The Milton Keynes machine that is Hacktivist may be outside of the box, but they’re not fully charged… yet!
I got my first taste of Hacktivist in the same fashion that I first heard many of the bands that would mould my love for heavy metal. That fashion being high school friends introducing you to new music, in Hacktivists case it was a friend from Dundee University, Gary “Da General” Paton to be specific. Gary is the university’s resident Rock and Metal DJ and was hosting one of his always lively “Distorted” nights and whilst I was I was hanging out with him in the DJ Booth he gave me the nod as if to say “Check this out”.
What came blasting out next was some earth thumping guitar work courtesy of Tim Beazly and Josh Gurner, heads including my own were banging everywhere. Nobody present was prepared for what was to come next. Filterng through the sound system were the rapid fire ramblings of Jermaine Hurley and Ben Marvin covering none other than Jay Z and Kanye Wests “Niggas In Paris” Nobody could believe it, they had taken a massively influential rap anthem and made it metal! I think I shouted something along the lines of “F**k Yes!” How very metal of me I know!
Since then I have been dying to see Hacktivist live, it’s always great to hear fresh new sounds. They recently completed a tour with progressive metal pioneers, Sikth but I lucked out and wasn’t able to make any of the shows. Thankfully they’re going to support Issues (along with Asteroid Boys) during the Georgian metalcore outfit’s upcoming UK tour. Needless to say I have already booked the night off work.
Having been given the opportunity to review Hacktivist’s first ever full length album release Outside The Box I was very excited to hear what will be on offer. From the get go I sensed that we, the listeners are meant to be placed in the aftermath of a T2: Judgement Day style apocalypse as Marlon Hurley eerily freestyles us through the intro of “Our Time” almost reminiscent of resistance leader, John Connor. You’ll be glad to hear that Arnie’s cybernetic organism doesn’t come out guns blazing, but what does is some pretty impressive guitar and drum work.
Drifting straight into “Hate” with an intro that I can only akin to Sega Megadrive’s “Streets Of Rage” franchise (Childhood lost) It’s very clear that Hacktivist want to stamp their foot down and proclaim “This is OUR sound” how that will be received live in terms of the crowd energy is a difficult call for me to make. I can imagine dance floor diehards pitting to the sound but not with the same level of enthusiasm that you might expect to see at a Hatebreed gig, for example. As I said though, they’re not trying to be like anybody else.
Spitting a little bit more venom, with guest vocals from Heart Of A Coward’s Jamie Graham whose deep, bellowing roars mix quite well with Ben’s freestyle rap we have “Decieve and Defy”. This is also where Tim Beazly’s guitar programming mastery really began to shine through for me.
“Taken” I hope is a prime example of one of those gigs you go too and the guest vocalist on the album actually appears on stage with the band to perform. The desired guest vocalist in this case is Enter Shikari’s Rou Reynolds. I can picture a venue going absolutely bonkers to this song with Jermaine, Ben and Rou working the crowd like pros. Wishful Thinking? We shall see!
Strongly re affirming Hacktivists unique sound are “No Way Back” and “False Idols” As unique as their sound is though, if you dissect the music deep down I couldn’t help but hear the influences from the likes of Skindred, Limp Bizkit and even elements of Cypress Hill.
If I wanted to be really mean (happens from time to time!) I would say that “Rotten” is very aptly named. However the guys don’t deserve that harsh a level of criticism so I’ll simply say it was the only song on the album that didn’t really speak to me. Like any critic, I know what I like and what I don’t like… and unfortunately I just didn’t like this particular track. It features guest vocals from Asteroid Boys, who I’ll be seeing with Hacktivist and Issues at the Glasgow Garage in May so perhaps seeing it live, I’ll feel differently?
“Elevate” starts off very well. It has tremendous energy and aggression and is probably the most mosh pit friendly track on the whole album. It’s easy to picture the centre of a crowd opening up during the verses, waiting for the chorus to kick in so they can run towards each other and “Fight Fire With Fire”. Disappointing, however, is the outro to the song which features a clumsy sounding drum beat that had me checking if the track was stalling.
The album name implies to me that Hacktivist are wanting to think outside the box in terms of music to create a sound that is truly their own. Ironically however, the title track had somewhat of an 80’s power ballad atmosphere to it with a big focus on the keyboard and a guitar solo to boot. I have to be fair to the guys though there aren’t any big hair dos and singing about your latest high school conquest, but there is again some impressive free styling from Jermaine and Ben.
A good album for me personally has me almost burned out after I’ve listened to it in full, “Sacrament” by Lamb Of God is probably the best example I can think of, each track grabs you by the throat and screams Mosh. Whilst it’s perfectly reasonable to say that Hacktivist are nothing like Lamb Of God in terms of musical style I was hoping that the final two tracks “Buszy” and “Storm 2” would go all out in terms of energy release, when they didn’t I was left feeling slightly dejected.
That being said I’m still very much looking forward to seeing the Milton Keynes machine live on stage at the Garage. Let’s see how crazy the boys can get!
I’m going to give their first album 6/10, there is some good stuff on there that will build the guys a loyal fan base but again I was left yearning for more like a kid on a sugar rush who’s just crashed. GIVE ME SOME RED BULL, HACKTIVIST!!!
Outside the Box is out now