Outer Heaven
Eternal Realms of Decay

I’ve had my eye on Outer Heaven for a bit as the band hails from my home state PA and a friend of mine introduced me to a pair of their singles.  “Twisted Mass of Burnt Decay” and “Into Hellfire” are the songs that made me take notice and convinced me that Outer Heaven was going for a crustier, dingier take on forward-thinking, progressive death metal.  Despite the frequent changes in genre nicks and tempo changes, this quintet isn’t as wildly progressive as some of their more technical peers in the genre, eschewing an arsenal of constant wild solos and frenetic shred for an Earthy, weighted stomp that’s a storm of varying riffs and style blending.    

After numerous demos, singles and splits, Realms of Eternal Decay is the band’s full-length debut and they spare no expense on bringing to life their wrath with all of the fervor you’d find in a charismatic, Jim Jones-esque cult leader.  Opener “Vortex of Thought” rips into existence with a furious swirl of Jon Kunz and Zak Carter’s viscously thick, hair-trigger riffs; utilizing death metal’s fury and constant jarring stylistic fluxes while tuning their guitars to a bellowing, cavern-wide Incantation kind of tone.  Paul Chrismer bulrushes the batshit out of your brains with everything from ruthless blasts of varying speeds and style, Discharge-leaned d-beats when the guitar work begins to crustify, jazzy swerves and plodding endtime strikes that always work well with whatever action is happening.  Carter alongside Raymond Figueroa tightly entrench the bass lines into the band’s rotten, mucky ground, sometimes briefly stepping up into the forefront but mostly adding a walking n’ roaming texture to the density.  Riffs warp and melt into Voivodian wildness, buzzing death/grind precision, doom mongering grooves and even a bit of filthy, heavier styled Swedish girth with a touch of Entombed and Dismember afflicting my ears.  Vocalist Austin Haines’ doesn’t vary his growl much but its sewage plant accident charm maintains conviction and a depth-charging tone throughout.  It works and doesn’t need bells/whistles to up its intensity.  The track culminates with fleet-fingered, black metal style picking accentuated by one of the composition’s fastest, most feral blast-o-ramas. 

“What Lies Beneath” flipped me upside down and mopped the floor with my head in a barely 2 minute burst of chunky, curdled-cottage cheese grind with dips into sludgy, heart-halting death metal grooves that are built low to the ground for traction.  There’s not one solo or lead to be found, just dual guitars that morph and meld into each other making every punk slicked stomp, deathly groove and kinetic grind riff freakout as tough as humanly possible.  Chrismer unleashes a war again Satan himself thanks to the flak cannon blasts, swerving tom rolls and breakout fills for a performance that bleeds a river of sweat and viscera onto your living room floor.  An eerie, casket closing lead riff burns into a rickety harmony in the early goings of “Pulsating Swarm,” a track that values a doped-up, molten mid-tempo kept in control by measured double-bass and a mixture of American/Swedish values.  It escalates into a broken, ragged punk attack bitten rabid in toothy death metal mouthfuls.  1:28 unleashes a lightspeed blast upon the brainstem, gleefully biting it in half somewhere in the back of your neck and thereafter injecting your body by needlepoint with some roach-infested speed riffs that gnarl into a disgusting sleazy coagulation of fluids.  Staccato, hardcore leaned chugs help to give the sound even more balance; all of the elements building into a white hot finale where the album’s first solo, a quartal harmony-like shredder in the key of Piggy sends the track off into an endless bliss abyss.  “Multicellular Savagery” juggles tempos like knives with an instrumental schizophrenia that is at once catchy, hook-laden crust interrupted by devious grind-blasts and at the same time a ratty, stinking death metal groove when the vocals appear with locked-on vomit spray.  The 56 second mark opens the door on a teetering, syncopated sludge/death riff that sounds as if it could collapse and drop the Sword of Damocles on your head at any given moment.  Bass lines jump out into quick lead bits then disappear as the atmospheric, consistently ratcheting percussive tenacity (beginning with a simple beat and eventually getting wilder) and perfectly placed vocal roars construct a moment of damnation that’s one of the album’s best.  When a rocketing, propulsive noise-guitar solo spire forms out of the ether, the vibe is one of Piggy and Steve Austin (Today is the Day) combining their talents for the very brief moment of this lick’s appearance.  For my money this is the best track on the record. 

 

 

If that ain’t Crowbar I’m hearing on the harmonized intro of “Echoes from Beyond” it’s time for me to give up writing.  It’s almost an alteration on Kirk and crew’s classic “The Lasting Dose” but it soon kicks up as a duster of filth-noted death metal somewhere between Grave and Incantation.  There’s a landfill load of sludge dumped into this cut, as riffs alter frequently while still favoring a murderous military march.  The speed does pick up thanks to the double-bass and the interesting part about Outer Heaven’s approach to sludge is that they don’t even stretch the music out to 3 minutes.  They get in there, say “Fuck you,” punch you in the liver and go off to the next target on their Christmas shitlist.  “Tortured Winds” renders the memories of pained, putrid tempos a thing of the past and goes postal on a whirlwind of riffs, harmonies and blasts so fast they’ll leave the Roadrunner at the starting line.  The melodicism wielded on “Bloodspire” has a regal, jeweled-crown rule that at first calls to mind Amorphis’ The Karelian Isthmus but goes even dirtier and darker beyond those twin loaded guitars.  Sinking city doom grooves put a neck-closing grip on the music that helps make the structure memorable and powerful as all of the changes between speeds and tonal impact is easy to identify in this jam (and in all of them for my money).  Some of the Spartan sludge tinges even veer into Obituary’s crumbling take on the genre and a nasty little solo catapults this heavy motherfucker into a d-beat punk charge that sets the track to end on a push/pull aesthetic of cutthroat grindcore and staggering hardcore-laced death metal antics.  Its sister track “Sacrificial Evolution” similarly bridges hardcore, death, grind and doom but allows for some watery, phased out guitars to enter almost sounding like Cantrell’s weirdest, most bacteria infected stuff on Alice in Chains’ Self-Titled and down the road the music is tapping into some nascent black metal and classic twin guitar ballast as the song traverses a pretty precarious multiple personality solution.  Lurching, sludge-bombed hardcore is also present in the second half which keeps the mix invigorating.  “Putrid Dwellings” and “Decaying Realms” round out the record with more than a healthy dollop of maggot spewing death metal with the band’s usual quirky touches giving the music a lot of staying power in terms of shattering change-ups in speed, tone and texture. 

To me, Outer Heaven have truly found their sound on some of the recent singles and they poured their findings into Realms of Eternal Decay.  The never-ending barrage of bipolar mood riffs, noose-tight rhythms and slavering vocals hooked me in from the get go and made this a pleasure to listen to.  I always appreciate some treacherous density in my death metal and there’s plenty of it here to constantly offset the mind-warping grind/death elements.  Overall, Outer Heaven’s flagship LP for Relapse is a winner and a recommend from me to any DM crazies who appreciate riff thickness and a variety of styles coming into play.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
February 6th, 2019

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