the foundations laid out on their previous EPs are still there.

On first listen, you’ll be struck by how forceful and propulsive the music is. The guitar tone is rugged and the riffs fly so fast it’s like being rhythmically pelted with bricks. Imagine the lovechild of Architects and Deftones and you won’t be far away, but at the same time it is carving its own space. You might have forgotten how hard a nu-metal riffs goes and songs like ‘Day Dream’  and ‘Addict ‘ are here to remind you. It’s a muscular sound that owes as much to rock as it does to metal. Yes, it’s heavy, but the screaming is focused and accessible, and the songs feel carefully structured.

Guitarists Scott Pennington and Joe Mayer throw around massive riffs, but always keep it interesting. For every skull-crushing breakdown, there is a druggy, effects-laden interlude, a dynamic thoughtful aside or a cheeky little pick squeal. You can hear it in the fluid ‘Mental’, the pitch-bent opening to ‘Void’ or the fascinating riffs on the title track. It’s an intelligent, measured interpretation of nu-metal, and clearly they know exactly what they’re doing. Borrowing only the best ideas and casting them in a slick and hard-hitting light.

That said, it’s clear Deftones have been a clear influence on Black Coast, especially their ‘sound’ being used throughout the record. Of course, all music is derivative but sometimes the influences are so obvious, they can’t help but taint your first impressions. While it’s always good to cite your heroes, leaning so heavily into them can sometimes lead to a lack of originality.

Regardless, each song has its own feel, so  ‘Vodka Smile’ sets off like a rocket, ‘Outworld’ is groovy and ‘Twisted (Interlude)’ enhances the record’s cohesion while creating an arc of momentum – especially as it is followed by ‘Burn’ which might be quite a lyrically tired choice, but is used effectively as the music is at its most intense.

The highlight, ‘Void’, artfully folds together intense riffs, curious guitar parts, thumping drums and caustic screams that are inspired and crushing, especially as the track features a huge breakdown. There’s also something wonderful about the guitar effects used in songs like ‘Domino Rose’ which add an extra dimension. It’s both heartening and thrilling to hear a band exploring this sound without posing along to a trite synth track.

With its atmospheric guitars and almost lazy, druggy vocals, ‘Paradise’ sounds like an updated version of Korn’s ‘Freak-On-A-Leash’ – so much so, you almost expect Hewitt to start scat singing in the bridge. But what makes this work so well is that the best elements of this song have been wrestled into a modern framework. ‘Strangers Skin’ also feels a little on-the-nose, and it’s a shame it doesn’t have a little more to it like the others songs do, however it’s still a solid effort and fits well in the running order.

Lyrically, Charlie Hewitt addresses his struggles with addiction and poor mental health, which is an important, though well-worn topic. The songs here have a directness missing from the work of many bands, especially as it is often presented as an assault on the senses, giving the album a darker, deeper quality. That said, the refrain of  ‘I don’t want to be me’ on ‘Vodka Smile’ feels quite brash when combined with the biting music, but sits neatly with the other ideas being explored.

You might be able to hear its influences from the moon through an upturned glass, but ‘Outworld’ is such an immediate, varied, hard-hitting record and you can’t help but be thrilled. Black Coast have plundered the corpse of nu-metal for its very finest jewels, and worked them into a barbed, accessible record. Maybe you’re a big nu-metal fan, maybe you look fondly back to the days of big jeans, or maybe you’re looking for something new and exciting, either way, ‘Outworld’ is a strong statement and a great record.

IAN KENWORTHY

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