"some music was meant to stay underground..."

21 Octayne - "Into The Open" (CD)

21 Octayne - "Into The Open" CD cover image

"Into The Open" track listing:

1. She's Killing Me
2. Dear Friend
3. Turn the World
4. Don't Turn Away
5. My Teddy Bear
6. Into the Open
7. Me Myself and I
8. The Heart (Save Me)
9. Your Life
10. I Will Always Be Right There
11. Leave My Head
12. Come Alive

Reviewed by on April 30, 2014

"'Into the Open'...should lure in fans of rock, alternative, hard rock, progressive rock, metal and even pop/mainstream circles, for it combines the best of all of them tied together with strong and thoughtful songwriting and ultra-catchy melodies."

One of the easiest ways for musicians most notably known for work in metal bands to turn around and conquer the modern rock scene is when some of the most notable in the business come together to make something truly special. 21 Octayne has been on a multi-year campaign to make an instant splash with the launch of the debut album “Into the Open.” The focus was targeting select cities around the world to test the album in listening parties and, as a result, creating quite a buzz. Landing a deal with the predominately metal label AFM was one of the best moves, for few labels truly get behind bands as much as AFM. “Into the Open” is now cast out into the world and should lure in fans of rock, alternative, hard rock, progressive rock, metal and even pop/mainstream circles, for it combines the best of all of them tied together with strong and thoughtful songwriting and ultra-catchy melodies.

The band is a union of German talent: LT Rhapsody drummer Alex Landenburg, Axxis guitarist Marco Wriedt, Joe Perry Project vocalist Hagen Grohe, and Paul Gilbert bassist Andrew Lauer. On “Into the Open,” the quartet shines by combining influences from all they’ve achieved on behalf of others, but this time stake a claim for themselves. Listeners who are also musicians, or those listeners who just appreciate exceptionally played instruments, will quickly pick up on the incredible talent contained within and the complexity at which it is presented. They band clearly has the tools and the songs to be the next huge platinum selling modern rock act – one I can foresee being added to many tours here in the United States.

It is quite clear that 21 Octayne is not trying to use various members’ backgrounds in metal to appeal to a metal crowd. The goal here is a target audience without genre limits. The metal listener might be the hardest to crack, for it will take the most “open” to truly appreciate what 21 Octayne is all about. “Into the Open” is not a metal album – but it does have some “metallic qualities” sprinkled throughout. It is also not a true hard rock album – but it does have a bunch of hard rock qualities. The best description of the music is modern progressive/alternative rock. The songs have rich influences that draw from across all musical boundaries, some of which include Alice in Chains, Alter Bridge, Primus, Bush, a healthy dose of Linkin Park and a slight touch of modern day Marillion. Tracks like the opener “She’s Killing Me,” “Turn of the World,” “My Teddy Bear” and “The Heart (Save Me)” can all easily land on Billboard Top 10 Rock Hits.

In terms of heaviness, “Dear Friend” is by far the album’s best by showing shades of Alice in Chains. The groove laden crusher “Leave My Head” could also appeal to the metal head. In terms of pure imaginative songwriting, it gets no better than the title track “Into the Open,” which positively explodes when the first verse pauses before the first chorus at 0:38. The verses are expertly reigned in by Hagen Grohe’s polished delivery. However, it’s Wriedt’s solo that represents the best moment on the album, a mind blowing 1:16 of pure axe emoting beauty. Meanwhile, “Me, Myself and I” is a song that is efficacious in getting bodies moving, but not until after the jazzy opening gives way to a grinding U2-ish riff and Hagen’s voice kicks in on the verse. It builds to a gallop and cascades on the chorus with the most infectious melody on the album. It’s a sneaky little number that you need to hear a couple of times before you realize it’s an album favorite. Even the slower numbers like “I Will Always Be Right There” are well written and emotion filled melodies as the album shows expertise from top to bottom.

“Into the Open” is a breath of fresh air to this fan who gorges himself on 95% metal, but is there enough to appeal to other metal fans? References to LT Rhapsody and Axxis might make fans of those bands wonder, but this album is meant for a much wider audience. The goal here is to make a splash on a much bigger and more global scale, and that is what 21 Octayne does. Closed minds need not apply, but fans who appreciate well written songs played to perfection in a much different arena away from their comfort zones will find a lot to chew on here. The album sports a ton of groove and hordes of melody…and it happens to be one of the best albums to crank on long (and short) car rides – you know, the ones where you drift off “Into the Open.”

Highs: Incredibly played modern rock. Excellent songwriting with a slight nod to Alice in Chains.

Lows: For metalheads, there is not much here. This is an album for a modern rock audience.

Bottom line: A modern rock album, perfect for those long drives "Into the Open!"

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)