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Outside In

Crossover Prog

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Outside In Karmatrain album cover
3.64 | 16 ratings | 9 reviews | 12% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 2020

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Let Me Go (4:53)
2. Blue Dragon (5:50)
3. Echoes and Stepping Stones (4:56)
4. Bridges (5:23)
5. Morning Warning (4:23)
6. The Lake (4:33)
7. The Garden of Light (5:21)
8. Mushrooms (5:34)
9. The Ferryman (5:35)
10. Pass On the Flag (4:31)
11. Om (5:11)
12. I Am Not the One (8:06)
13. Man Behind the Curtain (3:06)

Total Time 67:22

Line-up / Musicians

- Mikey Brown / vocals, synth, keyboards, guitar
- Jonnie Barnard / guitar
- Adam Tobeck / drums
- Elliott Seung Il Park / bass
- Joe Park / guitar

- Graham Bell / additional guitar (1,2,6,7,8,10,13)

Releases information

Released both digitally and through AAA Records
May 29, 2020

Thanks to kev rowland for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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OUTSIDE IN Karmatrain ratings distribution

(16 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(12%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(50%)
Good, but non-essential (25%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (6%)

OUTSIDE IN Karmatrain reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by kev rowland
4 stars Outside In are a rare beast indeed, as not only are they a progressive rock band, but they are a progressive rock band from New Zealand! Our wonderful country has a geographical mass a little larger than the UK, but less than five million people live here, and while a third of that population can be found around Auckland, realistically there is an incredibly small market for both live work and recorded material. But there are some who cannot help themselves and just have to perform, whatever cost and hard work that entails. The band came together a while back, releasing an EP as long ago as 2015, but there have been the usual issues with any new group and it is only fairly recently that the line-up stabilised around Mikey Brown (vocals and harmonies, lyrics, synthesisers, keyboards, guitar), Jonnie Barnard (guitars), Adam Tobeck (drums), Elliott Seung Il Park (bass) and Joe Park (guitar). Here is a band who are determined to do things their way, so even before they had an album deal they recorded a series of three videos which tell a story and should be watched in the correct order. They have since signed a deal with TeMatera Smith at AAA Records, and the result is 'Karmatrain'.

The obvious musical influences are Porcupine Tree and Radiohead, although some have also been pointing towards the likes of A Perfect Circle or Karnivool. In many ways the album revolves around the vocals, and Mikey Brown is one of the most exciting new male singers I have come across for a while, with the music swirling around so it all comes together. Just listen to the outro of 'Mushrooms' to hear what I mean, where the vocals mingle, rise and swell. But the reason the vocals are allowed to shine is due to the music, which is always the perfect accompaniment, so guitars can be staccato in one place to provide some emphasis or they can be more in the background. There is not much space in the production, but somehow there is still a great deal of clarity and no muddiness in the sound, it is just that to get the correct effect it needs to be all-encompassing. When going through a collection of potential songs for the album, Mikey realised a few were lyrically influenced by a novel he had read while on holiday in Nice about ten years ago, Hermann Hesse's 'Siddhartha'. The themes being fairly universal he decided to incorporate more of the book's influence into the writing process, until eventually it was obvious that this was becoming a concept album. The album has ended up with each of the 12 songs representing one of the 12 chapters from the book. Each song has a story that relates to that chapter, but also has a parallel story from his own experiences. It just gradually became a more conceptual thing which provided a framework to pin ideas against.

I've sat and listened to the album back to back four times today, and each time not only do I get more from it but am amazed that the music is so polished and finessed from a band that very few have come across before this. I had not, and I work in the same city! It was also self-produced by guitarist Jonnie Barnard (then mixed and mastered by Dave Rhodes), yet this sounds as if it could have come from a top studio. There are strong dynamics, shifts in tempo, and powerful performances from all the players. Listen to what is going on behind the lines and there are some simply stunning bass lines from Park while Tobeck is never settled and is constantly shifting the percussive approach. This means that some bars may be hi-hat/snare, others may just be cymbals, and he is putting in fills everywhere. Then on top of a complex foundation, the two guitarists mix and mingle. This is crossover progressive rock for the 21st century, influenced by more recent acts than many within the scene, creating a sound which is looking both to the recent past and also for the future. Outside In, the prog band from the end of the world you have never heard of. Outside In. Karmatrain. Investigate them on YouTube, then get the album.

Review by Rivertree
3 stars I came across them in a relatively common manner. Like most of the bands, quasi as an appetizer, they had offered song excerpts from their new album beforehand. Works well in most cases, almost always. OUTSIDE IN are from New Zealand, not a big prog scene there, as for that you have to look over at Australia, the neighbourhood. Okay, I know, not seriously comparable. Stylistically seen close to the likes of Entransient, Ossicles, A Liquid Landscape, Anubis they are not defining something eternally new, this should be said. That's not the case here. Anyhow, there's something regrowing again and again. Hence I'm thrilled that still new entertaining compositions and even real pearls are deriving from this meadows on and off.

The OUTSIDE IN crew is capable of serving sensitive and emotive ballads, that's assured. Trips to melt away, one can say. Well, Mikey Brown has a big share, his voice is rather charming. 'Everything Must Change' - due to this context Blue Dragon then evolves into a heavier direction with more expressive vocals. This so far describes it in general, here we have more than 60 minutes of material showing a unique balance of ballad-esque and heavier rocking moments. Hereby a few songs are average, too polished according to my taste. Though generally seen I find this a quite impressing album regardless. Hence, consequently, finally just let me emphasize one of their highlights, The Garden Of Light, a real masterpiece. Aah, I can't release, burnt into my mind somehow, I'm open to listen to this track again and again. 3.5 stars.

Review by DamoXt7942
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP Avant/Cross/Neo/Post Teams
3 stars It's said a NZ-based act OUTSIDE IN were founded a brainchild of a vocalist / multi-instrumentalist Mikey BROWN and a guitarist Jonnie BARNARD. Like a recent trend in the progressive rock scene, it sounds like the combo would have taken enough time to plan, record, produce, mix, and master, for this debut creation "Karmatrain" released in 2020. Featuring 12 brilliantly composed tracks with fantastic instrumental techniques, this album could be accepted by not only art rock fans but also 'authentic' rock ones, I suggest. On the contrary, for quite a few experimental rock freaks (like me), the soundscape in this album could not ring their bells enough probably ... you can find it be well-designed and well-matured though.

Mikey's voices are quite mellow and comfortable, and perfectly fit for their catchy, accpetable melody lines and rigid, sincere rhythmic deliveries. The first "Let Me Go" full of artistic sound outlines would give the overall definition for the whole album. One of their single-cut songs "The Garden Of Light", that might be an opportunity for their reunion, is pretty dramatic and immersive. Slightly complicated rhythmic progression in the last track "I Am Not The One" is my love really. Not found incredible sound innovation nor magnificent melody eccentricity in their creation, but you can definitely get immersed in their superb playing skills and elegant touches. A fascinating one for Crossover fans, let me say.

Review by octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl,Neo & Post/Math Teams
4 stars The first thing that I noiced at the first listen was the clean voice of Mike Brown. I find it similar to that Of Marius Duda. Proceeding with the album the apparent connection with the polish Riverside acquired consistence. Of course this is not a clone, absolutely. I don't think Riverside have ever written something like "Bridges".

So what do they have in common? Other than the clean vocals, both the bands are very skilled and this album is also very well produced. Some passages remeinded me also of another band that I like: the Italians Profusion. This to say that what appears to be a connection to my ears is likely present in my ears only, but mentioning other artists trying to describe a debut album should help in identifying the genre and if it can appeal a potential new listener.

Outside In don't indulge in metal. The songwriting is more directed to solid melodies and quality arrangements. Some songs are also radio friendly, and the non-excessive length of the tracks, all around 5 minutes, will probably give the album some deserved air play.

Readin gother reviews I'm a little surprise to see that Morning Warning is not mentioned. I think it's the most various track. Also the following one, "The Lake" is very catchy. In particular this one brings to my mind the American band 1974 and their "Death of the Herald", Another album that I love.

I agree with the other reviewers about "I Am Not The One", the only track longer than 6 minutes. It's a perfect album closer. The final crescendo bring sthe listener to the album's end with a little surprise in the last seconds.

If you like any of the bands that I have mentioned here, this is for you. I also add that I'm personally bored by the Steven Wilson's productions which make every band, Riverside included, sound like Porcupine Tree. Ouside In luckily miss it.

Review by nick_h_nz
4 stars [Originally published at The Progressive Aspect]

I have noticed a strange phenomenon this year. For whatever reason, though there have been many (and will yet be many) albums playing upon the theme throughout the years, 2020 seems to have a disproportionately high amount of albums describing the cycle of birth, life, death, and rebirth. Already this year I've listened to Kala by Mobius, Metempsychosis by hubris. and The Return by Deep Energy Orchestra, which all recreate the idea musically. Golden Caves use Samsara as a reverse allegory in their song of the same name, further describing the theme of their album, Dysergy. And Eternal Wanderers and Postvorta appear to play with the theme, too, on their albums Homeless Soul and Siderael, Pt. One. Outside In add to this number, with their new album, Karmatrain.

Karmatrain looks at samsara through the famous story from Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha. I've been aware of Siddhartha since I was a teen, but have never been compelled to read it. Karmatrain is the first piece of music that's made me want to read the text that inspired it since I read Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet after listening to Mad Season. By the time I read the story (which I did online from Project Gutenberg), I had listened to the album several times, and it only increased my enjoyment of both, recognising where bits and pieces fitted. Outside In have structured their album to match the way Hesse structured his story ' in two parts, the first four chapters (or songs, in the case of the album) representing the Four Noble Truths, and the remaining eight representing the Noble Eightfold Path. Outside In have produced a beautiful set of lyric postcards which illustrate these, lending one more layer to the story.

Two paragraphs in, and I've not even begun to describe the sound of Outside In, but I do think it's important to address how much thought and detail has gone into the creation of Karmatrain. The album takes a listener on a journey, and the careful consideration that has gone into the creation and sequencing of the tracks really pays off. Looking back on the reviews I've written this year, the most common criticism I have comes down to sequencing. No matter how strong a song is, it can become underwhelming or overblown, depending on what it comes after. There are no such concerns when it comes to Karmatrain. The album flows like the river which provides such meaning within the story.

Opening track Let Me Go is a beautiful entry point to the album, showcasing Mikey Brown's gorgeous vocals, and Adam Tobeck's drums ' both of which I find myself drawn to again and again, through the album. Adam's drumming is very reminiscent for me of Steve Judd of Karnivool, which is definitely no bad thing. The band name both Radiohead and Karnivool as two of their many influences, and Let Me Go definitely evokes both of these bands, while not sounding like either. Recent single Blue Dragon follows, and I'm compelled to mention the other member of Outside In's rhythm section, Elliott Seung Il Park, whose bass shines on this track ' and damn he and Adam are tight. They propel this track forward, often playing in a style more jazz than rock. As a single, this track showcases how the band really could do well, mixing complexity with accessibility and progressiveness with listenability.

The jazz vibes continue with the more subtle and understated Echoes and Stepping Stones. The song ebbs and flows, yet even while it seems to pull back at times, it keeps building and building, until it bursts, leaving the delicacy of Bridges after the storm. The way this song lyrically and musically matches the feeling left after hearing Echoes is incredibly effective. It also works perfectly in its place, matching the feel and meaning of the complementary chapter in Siddhartha, ending the first part of the story/album. I had listened to the album several times, before reading Siddhartha, and also before having received the postcards which accompany the album, so had no way of knowing this was the end of the first part of the story ' and yet, I knew.

Morning Warning, therefore sounds like an opening number, and the A Perfect Circle influence shows even more strongly than when I first noticed it in Blue Dragon. It also reminds me a bit of Alice in Chains. This is such a strong song, and one of the highlights of the album. The almost abrupt way it ends, and The Lake begins has the effect of almost creating a segue, so that if not paying attention, a listener might not realise the songs had changed. Apart, that is, from the difference in atmosphere. Morning Warning is ominous in tone, while The Lake sounds far more positive and upbeat. This is another song which might have made a great single, with a soaring chorus once more showing what a powerful singer Mikey Brown is. And the guitar solo is easily one of the most enjoyable and engaging on the album.

That said, the following track The Garden of Light was a single, and perhaps was chosen because it captures a little of the spirit of both the preceding tracks. The band name A Perfect Circle and Porcupine Tree as influences, but this track is more Tool-like than A Perfect Circle, and more Riverside-like than Porcupine Tree. Actually, I'm often reminded of Riverside, and the way that band takes the sound of Pink Floyd and gives it a more modern and metal feel, bears more resemblance to Outside In's sound than Porcupine Tree for me.

Mushrooms is the point in Siddhartha where the main character contemplates suicide, and so begins in a suitably melancholy manner ' with, again most suitably, Outside In's Radiohead influences back to the fore, before switching to a disturbing A Perfect Circle vibe. This is one of my favourite tracks on the album, and crescendos beautifully towards the end, matching the optimism of the chapter of the story it complements. The use of dynamics, and light and dark, is wonderfully played upon throughout the album. This occurs again within the next track, The Ferryman, which crosses back and forth between extremes. And while there are sound effects throughout the album (most notably providing the audio separation of the two parts of the album, between Bridges and Morning Warning), the birdsong at the end of The Ferryman are my favourite.

Pass on the Flag was the first single from Karmatrain, and ironically, complements its respective chapter in Siddhartha in a way it was not intended. I find the chapter where Siddhartha attempts to 'pass on the flag' to his son frustrating, and this song, too. Thankfully birth the story and the album are back on track with Om. And, again, Outside In have perfectly matched the tone of the text they've taken inspiration from. Siddhartha could have ended easily after Om. And Karmatrain could have had the perfect ending in Om. Om reads like a closing chapter, and Om sounds like a closing song. Instead we have the longest song on the album, I Am Not The One, which transcends the story of Siddhartha ' for while the final chapter of that story is a reiteration and explanation of what has come before, it feels slightly redundant. The closing song on Karmatrain may serve the same purpose, but it does so far more engagingly. It's a truly glorious and triumphant song, and I'm sure will be a favourite track for many listeners.

Based upon Karmatrain, Outside In have a great future ahead of them. Hopefully this album gains notice outside New Zealand ' something many great Kiwi bands have struggled to do. Kia kaha, Outside In ' karawhiua!

Review by Matti
3 stars The debut album of OUTSIDE IN from New Zealand is a conceptual work based on Hermann Hesse's famous philosophical novel Siddhartha (which, by the way, also inspired Jon Anderson's rather cryptic lyrics on Yes's classic epic 'Close to the Edge' and was Camel's aborted source of inspiration before they settled on The Snow Goose novella). I have read the book long ago but would I have spotted the literary connection from the lyrics alone? Maybe 'The Ferryman' would have rung the bell, but anyway a patient listener can get a lot from the fine lyrics on this album.

Also musically there are several things to appreciate. The clean vocals of the frontman Mikey Brown are pretty good. I can relate to the previous reviewers's association to Mariusz Duda (Riverside) and I hear a dash of Paul Simon too. Occasionally the vocals are slightly treated in a Porcupine Tree manner but thankfully only a little. The production is very convincing for a debut. On some songs the melancholic feeling is truly beautiful. Can't say the band would sound very unique in these times, but they cannot be blamed of plainly copying any band either.

Being well over an hour long, in many places the album starts to sound a bit too same. For my taste, too much loud guitars (why so many basically similar-styled guitarists in the band?), and I wish there were more of those atmospheric spacier moments. The compositions are suitably tight but in my opinion too vocal-oriented in the prog scale. More often I actually think of this music as guitar-oriented indie rock than as prog. As a 40-minute album Karmatrain would have been very enjoyable. A solid three star album, definitely no less. I do hear a lot of potential and look forward to further releases with hopefully lesser emphasis on loud guitars and with more varied compositions.

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars One thing that has been learnt the hard way with the 2020 pandemic is the art of patience. Our Mad Mad World was reaching breakneck speed, perhaps even too rapid for our frail over-stressed and hyper-stimulated human minds. Suddenly, the quiet and slow set in. Waiting for mailed shipments was now an act of torture. I personally was forced to adopt the digital option over the postal hardcopy. I was kindly asked by New Zealand band Outside In to review their album Karmatrain , getting the download almost immediately with the assurance that the CD was en route from down under to Canada (as polar opposite as it gets in terms of distance). I am sad to but not surprised to report that the package has not arrived as of this writing. Oh well'.

Outside In is the musical vehicle oh hitherto unknown to me multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and vocalist Mikey Brown, augmented by a tight crew of solid musicians on guitars, bass and drums. The material on this sterling debut is clearly in the more accessible realms of prog, a genre that I welcome when I feel overwhelmed by too much complexity and daredevil soloing. As mentioned by many colleagues, the style is reminiscent at a distance to Porcupine Tree/Steve Wilson or Radiohead, but with a more ear-friendly approach. This does not mean that the music is in anyway predictable or yawn inducing. The best description would be clever, intelligent crossover prog that nurtures the soul and impresses the ears. The vocals are particularly divine, the finely chiseled melodies are also quite breathtaking, each composition anchored in engaging hooks, and emotional lyrical content. Right from the opening salvo on 'Let Me Go', the message is focused and the delivery precise. The attention to detail is evident, the melancholic tone genuine and passionately expressed. Mikey has a voice that shines through (I hear a tinge of another famous New Zealander, Tim Finn) , with enough sonic finesse in the arrangement to beguile the listener, On ''Echoes and Stepping Stones'', the intensity is ratcheted up to lofty heights, nearing bewilderment. The next tune ''Bridges' is in complete contrast, all gentle and pristine, arched by a rolling bass, flicks of guitar, muffled percussion and shuffling drums, while Mikey emotes effusively. Really pleasant stuff indeed. Keeping things always interesting, 'Morning Warning'' is ominous, creeping and intense, with a massive melody, chorus and 'sturm und drang' guitars, thick bass thunder and eager vocals. Really enjoying the flow, as each composition is diverse, originally twisted to please and laden with unexpected charm. Screeching guitars and insistent rhythms introduce ''The Lake', maintaining the momentum until we finally land on the album's masterstroke ''The Garden of Delight', a jewel of a song that encapsulates the style of this band perfectly. Arpeggio guitar, whistling wind, and a steady beat entice the ears, as Mikey sings the living daylight out of the tune, a main melody that is timelessly beautiful as the crescendo kicks in , feeling more like classic Anathema than anything else. Overpowering, exalted and massive, this is just an amazing 5 minute and 22 second performance of musical bliss. 'Mushrooms' is markedly more psychedelic as the title may imply, but very melodic with lots of orchestral d'cor, a slippery guitar solo and Mikey again singing his heart out until the adamant outro scatters on the horizon. 'Ferryman' has nothing to do with Roxy Bryan but rather a quirky sliver of charm, snippy riffs, choppy rhythmic convulsions and that overpowering voice to punch through the current, flow and ebb obvious and inspiring, as the song gentle fades away. 'Pass on the Flag' is a contrast between soft and hard, incisive and dreamy take turns in the spotlight. 'Om' is another fabulous melody, shoved along by a rousing riff, a spacious interlude that sets up another onslaught of power guitar and the masterful vocal. The finale may become the next step in their future career, as 'I am not the One' navigates a different path, a modern arrangement that includes rainy effects , a shimmering platform that weaves a well- thought out route, perhaps a slight Celtic tinge that explodes into occasional peaks of sound and fury, evoking Riverside perhaps or at the very least that style of hard-hitting progressive that likes to challenge the audience into guessing what comes next.

As most pieces are in the 4-6-minute range except for the proggy 8-minute finale, I would recommend a dash more instrumental expansion, maybe a few solos to highlight the arrangement even further. Or maybe a soft and fragile ballad to really underline the magical voice this man possesses. But that is just me and my fantasies talking. A fantastic debut and a potentially new discovery in the making. Whatever you do, Mikey, please continue and progress to higher elevations, if you would be so kind! I can wait patiently for your next one'.

4 Tibetan choo-choos

Review by FragileKings
4 stars Over the course of the last 12 months or so, my musical explorations have taken more into metal territory, and as such I was spending less time on Prog Archives. Very little time in fact. So it surprised me when I signed in and checked my message box and found six requests for reviews! One of those requests came from New Zealanders, Outside In. I'll admit having a sweet spot for New Zealand. It's the country I wish I could retire to someday. So, I was eager to hear what these lads had cooked up from the land of the tuatara.

"Karmatrain" is in the crossover prog category. I guess that means that there is less obvious emphasis on the tricky dicky playing that often comes with prog and a strong focus on songwriting and melodies because that was my first impression of this album. It is for the most part very mellow, pretty, soft, and easy to enjoy. I felt the music and vocals sounded very similar to Perfect Beings. Other reviewers have cited Porcupine Tree or others, but I am strongly reminded of Perfect Beings.

On my inaugural listen, my impression was that this album is very dreamy and rich in vocal melodies and vocal harmonies. The music seemed to be more in support of the vocals rather than for showing off anyone's skill. But it was during the second listen that my ears perked up. The complexities of the playing and song structures and the odd drum rhythms became more apparent to me. The vocals too became more enchanting and I felt some tracks were beginning to draw me in. It was as though I had come to the seaside and after an initial view of the waves I was now entranced by their motion.

A couple of observations. The first is that the music basically sticks to a certain style of delivery. Though I can hear heavier guitars at times, these songs are for the most part gentle and easy on the ears. At first it seemed as though there was little variation in the songs but now I can hear the different variations better and make out the playing more. Still though, this is not an album that leaps all over the board. It has a course already set and after the first few songs there will be no jarring examples songs that stand out as greatly different. It's a very consistent album, but that should not be understood as meaning dull!

The other observation is the mixing. I can hear the guitars, drums, and bass as though they were mixed to sound as a cohesive backing unit for the lyrics. The best way I can describe it is that while on other albums all the instruments might sound as individual mountains, the instruments on this album sound more like peaks on a singular massif. There's a thick, warm sonic atmosphere. That's not a criticism. But what it means is that I don't hear the music for the details as easily.

I feel this is an album that will reward further with more listens. Once you get past the initial impressions, the cleverness will become more and more apparent. Once again, I haven't been in the headspace for softer music recently, so perhaps I am not appreciating this album as much as I should. But the door has opened and I am going to inspect this one deeper.

Many thanks to Outside In for sharing your music with me.

Latest members reviews

4 stars The band from Auckland, New Zealand exactly corresponds to the habitus of the inclined listener of progressive or progressive-oriented wise men. Without getting lost too much in the instrumental trappings, the band around singer and guitarist Mikey Brown concentrates on the only important thing ... (read more)

Report this review (#2590557) | Posted by prog_traveller!! | Monday, August 30, 2021 | Review Permanlink

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