Published Oct 12, 2018Pennsylvania death metal outfit Outer Heaven may be new, but they're proving they're out for blood. Right before hopping on the phone, vocalist Austin Haines is working on new music intended for release in the new year, but for the time being, the band are basking in overwhelming praise for their debut full-length, Realms of Eternal Decay.
"We expected a positive reaction to the album, but not nearly on the level of what we're seeing now," Haines tells Exclaim! "It's great and we're certainly not complaining — we put a lot of time and effort into these songs, so it's nice to see not only people respond to them, but really, really well."
Although it took about five years to release their first album, Outer Heaven have already made a lasting impression in the death metal scene. Their live shows have been applauded for their raw energy and devastating sound, but until Realms of Eternal Decay, the band haven't been able to capture their true essence on record. With the release of this album, the band have finally matched the crushing tones and vigour of their concerts.
"For the first time in any of our recorded material, I can honestly say yes, because that was a problem we had in some of our older material — it wasn't coming across on the records like it was live. When it came time to record the album for Relapse, we made it a really strong point to keep the elements of the production high energy and really explosive like we would sound live," says Haines.
The band's blend of slow, knuckle-dragging grooves and ferocious speed calls back to Vile-era Cannibal Corpse or Gateways to Annihilation-era Morbid Angel, bringing a refreshing approach to death metal that doesn't rely solely on fast riffs to achieve brutality. Hints of black metal are scattered throughout too, but the band never depend on one aspect of extreme metal.
"We draw influence from bands that blast through every song on the record just as much as we draw influence from bands that play low and slow," says Haines. "We try to get a good blend, because we like all facets of death metal, so we really try to be interesting in our songwriting in that sense."
Outer Heaven's entire aesthetic is dripping in horror and sci-fi imagery, but Haines explains that Realms of Eternal Decay's lyrical content began with a scientific theory. The vocalist had written a couple of songs that were eventually scrapped, but when he sent the lyrics to the rest of the band to get their opinion, it sparked a discussion that would determine the album's gruesome concept.
"Something I had written early on got us onto the conversation about something called the 'Stoned Ape' theory, which is basically a theory that says psilocybin mushrooms and hallucinogens were a major turning point in the evolution of human beings and human creativity, speech, language, fine thinking and stuff like that," says Haines.
Haines took the "Stoned Ape" theory and created his own horror story from it, revolving around a bacterial infection taking hold of the humans and animals it infects, sending them into a hallucinatory state where killing and eating each other is the only thing on their minds. Once the music had been written, it was just a matter of determining which songs suited the different parts of the story the vocalist had laid out.
While Outer Heaven put a lot of care and effort into all of the various aspects of their music, they haven't been able to hit the road as much as some of their peers. When the band first started in 2013, guitarist Jon Kunz was also a member of Rivers of Nihil, but after Kunz left the band a year later and made Outer Heaven his main project, they wanted to get a full album put together before touring extensively, so people would know who they were.
"That's kind of the big hurdle that we were trying to get over is just getting a full-length album out. Now that we have that, a lot of opportunities are already opening up to us, in terms of being able to travel and play different places.
"Labels would keep approaching us every so often to the point where we just kept thinking okay, nobody's locked anything in with us yet, we'll just keep writing and by the time a label does step forward and want to work with us, we're going to have a really good record. We weren't in any huge rush, just because we wanted to see how the label situation might play out for us."
Outer Heaven join the ranks of other up-and-coming death metal acts such as Gatecreeper, Full of Hell and Nails to gain massive praise in the last few years. The genre has been enjoying a bit of a resurgence recently, with fantastic new death metal releases coming out at a rapid pace, which Haines attributes to increased accessibility across the world.
"I think in this day and age where it's easier to communicate amongst people who share the same interests as you, it makes it easier for influences to reach across different people than say in the early '90s where it was trading tapes through the mail or getting magazines or finding records," says Haines. "Everything is more accessible and I think that people being a lot more exposed to the style of music has caused a nice spike in not only quality but also the number of bands and the number of fans as well."
Realms of Eternal Decay is out now on Relapse Records.