Seeds of rebellion deep set within the increasingly formless world-rejecting gaunt are herein turned against the worthless abomination, the Demiurge, to set aflame the sefirot of mundane material existence. Anthems of disturbing finality flung at a recklessly paced abandon indicate a self-directed freeing as part of Brazilian-borne anticosmic black metal band Outlaw‘s rejection of all borders, repeatedly striking at the throat and the crown above it over the course of this impressive third full-length album. An indefatigably inspired font of fluidic transport for nearly a decade now, we find the artist ever embroiled in the process of improving their craft with each release as ‘Reaching Beyond Assiah‘ takes a well-established melodious voice to cinematic atmospheric heights on this loftily ambitious record. In fact they’ve applied so much bluster ad gloriam that it nearly begins to detract from the intimate, conversational nature of melodic black metal for the sake of outsizing all past heraldry from the troupe. Nonetheless the greater effect is richer for its inspired presentation and yet melodically charged and blister-paced anthemic values.
Outlaw formed in São Paulo circa 2015 by way of musician D. who’d act as the main spiritual protagonist on each release as his global journeys since ~2016 necessitate long-distance contact with Brazil based members as well as various line-up changes which’ve added and subtracted members from various European countries along the way. As far as I know their already notably inspired debut full-length (‘Path to Darkness‘, 2018) only featured folks from Brazil including bassist Blenno Servia, now of Power From Hell, who also provided rhythm guitar work for the band beyond that first LP. Their style was to identify from first release, a live demo recording circa 2016, between the very clear exposition of their Luciferian lyrics and the cover of “The Somberlain” by Dissection closing that first record. The main influences for the band were fairly obvious per their decidedly atmospheric take on the classic spiritus of melodic black metal and the praise/tribute the artist continues to afford Swedish black metal a la Watain alongside modern day greats Mgła (presumably ‘With Hearts Toward None‘ primarily). Charged and possessed by its spiritual directive as that debut LP was it’d be their next two releases, both put out by Drakkar Productions‘ South American unit, which sophisticated an already well defined standard and intent.
In 2019 the line-up of the band seems to have solidified with the addition of Finnish drummer T. (Spell of Torment), whom you’ll recognize from session drums in Kvaen and Moonlight Sorcery records of late, alongside São Paulo-area bassist A. who’d played in beyond cult late 90’s black metal demo only group Cursed Rite. The result of the quartet’s vision was a second full-length (‘The Fire in My Tomb‘, 2020) which I cannot believe I’d missed that year, since it would’ve inspired me then rather than provided a complete shotgun to the senses in combination with the preamble for this third LP, an mLP titled ‘Death Miasma‘ (2021). Though we could certainly point to bands like Valkyrja and Chaos Invocation as peers for those recordings I’d suggest that Outlaw have a much more polished, modern touch to their work which certainly isn’t post-black metal or whatever but lands especially slick and accessible in its render and delivery. You’ll hear a twinge of dissonantly ringing chords on opener “Bliss of Soul” but this is merely one layer of many which craft a chaotic register from an otherwise melodious and excitable ride. Either way it’ll be notable up front for any listener that ‘Reaching Beyond Assiah‘ finds Outlaw achieving an especially fine result with sound design/engineering shared between Tore Stjerna’s Necromorbus Studio and D.‘s own mixing/production.
It all strikes at once and the aforementioned “Bliss of Soul” wastes no time in cutting right to its first hook, a soaring low melody which they’ve developed into a Necrophobic type statement which finds its elaboration and unusual fraying within what I’d consider a Sinmara-esque set of verses, all of which feature some manner of ringing discord. As long an appreciably fine as this seven minute opener is with its stranglehold on the moment throughout, the big show really begins with “To Burn This World and Dissolve the Flesh” and this is where I think many will quickly see what sets this apart more than one’d already have assumed as the grandeur of this otherwise very traditional melodic setup skips the punctuation on each statement, instead threading them together with slowed dramatic intensity in approach of the middle portion of the song, eventually pulling back into the fire with a big rock solo and a reprisal of the original energy of the song. The riff at ~4:32 minutes reads within that grey area of melodic black/death which leans into the heavy metal stride of early melodic for one strange yet effective second. Whereas the previous two releases from the band took a “hunker down and riff” type modus which focused their efforts in line with classicist melodic black metal thought this record finds a way out of this glorious rut and yes, the effect is far more accessible (see also: Uada) for its broader atmospheric landscaping which has yet to fully explode ’til “Beyond the Realms of God” presses on with this larger revelation.
If you are already familiar with ‘Death Miasma‘ two of those songs were in fact previews of what was to come on this album and though it makes sense to include “The Unending Night” here, it being an equally chest-thumping piece as opener “Bliss of Soul” with its its swaying composition, there is some sense that this leaves the prior mLP gathering dust only to be dug up for its exceptional The Devil’s Blood cover. I will admit I’d been fully bought into this band’s approach in preview of thier discography, the real fealty being won within the devotional lyrics of the first album, but it’d been as “Everything Becomes Nothing” hit with its ‘Far Away From the Sun‘-esque throttle that the real bliss of this recording, and artist’s work as a whole began to sink beneath the skin. Simple as these gestures might appear to the well-trained black metal indulgent ear there is a rare -something- here on this record which speaks to the classics from a bigger, bloodier and most grandiose push beyond that limit which’d read as aspirational to me. Heavy metal could always be a wee bit more over the top and still work, eh. At that point Outlaw begin to tie off the endpoint with the similarly focused yet dramatic “The Serpent’s Chant” and the titular closer wherein I’d not felt like the stopping point was as much of a high as the opener and mid-portion of the album, in fact it seemingly just falls into void as the song reaches its last thirty seconds, an eerie sound effect which seamlessly loops us back to the opener without any major interruption.
Not a perfect ending but still a appreciably fine shapeliness for a third LP from a band who seem to have begun to sit on the precipice of their own personal approach to the anticosmic melodic black metal idyll. They’ve overdone it to just the right degree that ‘Reaching Beyond Assiah‘ stands out for all of the right reasons, a commanding personae with riffs and heavily repeatable melodies to back up all of the bluster and pristine production values. Outlaw appear more serious than ever with this third album and it’d been a joy to tear through this record for nearly a month and still feel the same strong reaction within its graces each time I’d picked it up. The old idea that the heaviest could be heavier and the lighter stuff could be darker applies here but this result is probably more tasteful than my own ideation of the early-to-mid 90’s ideal. A very high recommendation.
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