The arbitration formed in Akron, Ohio in 2011. After a few breaks and changes in the line-up, the band found itself in its current state in 2015. After writing, practicing, and playing together since then, their debut EP always the outlier was released in mid-May of 2018.
“Not Today, Satan” opens with an ominous build up. The vocals draped over the top of it serve to carry it to even more foreboding depths. When the instruments and the vocals open up and go full-throttle, the transition into that gear is so smooth that it can be confusing how it happened if you aren’t listening carefully. The explosive energy that comes out of left field is a welcome surprise, breathing new life into the song almost two-thirds of the way through. A remarkable track, it doesn’t take much examining to see why the band chose this as their first single.
“Mirror” is the closing track. Highlighting the bass as it grooves in between slowly strummed chords, it provides the perfect structure for the drums to push forward. The vocals fill the gaps left, carrying the listener through the verses on a vehicle that feels like it floats more than it drives. When the chorus opens up, the loud distortion of the guitar takes the mood of the song in a new direction. From contemplative to angered, the breakdown in the middle takes the song in yet another direction. As the band rides the new energy, the song closes out not one second longer, or shorter, than it should be.
A lax take on the often too loud and too fast modern hard rock sound, The Arbitration mixes the variables of their sound appropriately on each track on always the outlier. The sound is dark. Not in the way that a lot of bands pretend to be; there’s a genuine dark overtone and melancholy written into the riffs and the lyrics. That’s not to say that this EP is only for fifteen-year olds who see themselves as edgy and misunderstood. It’s a great set of tracks for a rainier day. Even better if you can drive through a steady shower with some occasional lightning. It is a highlight of gray skies; the silver lining of the clouds at high noon as they obscure the sun.
Always the outlier sets a mood, and doesn’t waste time pretending to be anything that it’s not. Real from cover to cover, fans of a heavier rock sound will have a field day getting to know the six tracks.
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