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Outside The Coma

Outside The Coma - The Battle Of Being album art

The Battle Of Being

25th September 2015 – Self-released

01. Outpatients
02. Flavour Of The Weak
03. Throw Rocks
04. Can’t Find The Words
05. L.I.F.E.
06. Who’s There?
07. Nosebleed
08. Walk The Plank
09. New Life
10. Scarf
11. In The Grey

The reactivation of tech metal godfathers SikTh in 2014 took a lot of people by surpris – including, it would appear, some of the band members themselves. Of the then-active projects by SikTh members, Pin’s Aliases are on the cusp of releasing their long-awaited debut full-length and Dan Weller’s In Colour are currently missing in action. So, the first of these projects to break cover is Mikee Goodman’s Outside The Coma, with debut album The Battle of Being.

Outside The Coma first materialised towards the end of 2013. Then going by the name Outpatients (a name which lives on in the opening track of the album), debut single “Throw Rocks” and a short tour were enough for me to label them as a band to watch in 2014. That was clearly a little premature, but even apart from Mikee’s time being consumed by SikTh duties, Outside The Coma have their own unique logistical issues – the most pressing of which is the presence of co-vocalist and Japanese national Yuuri in the ranks – however the obvious chemistry between Mikee and Yuuri clearly makes the practical headaches of having band members separated by Europe and Asia in their entirety worthwhile.

We’ll get back to that in a minute. First, we should note that Outside The Coma’s sonic blueprint is effectively a cyborg; a hectic soundclash which is equal parts organic and digital. Live guitars and drums interweaved with synths and electronic percussion in a manner previously explored by the likes of Pitchshifter or Mad Capsule Markets, along with shades of later Prodigy and the bouncy grooves of Skindred. Those with slightly longer memories might also recognise shades of Pop Will Eat Itself lurking in the mix.

The Battle of Being is infused throughout with a kind of dystopian futurism that brings to mind the universes of movies like Brazil or, especially, Blade Runner. The sound is simultaneously high-tech and low-fi, like a well-specced laptop held together with sticky tape and string. Importantly, though, whilst Outside the Coma’s sound is caustic, defiant and bordering on feral, it’s also a tremendous amount of fun. It is as if the band has realised that the world is going to hell in a hand cart, yet has still decided to have a freaking party on the way down.

The Battle of Being whips through its eleven short, sharp tracks in just over thirty five minutes. For all its spiky edges, it remains immediate, infectious and eminently danceable throughout. It’s only natural that Mikee’s trademark – and instantly recognisable – dementedly theatrical vocal style is a key defining feature of Outside the Coma’s sound. He barks, howls, raves and mutters his cryptic lyrics as only he knows how. Yet the masterstroke comes from marrying these histrionics with co-vocalist Yuuri’s unmistakably Japanese stylings. Equal parts cherubic innocence and knowing darkness, they can be best evidenced by the sing-song refrain in “Throw Rocks” that sees her wishing death upon the subject in the sweetest possible tones. Creepy.

Away from the clutch of stompers released as singles over the last year, an unexpected highlight comes in the form of “Walk The Plank“, a practically euphoric dancefloor filler with a loping, big beat groove that wouldn’t have sounded out of place booming out of a sound system at a 90′s festival. And “Scarf” mixes SikTh-level craziness with dirty cocktail lounge funk and an anthemic chorus to great effect. Where there are mis-steps, they are minor. The transition from verse to chorus in “New Light” is so jarring that they sound like parts of entirely different songs, and “L.I.F.E” has a kind of forced jauntiness that feels uncharacteristically contrived.

Released with almost no fanfare at all, The Battle of Being feels like a trove of buried treasure, waiting to be discovered. Outside the Coma have been bold with their experimentation, and that braveness has paid considerable dividends. Despite the most obvious influences stemming from the late nineties and early noughties, the album still feels very modern, but also distinctive to the point of uniqueness. It may well have been a bit of a surprise attack, but The Battle of Being is a thoroughly enjoyable, off-kilter ambush.