Innovation is the first word that comes to mind when thinking about Hacktivist. After a few years waiting for the group to finally release their debut full length record it’s extremely pleasing to hear that Outside the Box was well worth the wait. With the initial Djent craze recently dying down bands really have to find a way to make themselves sound relevant without getting lumped in with the legions of Meshuggah rip offs. Fortunately for Hacktivist they really are something different, not just for the tech metal genre but alternative music as a whole. The unique blend of UK grime and hip hop fuses seamlessly with the bouncy down tuned groove taken from the Djent scene.
With multiple Ep’s already having been released there was an initial fear going into this album that the band wouldn’t seek to change things up too much. Therefore upon hearing the record it was great to find that some new and exciting musical choices had been incorporated into Hacktivist’s already unique blend of musical styles. Despite most of the material on this record being written a couple of years ago it’s incredible to hear just how futuristic the album sounds. Bands who attempt to incorporate elements of rap into metal often seem to fail in getting the balance quite right. The fusing of these two genres can result in bands just sounding stale, taking their influences from the once fresh and exciting sounds of the 90’s but forgetting to bring it up to date. This certainly isn’t the case with Hacktivist as the most modern sounds of both scenes collide to make something that hasn’t really been heard before.
The pure aggression of the fast spitting style of grime manages to perfectly punctuate the heaviness of the musical accompaniment. Every single set of bars feel pertinent and meaningful and when combined with the excellent interplay between both vocalists it becomes highly impactful. The flows are also written in such a way that the rap portions of this record actually turn out to be very catchy whilst still being intelligently written and crafted. Hacktivist successfully manage to avoid falling into the usual rap metal trend of trying to forcibly make things rhyme. In order to break up the sound on Outside the Box there are also a number of guest appearances providing some huge moments on an already impressive record. Some of these include Rou Reynolds from Enter Shikari, adding a massive chorus to the track Taken, along with Heart of a Coward’s Jamie Graham providing his signature roar to the chorus of Deceive and Defy. These guests help add a different dimension to the record and all prove to be a welcome addition without ever sounding out of place.
Musically Outside of the Box is also very diverse taking from a whole host of influences and sounds. The main sound you’ll be hearing on this record is the thick crunchy sound of guitars backed by an exceptionally tight rhythm section showcasing a variety of mind boggling polyrhythmic grooves. If the genre of Djent has given us one thing its colossal grooves and a bounce not heard since the glory days of nu metal. Massive riffs are here in abundance with songs like Elevate instantly attacking you from all angles with their unrelenting pummelling force. Outside the Box isn’t exclusively a barrage of tech metal riffing however, with other influences finding their way into various tracks throughout the record. Songs like The Storm give off a dreamy chilled vibe complete with softly plucked guitars, the gentle sound of raindrops and a seriously laid back groove. Whilst hard hitting tracks like Rotten are straight to the point dirty bass heavy grime.
Hearing this record and hearing how much potential this band have is incredibly refreshing. In an already impressive year for metal and alternative music Hacktivist manage to really stand out as something truly unique. Outside the Box provides a great collection of tracks combining a variety of genres and musical styles to create a modern forward thinking sound. Bringing this sound to metal will hopefully inspire other bands to do the same and hopefully encourage listeners to change their approach to different genres. Where this band go next will be more than interesting but for now Outside the Box should give listeners more than enough to shout about.