In the U.S., Death from Above 1979 is best known for songs like 2004’s dance-punky “Romantic Rights” and “Trainwreck 1979,” a gloriously dramatic 2014 single about the 1979 Mississauga train derailment. Now, the Canadian rock duo has returned under a new name—simply Death from Above, no year included—with Outrage! Is Now, its third LP. Despite the nominal change, the band has maintained its signature punky sound, presenting an album full of songs that could serve as the soundtrack for an intense action film.
Listeners are launched into the world of Outrage! Is Now with the gritty guitar roar that opens “Nomad.” Here, vocalist Sebastien Grainger takes a Muse-like approach, sounding every bit as resolute as Matt Bellamy in “Uprising” as he spins a tale of injustice that’s vague, but intriguing. “Things are chosen for you… stones are thrown at you,” he croons, using the second person to bring the listener into his fable. The song’s chorus is just as enthralling as its verses, playing with noise by pairing words like “Nomad” and “No matter.”
Next up is the single “Freeze Me.” It begins with a piano melody that soon morphs into the roaring of a guitar. Then it thrusts the listener into the throes of a tumultuous time in a relationship. The promise of the song doesn’t lie in the lyrics, but in the way that they’re sung. When Grainger hits the high notes in the chorus, crying, “How you freeze me!”, it’s easy to sense his chill. Also notable is the instrumental breakdown that occurs about two thirds of the way through the song, skillfully translating the feeling of confusion into noise. Even better is “Caught Up,” a dynamic, handclap-driven jam. At first, it’s laid-back and grungy, in the vein of early Weezer; then a wild crescendo sends it spiraling into something surprising.
“Outrage! Is Now,” the title track, is not the loud, rollicking frenzy you might expect given the exclamation point in the title. Instead, it’s slow and suspenseful, putting the song’s poetic language on display. Images like “the street-top catwalk stiletto” and “the crack of the pavement spotlight” are vague, but undoubtedly electric. They set up a sensational atmosphere that serves as a flawless segue into “Never Swim Alone,” arguably the highlight of the record. Positioned perfectly in the middle of the album, it’s a rapidly flashing, lurid slideshow that starts with “babies in biker jackets” and ends with someone whose online username is “Satan.” Interestingly, it’s Death from Above’s first explicit song. Its one f-bomb doesn’t seem out of place, though, because the whole track is a commentary on society’s unglamorous fads and pressures, sung in sneering falsetto. If you must only listen to one song on the album, let this be the one.
“Moonlight” is energetic, but not particularly memorable. “Statues,” though, is infectious. Driven by pounding percussion and one of the album’s best guitar hooks, it has a hint of ‘70s glam rock that makes it feel timeless. It’s followed by two songs with curiously stylized titles, “All I C Is U & Me” and “NVR 4EVR.” The former is sonically lighthearted, but peppered with phrases like “It’s too bad about the children” and “Mama’s faceless,” giving the song a flippant sheen. The latter is vaguely Artic Monkeys-ish and has a brutally honest refrain that’ll be hard to get out of your head—“I might not like you, so let’s try to see where it goes.”
Outrage! Is Now ends with “Holy Books.” The song’s got a little too much “Outrage!” to close the record seamlessly; heavier than the other tracks, it seals it with an unexpected note of aggression. That rough transition aside, though, Outrage! Is Now is a vigorous alt-rock punch sure to sharpen the edges of whatever you’re feeling when you listen to it. It’s angst and passion in an easy-to-swallow, artfully designed package, enough to make you hope that this won’t be the only album Sebastien Grainger and Jesse F. Keeler will release under their new name.