It’s always interesting to see a band’s progress, especially what areas the tempering of their sound will take them. Exhibit Pennsylvania’s Outer Heaven, whose seven track 2013 demo showcased a band well within their element, playing hyper violent metallic hardcore that was heavy on the death metal and just about everything else. While that effort certainly notified its listeners that this was a band to keep tabs on, it had also been done before, albeit rarely in such a vicious and satisfying fashion. With heads already turned, Outer Heaven seek full-on decapitation with their follow-up EP, Diabolus Vobiscum. A mouthful of a title that inverts “Dominus vobiscum,” or “The Lord be with you,” Outer Heaven’s second release trades in their hardcore trappings for monolithic doom-death, with the results being as dizzying as that sounds. The cover art itself is telling of this redefined, more metallic Outer Heaven, with wailing souls caught in a demonic gaze, complete with extreme metal’s signature unintelligible logo.
At five songs, Diabolus Vobiscum is busy within that time frame, with heavy sprawls of old-school doom opening “Lord of the Void.” This isn’t forlorn, My Dying Bride-doom either, rather it bears all the nasty, no-fucks-given of Outer Heaven’s demo combined with the calculated slaughter attributable to Japan’s Coffins. Within its last minute, the song’s tempo races like a panicked heartbeat, with surging Nile-like guitars and Karl Sanders-level low vocals scraping the peaks of an underworld. “That Which Was Taken” is a mid-tempo burner replete with shifting, malevolent hooks, basking its length with a warming hell fire that scorches you with its restrained though impressive technicality. “Vile Rebirth” hearkens to their demo, layering hardcore’s signature chugging with monstrous guitar play, stating blatantly: “this is what we did and here’s us doing it better.” “Vault of Whispers” (Mirrodin-era Magic the Gathering anyone?) is far and away the best track this collection offers. Accomplishing much with its seven minutes, this is the point where Outer Heaven eschew their rage in favor of mournful experimentation. Almost funeral-doom in its earliest moments, “Vault of Whispers” plays with black metal’s distant wailing and climatic bursts, allowing this final track to appropriately feel like nose-diving swan song that plummets like a genocidal meteor.
Considering that Outer Heaven have yet to reach a proper full-length, the quality of Diabolus Vobiscum is telling of the quality such a future release will bear. While retaining much of the ferocity that made their demo enjoyable, Outer Heaven succeeds in not being a one-trick pony, but rather heavy cavalry, flanking their sound with a razor sea of the best metal has to offer. Diabolus Vobiscum is now available from Melotov Records.