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Album Review: Outside In Looks Within with "Karmatrain"

Updated: Sep 20, 2021

Unveiled in 2020, Auckland prog-rockers, Outside In, aim for the stars with their debut album "Karmatrain" while another project's on the way. With New Zealand going into another lock down, Outside In takes the opportunity to regroup, and work on what's to come. The push and pull of these twelve chapters in the lives of men will have you stuck.


Recommended listeners of: RadioHead, A Perfect Circle, Pink Floyd The group, consisting of members; Mikey Brown, Adam Tobeck, Jonnie Barnard, Elliott Seung II, And Joe Park, have an array of experience behind them, which they display prominently with a wide range of time signatures and non-traditional song structures. From intense grit, gloom and poignancy to potent and climactic psychedelic euphoria, the five produce an exhilarating sound with a spectrum of emotion. "The band formed in 2012 when me and guitarist Jonnie reformed a new band out of the remnants of our previous band Crash-Test For Favourite Things. The current (and best) lineup - Adam (drums) has been playing with us since about 2014 and Joe and Elliot have put in about 3 years now too. Me and Jonnie have been working together for well over ten years now", Vocalist and Guitarist Mikey Brown explains. When asked how long they all individually have been playing music, he responded "All of us since childhood". With such a trove of involvement in music, it comes as no surprise their debut album "Karmatrain" is packed with all original songs tied by one common concept, "Siddhartha". Herman Hesse's "Siddhartha" is a novel which deals with the spiritual journey of self discovery, and its reference and relevance are present in both the lyrics and ambiance of the album. Mikey goes on to mention, When going through a collection of potential songs for the album, I realized a few were lyrically influenced by a novel I’d read while on holiday in Nice about ten years ago, Hermann Hesse’s ‘Siddhartha’. The themes being fairly universal I 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." With songs like "Om", and "The Garden of Light", it's apparent that this album serves a purpose higher than itself.


"Outside In delivers what I believe to be one of the boldest and most musically intricate albums, not only from this year, but in the last while.” says NZ about "Karmatrain" in 2020, and its clear this is an album that can stand the test of time. With every run through new sounds can be heard, and different emotions are felt, making this album just as organic as the concept behind it. It's the perfect accompaniment for a cliff-side drive, a forest hike, a stream-side afternoon, and a star-lit night. This album's truly a trek through the mind and soul, with accompanying scenic and surreal visual lyric postcards representing each song, from New Zealand photographer James Fyfe. This album is truly a work of art. When talking with singer Mikey Brown, he mentioned the kind of patience and dedication that was a necessary foothold, he went on further to say,"We recorded all the elements except drums ourselves, and did the drums in a small local studio, Ellamy Studios. I built a makeshift vocal booth at home and did all the harmonies, choir parts and vocals at home. Jonnie our guitarist produced and we did all the guitars and bass at his place. Then we outsourced the mix and mastering to Dave Rhodes who is a kind and patient wizard. We loved what he did with the mixes, he was the dream to work with and he managed to make our many, many, many tracks per song fit in nicely and sound slick." This unique combination worked quite well, as the production serves to amplify the sound-wall of the lead vocals and guitars, while the over all mix becomes a mosaic of sound that casts a brilliant and colorful light over everything else.

"Recording ourselves was a challenge. but the process of recording Karmatrain taught me and Jonnie a lot about organisation, project management and applying skills we had from our day jobs to running the project successfully. We set ourselves deadlines and even had spreadsheets of what we needed to record and what we'd handed off to Dave. Now we're done with that part of the process, its hard to imagine how we were so organised at the time.", With such a measure of skill and experience, what lies in wait for these five is certainly a force to be reckoned with. The aforementioned vocal harmonization leaves an everlasting ring in your psyche that you will be incapable of placing, the crisp and striking leads layer the smooth and liquid texture provided by the bass, all wrapped up neatly with the drums. The only way this album could be enjoyed any further is with the power of vinyl. It's that exact power these New Zealand arch mages seem to have stumbled upon. Offering their spells and enchantments in limited supply of double colored vinyls available on pre-order at their Bandcamp. With only 150 copies being made, now until October is your last chance to snag one with your own name printed inside the sleeve, but don't be surprised when your order arrives with a signed poster. Continue to contain that same excitement when you hear an unreleased track snuck into the folds of the record, and don't forget your digital copy, and digital album lyric postcards as well."Karmatrain" is truly a masterpiece to behold.


Follow Stream Outside In followed the album release with a live shoot of their recent single ‘Om’:

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