“Captain’s Log: Stardate 43205.6. The Enterprise has arrived at Orelious IX to chart the battle in which the Menthars and Promelians fought to their mutual extinction. Among the ruins, we have found a relic: a Promelian storage disc that has withstood the centuries. Our chief engineer has discovered that a continuous burst of semiconductor laser fired at the base of its polycarbonate layer produces a harsh and abrasive form of music that has caused several of our officers, particularly Lieutenant Commander Data, to furiously bang the shit out of their heads.” — Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation Starship USS Enterprise
Vital enough to bring life and headbanging fury to an otherwise inert android, Outer Isolation lifts from the gate with what I’d comfortably secure as 2011’s strongest album opener: the 10.5 minute “Cosmic Cortex.” Following a fairly unassuming intro that slowly builds momentum over its opening 2-minutes, this polished jam delivers an insanely savory (and surprisingly heavy, by thrash standards) bit of riff ‘n’ rhythm before eventually hitting warp speed at 3:30; it’s a hell of a way to inaugurate this immensely satisfying 50+ minute expedition, and it’s also a perfect blueprint for what’s in store for the full stretch of this latest work from these Tempe, AZ based thrashers. From this point forward, Outer Isolation is a blur of intricate alchemy that whips up visions of what one might expect to encounter following a collision between late 80s Destruction, Voivod and Sadus, with a tiny pinch of modern day Ihsahn (sans horn section) to help round out the edges.
Thrash is the game, so one of the principal objectives is obviously to push the engines to light speed and beyond, and Outer Isolation does exactly that in varying shades with every tune offered. But bloody hell, this band’s speedy execution is ridiculously precise — stormily accurate jackhammer drumming bounces off the reactor walls alongside perfectly matched nuclear riffing with explosive results, particularly the dizzying onset of the amazing “Tetrastructural Minds.” (Are you shittin’ me with that leveling bass?)
But for every moment spent at maximum velocity, there’s equal measure devoted to a number of other proficiencies employed to better lure listeners into the hypnotic light of the band’s tractor beam. The twin-axe melodic interplay between Disanto and Nelson all over “Echoless Chamber,” for example, or the dark and mellow flare set to “Dark Creations, Dead Creators” and “Venus Project” — that’s just a hell of a haul of pretty playing right there. And those who know me well know just how big a sucker I am for some flashy bass play, and Frank Chin more than fits that bill. I’m guessing that while all the other kids on the block spent the summers oiling their ratty baseball mitts, this guy labored the days away at Steve DiGiorgio’s [S]bass Camp, as a noticeable amount of Outer Isolation‘s heft is owed to Frank’s heavy ripping. Case in point: the walloping intro of “Dying World.”
The aforementioned comparisons to Destruction, Sadus and Ihsahn exist not only because of the musical correlation here, but also in terms of Vektor‘s vocals. I would speculate that founding member/guitarist David Disanto’s delivery will likely stand as the ‘make it or break it point’ for a number of those giving this band a fresh ear, but that unique rasp is so amazingly well-suited for progressive thrash of this nature, and Disanto does an admirable job of mixing up his overall mid-ranged scour with the occasional high-pitched screeeEEECH (mostly used to initiate 100mph measures) and some creative insectazoid vocalization nuzzled within yet another album highlight, “Fast Paced Society.”
The amount of strengths fighting for the Outer Isolation spotlight are actually a bit staggering when sponged up entirely in one sitting. In fact, I generally found myself breaking the album into halves when it first hit my desk, just to better allow my brain a chance to catch up with all the intricacies being delivered. I suppose that could be seen as a weakness? Let’s put it this way: some sort of instrumental/stray-from-the-typical-path interlude at the album’s midpoint would’ve been appreciated, but it hardly does much more than keep an otherwise superb album a few short-hairs away from perfection.
If you were anything like me and initially ignored Vektor like a ramrod because Black Future struck at the precise time when so many of us had already had our fill of xeroxed xeroxes of xeroxed thrash bands of yore, do not let Outer Isolation similarly pass you by. Vektor is much more than a new band simply paying homage to legends past; these guys have taken what can be learned from the originators and are using it to blaze a new path, and Outer Isolation is bulldozing the trail.
“We are Vektor. Existence, as you know it, is over. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Resistance is fucking futile.”