The Oklahoma Kid – Tangerine Tragic


German metalcore chameleons, The Oklahoma Kid, have the unfortunate label of ‘modern metal’ weighing them down. This often means iconoclastic art that no metalhead over the age of thirty will like. Which old school Iron Maiden fan will listen to aggressive music with cascading synth patterns? How many hardcore brothers and sisters will sit through the late summer pop of a sombre guitar melody? Can Meshuggah’s cult of followers listen to technical drop-tuned guitars in the same mix channel as an emo outcry? These questions vex many of us on the heavy music spectrum, but how boring would it be if our tastes stayed within our own safety zone? Those of you that enjoyed the latest Underoath LP will find enough to like here, but those of you that hate the poppy elements of metalcore will be lining up your toxic masculine insults before you reach the end of this sentence.

With two EPs and one full-length record behind them, The Oklahoma Kid go into their sophomore album with their eyes widened and their fanbase growing by the day. They act like they have something to prove to the metal gatekeepers on the opening two tracks. ‘To Dance with Fire’ fuses a mind-altering synth loop with technical guitar patterns and pocket grooves as if reminding people how the last Architects album should have sounded. Tomm Brümmer’s aggressive vocals rasp at a higher octave than usual for metalcore, and he shows no inclination to tame them on the excellent ‘Pale Tongue’. This one rips through a complexity of djent riffing but maintains a crunchy stampede with the heaviest of palm-muted rhythms. Label mates, Defocus, are masters of this approach. It’s metalcore meets Meshuggah but with the virtuoso chaos of Periphery. We’ve heard it many times before, but you still want to spit on the floor, like a boxer before he puts in his gumshield.

The band made it clear in the earlier stages of the promo campaign for Tangerine Tragic that they intended to experiment with a wealth of non-metal genres. When it works, it works well. ‘Words Like Violence’ is the most daring song on the album. Many bands use synths and keyboards as window dressing, but The Oklahoma Kid show a good ear for the mellifluous energy of acid house and the adrenaline of Neue Deutsche Härte music for the entirety of this track. Brümmer’s smooth vocal lamentations and use of vocoder effects only enhance the experience. Unfortunately, this highlight comes as early as track four, and the momentum of the album slips into a softer and more melodic patter from here. You realise at ‘Replaced’ that The Oklahoma Kid enticed you into a pop framework without you knowing it. Three colourful electronic rock numbers in a row leave your finger hovering over the skip button.

We know a new template for combining industrial, metalcore and cyber-rock exists thanks to the sensational new album from Northlane. This should replace modern metalcore’s over-reliance on Architects for inspiration, yet The Oklahoma Kid find themselves at a development stage that seems redundant. We can see what’s ahead, and this type of alternative metal with a melancholy rock vibe falls into the same trap as Imminence and Pridelands. No metalhead will listen to the emo crap of ‘Dye Black to Pink’ or the pseudo-teenage angst of ‘Ohnmacht’. Best of luck if they get another chance to support Hatebreed. A hardcore audience will give them no end of abuse if they play something as innocuous as ‘Lost Purpose’ with so much unrealised testosterone in the room.

And yet your reservations will encounter moments of glorious metallic fury. ‘Come Undone’ is not an anthem for the snowflakes of Generation Z – this is a maze of mathcore guitar battery anchored in the depths of a Car Bomb bludgeoning. ‘Waldsterben’ goes out of its way to avoid the easy melodies in favour of a succession of syncopated riffs that will delight the Veil of Maya fanbase. The Oklahoma Kid have it in them to smash through walls, but they temper these instincts with the sorrowful soul-searching that wins a man no girlfriend. It’s awkward when you realise that more of this is good for you. This is not an insufferable album after all.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 03/06/2022

Record Label: Arising Empire Records

Standout tracks: To Dance with Fire, Pale Tongue, Melt into You

Suggested Further Listening: Resolve – Between Me and the Machine (2021), Imminence – Heaven in Hiding (2021), Underoath – Voyeurist (2022)