Fans of metal are very quick to criticise anything that might be regarded as gimmicky, despite the fact the whole genre was essentially built on daft gimmicks. You can imagine that a band like Hacktivist who meld tech metal with hip hop aren’t exactly going to be welcomed into the metal community with open arms and there are some vocal metal fans that have already expressed their displeasure when it comes to Hacktivist’s music, but if a band are making something unique and memorable then what’s the problem? The problem is Hacktivist’s debut album Outside the Box is very unique but not very memorable.
The big issue with Hacktivist’s music is nothing to do with how sacrilegious fusing metal with hip hop can be for some people; it’s more a problem to do with tech metal itself. The popularity of tech metal has grown exponentially in recent years and the formula has become so tried and tested that it’s managed to become stale. Hacktivist’s rhythm section commit to the tech metal archetype so closely that they offer nothing new and it’s completely lacking in melody.
Hacktivist are big on angular, down-tuned, 8 string guitar work and every song features a lot of low end rumble but not a single noteworthy riff. You won’t get any of the guitar melodies stuck in your head and the structure of the songs is so similar from track-to-track that the album feels like one 41 minute long song with multiple choruses. Jermaine Hurley and Ben Marvin’s vocals carry no melody due to their focus on rapping and while their delivery and flow is always passionate and energetic, they don’t write lyrics with the same iconic phrasing of someone like Rou Reynolds of Enter Shikari (who actually appears on Taken and puts in one of the most memorable choruses on the record, proving my point perfectly).
Occasionally, there are glimpses of something great. Hate has a very simple yet effective electronic melody that makes it stand out amongst the cesspool of atonal, down-tuned guitar sludge and No Way Back has a massive chorus that you can envisage a sea of fans singing their hearts out to, but these moments are few and far between.
Hacktivist have something incredibly original going for them and they’re obviously very proud of it, thanking the listener for giving them a chance at the very start of the record. Tech metal has become stagnant in recent years and Hacktivist have to be commended for doing something to mix it up, but simply adding some rapped vocals is not what this album needed. Outside the Box is distinctly lacking in memorable melodies and riffs and while it certainly marks the birth of a very interesting band, Hacktivist need to address their lack of melody and start writing songs we can all remember otherwise they’re going to fall into obscurity pretty fast.
Hacktivist’s Outside the Box is out now through UNFD.