[7 August 2014]
Outline in Color is a metalcore/post-hardcore band from Tulsa, Oklahoma, and their sophomore album Masks is very, very intriguing. The reason is because, alongside bringing the metal, the group experiments with synth-pop electronica. They’ve even covered the most unlikely of sources, Nsync, in the past. While this might lead some to want to play that old Sesame Street game of “one of these things is not like the others,” it’s actually quite an intoxicating and interesting mix. The vocals even veer from a soulful croon that wouldn’t be out of place in a One Direction song, and then veer into guttural grunts more appropriate to the metal genre. Truth be told, the first time I listened to this, I was unable to make heads or tails of it – it just seemed ... weird – but Masks is a record that sneaks up on you and taps you on the shoulder, and begs you to give it a second (and third and fourth) listen.
The album works best when it merges pop tendencies and bracing metal in the mix of the same song, such as “Happy Hunting (A Title She Deserves)”. However, there’s the odd slider like “Whispers” which is an all-out pop ballad with synths that tinkle like pianos, and there’s nary a crunching guitar riff to be found. It’s a bit of a WTF? moment. While the song works, it does seem to stick out like a sore thumb in the context of the rest of the album. However, Masks is certainly worth a listen with all of its twists and turns, and ability to turn divergent genres on their heads. It may put off fans who want to hear pure and undiluted metal, but for those who listen to the Top 40 and enjoy a punishing, crunching riff now and then will seek great satisfaction from this disc, and it is something you might seek out when you’re looking for something different in your diet of silver pellets. Masks is an album that pushes boundaries, and while the transition between pop and metal isn’t entirely seamless, it offers its rewards and it’s nice to hear something that isn’t out-and-out interested in busting your balls. Just as its title implies, this is metal wearing a disguise. Your mileage may vary, but this, at least, is something that’s different and affecting, so props to Outline in Color for pulling the trick off.