Back in 2014, I claimed that the wait for the eventual Hacktivist record was becoming tiresome, and something that needed to happen fast, if at all. Unfortunately, fans would have to wait a gruelling two more years before any news of a debut was unleashed upon the public. So, the question is, after being a prominent name on the scene for nearly four years now, have Hacktivist delivered a record worthy of the lengthy hype?
Outside The Box
- Our Time (feat. Marlon Hurley)
- Decieve And Defy (feat. Jamie Graham)
- Taken (feat. Rou Reynolds)
- The Storm
- No Way Back
- False Idols
- Rotten (feat. Astroid Boys & Jot Maxi)
- Outside The Box
- The Storm II
Make no mistake, from the atmospheric opening electronics of (rightfully) back-slapping intro Our Time to the closing tones of The Storm II, this is the Hacktivist we know and love. Losing none of the ferocity and stark lyrical imagery, the album is exactly what hungry fans have been waiting all these years for.
Speaking of lyrical content, the band retains their penchant for dark, politically charged raps amongst the cacophony of technical riffs provided by guitarist and mastermind Timfy James. Keeping the dynamic duo style of vocals heard on earlier E.P.’s, Hacktivist utilise both J Hurley and Ben Marvin to their absolute fullest extent here, keeping the trade-offs and harmonies consistent throughout the record, with a smattering of guest vocals thrown into the mix to keep things fresh. Moments from both Heart Of A Coward and Enter Shikari frontmen stand out prominently on the album, with the latter forming one of the best choruses found on the release in Taken.
When it comes to riffs, Outside The Box offers them in spades. Whilst many of the lead lines are similar, James manages to differentiate each just enough to stop the sound becoming an incoherent collection of similar tracks. The multi-layered attack of downtuned guitars and bass-heavy distortion assault the senses and create a palpable sense of darkness, giving the record an eerily sinister vibe. Doubling up as provider of clean vocals too, James takes the reigns with finesse and an almost freak-like level of talents.
Special mention must be given to both bassist Gurner and drummer Hawking, with the latter contributing almost as strongly as both vocalists on the record. Awe-inspiring syncopation and creative stickwork keep do more than just keep tempo, stretching further to stand out on the album. As for Gurner, the bassist understands the idea of less being more, keeping his contribution simple and powerful, either following leads or keeping a low, steady thump throughout ethereal verses. It’s clear that for Hacktivist, there is no real star here, but a band of brothers working together to create a unified sound unlike any other.
However, whilst the album is exactly what fans of the band like me and many others have been thirsting for since their self-titled 2012 E.P., one of Hacktivist’s biggest strengths ultimately proves to become their downfall. Whilst the band’s unique sound is truly theirs, songs tend to become blurred in their transitions, with few stand out choruses amongst the crushing riffs and fast raps. Tracks like lead single Buszy and Elevate hold an almost jarringly increased amount of fire behind them that tracks between tend to pass by unnoticed. Tracks like Rotten and The Storm (both parts) tend to stick more in the mind due to their more unique nature, leaving many tracks in the dark. Whilst there’s little I would change about Hacktivist’s sound, variation is key and as of their debut, there’s still some innovation to be realised.
Overall, Hacktivist’s debut Outside The Box has to be considered a decent success. Whilst it isn’t going to change the world like it would have had it been released at the height of their popularity (and that of the djent movement), the band have delivered a strong set of tracks that only manage to get lost a little on the way. Fantastic performances from each member really show just how strong a unit the band are, and with new material under their belt expect to see the H boys dominating festivals once again this summer. Strong singles in Taken, Buszy & Elevate help to recommend the record even further, and show signs of great potential for album number two. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait another four years for it this time!
Outside The Box is out now via UNFD Records