Tuesday 7 April 2020

Outrage - Run Riot (2020)

Country: Japan
Style: Speed Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 7 Mar 2020
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Outrage are not the first Japanese band who have been around forever without me ever noticing but, unlike 人間椅子 (Ningen-Isu), their name is written in my alphabet and it looks like they've written and performed in English since their founding in 1982, perhaps because their early days were spent playing NWOBHM covers in Japanese clubs. This is their fourteenth studio album and I see that, beyond never splitting up, they haven't even changed their line-up since 1986 beyond singer Naoki Hashimoto leaving in 1999. The rest continued on without him as a trio at that point and he's been back since 2007.

Like many major names in the west, they've evolved the NWOBHM sound into an energetic heavy/speed metal hybrid. Unlike some such, they've kept close to those roots, to the degree that they released a single in 2019 to celebrate the movement's 40th anniversary with side A a cover of Axe Crazy by Jaguar and the flipside their take on Baphomet by Angel Witch.

The truest NWOBHM songs here are the slowest on offer, like The Way We Are. The album obviously benefits from 21st century recording equipment so it's inherently heavier and clearer than in the old days, with the bass pumped up, but this one could be thrown through a time portal to England in 1980 without it seeming out of place. Tommy Vance would have played that on The Friday Rock Show, though he couldn't follow up with Silver Screen Hero on the BBC because of the swearing.

A song like Machete III sounds like the point where NWOBHM started to speed up and would sound fantastic performed by Venom, if they could ever find a producer able to replicate their live sound in the studio. The buzzsaw tone on the guitar is a proto-speed metal staple, reminding of bands like Hallows Eve or Exciter, but there's a punky atmosphere around it too that's just as much a part of NWOBHM as the rock.

When Outrage really speed up it's mostly obvious in the drums, but the bass jumps up in the mix and goes wild as well. Cyclops is a glorious speed metal song, but the most thrash Outrage reach is Supernatural Outlaw of the Cosmic Void, an absolutely glorious song title, as well as Hot Rod Immunity and the album's opener, Edge of a Blade, which is a statement of intent as much as a song. Are You Ready is rather like Diamond Head on speed, which is what all the cool cats in San Fran were doing back in 1983. Oddly, it isn't as close to Kill 'Em All era Metallica as I'd have expected.

Not everything is on that direct NWOBHM to thrash spectrum. Blood and Scars is one of the real highlights here and, while it's heavy metal with a strong element of speed, it has a strong Bow Wow/Vow Wow flavour, deeper than just Hashimoto's accent. There's a lot of Ozzy in Science Spirit Hits, and solo effect-laden Ozzy rather than Black Sabbath Ozzy. This is clearly the most alternative the band get here, as rooted in the 21st century as most of this is rooted in the 20th. Tommy couldn't play that one either.

And this all leaves me in even more catchup than usual, because Outrage are clearly a quality band with thirteen studio albums behind them that I should check out. That's both the joy and the catch when discovering bands who have been around so long that I have no excuse for not knowing about them by now.

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