5th February 2016 – Self-released
01. Dreaming of Death
02. The Spell of Dark Water
03. An Outsider
06. Dissolved In Fire
08. Into The Unknown
09. Shipwrecked in Stasis
Rhine are a progressive death metal band from Seattle, Washington. The unsigned quartet released their debut album, Duality, in 2014, although perhaps calling it their debut is a bit misleading; it was originally released in 2011 under the name Perfect Harmony, which was a solo project for vocalist and guitarist Gabriel Tachell, originally from the UK. He relocated to Seattle, changed the project name to Rhine, recruited other musicians to form a live band and got to work writing a new album. While the project does have a full band now, the album is still mostly Gabriel, though this time he has drummer Sean Lang helping him out. The result is An Outsider, an album that rather clearly takes cues from progressive rock, black and death metal, as well as a few outside surprises.
For starters, Tachell’s vocals are quite diverse: his growls are very clear and easy to understand, and sear through the music with visceral ease, but he also has a lovely clean vocal sound. A couple places in the album feature some sort of vocal processing to make him sound like a cybernetic entity from another star system, and it is so fucking cool, and tastefully used.
Songs wind their way through various riffs and progressions without much regard for standard song structure, and in general the songwriting is quite dense. Some tracks unfold almost like a black metal song would, bringing Enslaved’s song techniques to mind, while others are more Opeth in their leanings, with some Katatonia mixed in – but for an album that’s spent its time going between Opeth and Enslaved-esque prog metal, it suddenly goes completely off script and off-the-rails with the Kalmah-esque “P.R.E.Y.”, in short order delivering a melodic death metal anthem, then an avant-garde song that rings of uneXpect or Diablo Swing Orchestra, then a noise/black ambient track, and finally some sort of electronic experimental journey. It’s a very startling change from what the album offered up in its first half, but it’s entirely enjoyable, and a welcome change from many albums that deliver slight variations of the exact same sound over and over and over.
Equally, the musicianship is pretty excellent all over. Lang’s drumming is restrained, but suits the songwriting well, and the riffs are equally amazing while also feeling downplayed. While that might sound like a bad thing at first, it comes across more as someone who is not obsessed with his own playing and is willing to let the songs flow as a whole. That said, Tachell is able to play when the spotlight comes on him; the guitar solo in “The Spell of Dark Water” is wonderful, flowing into a heavy bit after being a bit more mellow, and it’s really lovely. The keyboards are not overbearing, and the variety of sounds used keep them rather interesting; they’re well mixed too, and match the specific song very well.
An Outsider is a very strange album, one that quite honestly jars the listener a little bit, but it’s also an impressive one in the way it flows through so many different sounds – death metal, progressive black metal, prog rock, ambient and folk – and somehow fits it all together, and well. While it does seem a bit unfocused at times, it’s very enjoyable and should provide something for almost every listener. An Outsider hints at some true brilliance and generally works pretty damn well as a progressive metal album.