REVIEW: OUTLAW – 688529 [2017]

Artist: Outlaw 

Album: 688529 


Let’s talk for a little bit about your surroundings—specifically how those surroundings can play a prominent role in the development of a band’s sound, style and demeanor. Many acts—be it the hip-hop artists and rappers from the urban and developed areas or the melodic hardcore bands from the suburbs and wooded areas—from the Midwest boast a certain chill to their sound. A frosty edge that waxes and wanes with Infernal heat, finding a temperate balance somewhere in between. Many bands from some of the centers of urban life—Boston, New York—are quick, punchy and aggressive. Bands and musicians from more southern areas; Texas, for example, bear a certain contrast—a sort of heated, beefy twang to their sound that gives bounce and thickness.  

Then, there is Outlaw—a deviously heavy, curiously bouncy and intensely aggressive act from the depths of Chicago. Balancing the dynamic nature of the midwest with a head-strong, street-smart and distinctly hip-hop influenced vibe, 688529 captures the violence, quickness and intensity of what many refer to as Chiraq and condense it into what stands to be one of the greatest, catchiest and grooviest metalcore releases ever written.  

As enigmatic as its name, 688529 is a chimera of crushing aggression, catchy instrumentation, tremendous breakdowns and technically immaculate musicianship that, in truth, defies a “metalcore” label—as one word could hardly encompass the boundless complexity this quintet have crammed into one forty-eight minute long experience. From the opening groove and eerie onslaught of “#Y22013,” percussionist Bryce Tollner works with bassist Ryan Taubman to craft a foundation for 688529 unlike any other. Tollner is, at times, quick and punchy—With songs like “The God Hand” and “Boxcutter,” as well as “Gatsu” drawing from an overt hip-hop influence in both cadence and style. Meanwhile, songs like “Lord Infamous” and “Teething” are absolutely annihilating, with droning, monstrous breakdowns that see Taubman’s bass adding an explosive, raunchy depth and dissonance to Tollner’s kick, all while contrasting the sharp, skin-shredding cymbals and snappy snare. Even the re-done songs from Most Wanted, “Delta” and “Threats” see revamped instrumentation. This is as true of Tollner’s drumming and Taubman’s bass as it is of the riffs and chugs from guitarists Jake Muzikoski and Nick Karafotas. With Tollner’s dizzying and complex drumming, complete with labyrinthine patterns and quick fills, as a foundation, Muzikoski and Karafotas absolutely shine. “The God Hand” is but one example—with a jarring and sinister introductory portion and conclusion both, separated by an almost dream-like portion of ethereality—where the duo truly show off their diversity. Then, “Threats,” in its re-done glory, manages to be even more aggressive than its predecessor, sharing the stage with “Lord Infamous” and “688529” as some of the album’s heaviest hitters. Muzikoski and Karafotas are far from content to just chug for the better part of an hour—and while 688529 has no shortage of incredible breakdowns, there is much more to the album than that. With Tollner’s drumming guiding the way, Taubman’s bass adding heft, punch and snap and the dynamic duo that is Muzikoski and Karafotas lighting the listener ablaze with Infernal fretwork, songs like the album’s title track and “Chapter Black” are sure to become instant favorites among the heavy music community.  

Towards the end of “#Y22013,” and certainly in lead singles “Lord Infamous” and “Boxcutter,” he listener will likely notice something concerning Outlaw’s vocal dynamic. While the voice at the forefront of the band’s attack on the listener is no longer that of Matthew Barry, a familiar frontman is found in his place—and like his work in Rooks and Volition, everything he touches is made at least ten times greater. Frontman Eli Martinez gives likely his finest performance yet (for those who are still as hooked on Infinite III as I am, you know this to be a statement of marked intent), simply shining on every track 688529 has to offer. The album’s title track is an excellent example—with his frantic repetition of “I just gotta get what is mine” boring into the listener’s skull like a parasite. Then, “The God Hand” and “Gatsu” see him using a more focused range and digging deeper, drawing out every syllable he screams and showcasing his endurance. In between are tracks like “Hollows” and “Lord Infamous,” where Martinez’s range is on point, in perfect parallel with his endurance and energy. Martinez is a master of his craft—and even if it wasn’t evident on his previous efforts (it was), it sure as Hell is now, with the peerless vocals on 688529 serving as just one of many things that make the album an incredible experience.  

688529 is a multifaceted album—you can put it on for a long night drive and get lost in the unpredictable twists and turns penned by Muzikoski and Karafotas, you can crank it up and hit the gym or get in a fight, or you can just toss it on when nothing else feels right and not stop bobbing your head for nearly fifty minutes. Outlaw took their time with the follow-up effort to Most Wanted, but it was worth every second the band’s fans were kept in the dark, waiting. Filled with aggression and energy, yet laden with introspective and moody melancholy in the in-between, 688529 is a masterpiece; there isn’t really another word for it. Practically limitless replay potential and enough diversity in all aspects to draw to fans of all types of heavy music, Outlaw’s 688529 might feel illegal, but if it were, how could it be so damn good? 



For Fans Of:  Rooks, Demolisher, Yuth Forever, Barrier, Veil Of Maya’s The Common Man’s Collapse  

By: Connor Welsh