The United States are really impressing me lately with a lot of innovative bands breaking through who have truly unique sounds, such as Deafheaven, Deathkings (whose latest album ‘All That Is Beautiful’ I reviewed previously) and recently I discovered Ghost Bath who have quickly become a favourite of mine. Seattle’s ‘Rhine’ are the latest in this apparent ‘new wave of American metal’ whose overall style sounds like no one else.
You tend to see or hear the phrases ‘genre defying’ and ‘not restricted by boundaries’ when taking a quick look at some bands’ descriptions, but upon listening to them, you quickly realise they are just another Pantera or the latest Slayer clone. However, I guarantee that you will not have heard music quite like Rhine’s latest release ‘An Outsider’. I’ve been listening to metal for around 15 years, and I think there has been a stagnant feel in metal of late in regards to new and exciting music. To hear an album like this is truly refreshing in 2016.
Of course, you can hear influences from various bands throughout the music, however, and 11-minute opener ‘Dreaming of Death’ definitely has a vibe of more recent Enslaved, but with Rhine’s own twist on the already progressive sound. This song showcases some great riffs midway through that you can certainly bang your head to, with the use of sub-drops. But the track really gets interesting from around the 6 minute mark where you can hear a sound that, as far as I can tell, is completely unique to Rhine. Lots of hammering and pulling off on the guitars from Alex Smolin and Gabe Tachell which are nicely balanced with James Porter’s bass tones laid down underneath, all accompanied by some interesting melodic vocals, also from Gabe, leading into an Opeth-esque outro, which gently concludes the song. Yet, just when you think its over, a barrage of blast beats from Carlos Delgado jumps out of nowhere to give an unexpected ending.
‘Spell of Dark Water’ opens with some guitar work that Devin Townsend would be proud of and this song is probably more accessible than the first with a generally more straight forward song structure, but otherwise, doesn’t particularly stand out on the album despite boasting some brilliant musicianship.
Title track ‘An Outsider’ sees that touch of Enslaved returning with some very impressive vocals from Gabe, also showcasing a lot of beautiful acoustic parts with melodic vocals. By this point in the album, you begin to understand that you cannot predict the direction that any song is going to take, always keeping you guessing. But don’t get too comfortable, otherwise you won’t be ready for the sudden crushing outro to the song.
After the soothing instrumental ‘Somewhere’ we are entered into one of the heavier sections of the album with the first half of the song ‘Paralyzed’. Again, here, I struggle to think of any other bands that sound like this earning Rhine more points for originality. Following another gorgeous acoustic middle passage, when the distortion returns, I wonder whether this is what Strapping Young Lad might have sounded like now if they were to have continued.
Then, believe it or not, a harpsichord. That’s right. Harpsichord and brass instruments introduce ‘P.R.E.Y.’ and I love it. As an avid listener of all things folk metal, I was pleasantly surprised. All of a sudden, all of those thoughts of Strapping Young Lad, Opeth and Enslaved were thrown out of the window to make room for 5 minutes of folk metal-inspired galloping and viking metal chanting. Complete with ridiculous guitar solos and fast drums, I now have no idea what band I am listening to. It goes to show that this band is a bit bonkers in the best way possible.
Strangely, this track is not a one off. Following this is the completely bizarre ‘Into the Unknown’ – an apt title I think, as you really need to hear this for yourself to believe it. The high pitched vocals could be off-putting for some, but for me, it shows that Rhine aren’t afraid to do whatever the hell they want. This song borders on neo-classical power metal at first, then it turns into god knows what! With a short polka section followed by something that you might expect to see performed on Eurovision from some far away country in the Balkan region, this song is a lot of fun.
If you have survived this far, you will be treated to a short, but very evil sounding ‘Shipwrecked in Stasis’ which features an unbelievably impressive minute-long scream which will send shivers down your spine. The whole album is beautifully concluded in a post-rock inspired 8-minute long outro entitled ‘Fragments’ leaving you to reflect on the madness that you have just experienced.
This may be a long track-by-track style review of this album, but I could see no other way to communicate across to you, the reader, the incredibly diverse and complex nature of this record. This album boasts a wealth of influences from Devin Townsend, Enslaved, Opeth, Amorphis, Strapping Young Lad, Isis, Pelican, Korpiklaani and Stratovarius, even if only for a short moment in one track, yet simultaneously sounds unlike any of them, all whilst creating a somewhat Scandinavian feel.
The sound is completely original and I recommend ‘An Outsider’ to anyone who is craving something new, fresh and original. The term ‘progressive’ gets thrown around a lot to describe bands that don’t fit into any other sub-genre, but Rhine have demonstrated what true progressive metal should sound like.