Beyond Music

Sectioned “Outlier” EP Review

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Tighten up your bootstraps and prepare for a relentless ear pounding because Scotland’s very own Sectioned is one of the most aggressive prog metal acts I’ve heard from this side of the pond.  Music of this sort generally isn’t my cup of tea, but I can fully appreciate the boundaries being pushed and the direction being taken on this EP.

Outlier hails to elements of avant-garde and Romanticism more than most prog metal acts out there, namely by bending the values of rhythm and tempo to their will with no real regard to what a consistent head banger would look for.  This type of hanging movement can be heard towards the end of “Trismus” as the song winds down to a crawl and at the very beginning of “The Body as a Deadweight” as the song meanders through a formidable soup of irregular cadence.  Generally, tempo changes are consistent through sections, phrases, or entire passages of music, but these guys don’t care; they’re going to do it their way whether you like it or not.

Although most of this EP could be classified as noise metal, there are quite a few spine tingling moments that step the listener back into a realm of chaotic quiescence that can only be compared to standing in the middle of an F5 tornado.  There’s a small window of tranquillity, but the aural destruction that came before is only a glimpse into what is left to come.  The befittingly titled “Hell Away From Home” is a perfect example of the eye-of-the-storm approach, utilizing over half of the song to build an eerie clean guitar motif that falsely calms your nerves before hurling a brick wall straight into your face.

It’s in that eye of the storm that my attention is really caught while listening to Outlier.  The real glory of this work is the unnerving tension that continuously builds and resolves with what seems like little effort.  It’s a heavy listen, but as a whole it’s not harsh. For example, “Parasite” begins slowly and leisurely introduces the listener to the auditory destruction before unloading all of it in track 2. Conversely, “The Body as a Deadweight” resolves the aggression by leveling out the technicality a third of the way into the song.  It then begins to revive the same sonic and tonal constructs from “Parasite,” but presents them in a way that leads to an exclamation of the despair and ruin that this perfect storm has left in its wake.

Listeners don’t often realize that acts of this caliber are usually ones that change the scene.  There are a small handful of musicians that truly understand and appreciate the technicality; they latch onto it and call it their own, ultimately transforming it into an approach that is more widely acceptable by those that don’t grasp the original artists approach. As with the djent scene, most would agree that without the trickle down effect that Meshuggah inspired, we wouldn’t be where we are now.  Applying this knowledge to a combination of hindsight and forward thinking leads me to believe that if Sectioned reaches the right ears, they too could have a similar influence that will continue to push aggressive prog metal into the future. Even if this EP isn’t quite what you’re used to listening to, I still ask that you sit back, open your mind, and truly appreciate the cloudburst that is Sectioned.

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