Hacktivist’s debut album has been a long time coming. Back in 2012 they burst onto the scene with their self-titled EP, with the unique blend of grime rapping and djent riffs creating a stir in both the metal and underground rap scenes, culminating in airplay on BBC Radio One and tours supporting such acts as Limp Bizkit and Korn. Considering their success based solely on a single EP, expectations were high for the first Hacktivist album, over 3 years in the making, and now with “Outside the Box” we get to see how the band has expanded on their formula to take rap metal to the next level.
Overall, the core sound of Hacktivist hasn’t particularly changed in the 4 years since their EP was released. Songs like “Deceive and Defy”, “Hate” and “No Way Back” pretty much epitomise the heavy djent chugging accompanied by quickfire rapping that the quintet has perfected, although odd moments do provide curveballs. “Hate” is carried by a much more traditional grime beat and electronic pattern throughout the verses while the guest appearances on “Taken” (with Rou Reynolds of Enter Shikari) and “Rotten” (with Astroid Boys and Jot Maxi) help Hacktivist create enough change to prevent any risk of monotony, while Jamie Graham’s appearance on “Deceive and Defy” (a replacement for ex-Heart In Hand vocalist Charlie Holmes amid several allegations about his personal life) gives the song more metalcore influence than the original version of the track had shown. Timfy James has elected for thick, multi-tracked guitars on the album, which means that repeat listens will always find something new in terms of guitar riffs or additional electronic elements that you might have missed first time around.
There are some tracks, however, which feel just like filler. Opening tracks “Our Time”, as well as the two “The Storm” tracks, feel like nothing more than tracks written to make up the numbers. The production seems somewhat guitar heavy too, with a lack of bass in the low-end being drowned out by the low tuned guitars. While some tracks do deviate from the tried and trusted formula, the ideas sometimes feel like they need a little more development – a common gripe with early releases from almost any band. There are some tracks which feel somewhat forgettable, including “Hate” and title track “Outside the Box”, while the more self-referential lyrics moments could easily have been excluded as they somewhat take away from the political, social and emotional messages that the vocal trio of J Hurley, Ben Marvin and Timfy James are trying to convey.
When you’re in such a position as Hacktivist, though, the expectation that comes from such a hyped album means that there will be slip ups. A number of issues delayed the album and it can be heard in some moments but Hacktivist have still created a powerful statement of intent for the next few years. Now that the pressure’s off for a while we have a chance to see how these new tracks translate to the live stage, before seeing what their next step will be in a couple of years. The blueprint has been laid out for the rap-metal revival.
Hacktivist’s new album “Outside the Box” is out now via UNFD/Rise Records. Follow the band on Facebook for more news and updates.