Sick Of It All’s Self-Titled debut record is ten-minutes of aggression that is needed in a daily life. It never tries to do anything groundbreaking, but it also does not stay complacent in the way that Sick Of It All truly captures the spirit of hardcore music. To smash and grab essentially as Sick Of It All runs through the safe zones of old New York, swinging the hammer on the new statues; returning New York to its more aggressive days of dingy back alleys and hellish ways. The City That Never Sleeps raised a range of tough kids that grew into tough punk rockers and eventually led to the backbone of an entire city taking over.
Curtis Cross, or better known as his alias suggests, Black Milk is the prolific MC, producer, beat-crusher, and system chopper hailing from Detroit, Michigan. Able to build wonder through his eloquent stylistic choices of high-class instrumentals, Black Milk approaches the high bar and easily leaps over it with his 2014 studio release, Glitches In The Break. A simple, but highly effective 24 minutes in length; Glitches In The Break is a substantial mirror image of the constantly clashing motives of the man vs. machine mantra that becomes repeated time and time again through history.
Multiple examples of this clashing system is shown through the subtle hints of ghostly chilling voices being layered over the random blurs and beeps of robotic machinery that echoes while Black Milk delivers his verses. It is one of the highlights of Glitches In The Break as it resembles something much deeper than just making sound and creating music; it is a certain level of genius that is unparalleled by Black Milk’s decision on choosing his beat selection. The instruments’ themselves seem to act and be as their own entity, able to shift and constrict within the production aspect that both challenges and assists the rhymes. The rapidly shifting tempos are an example of constricted on the MC and making him feel like he is enclosed within the outlandish beast that entitles itself as the production, but it also remains as the strong point to see the rhymes being transmitted with near ease.
“G (Feat. Guilty Simpson)” is a track that stands to mind as an example of pure simplistic beauty within the gentle piano and the boom-bap beat that sounds as if it was ripped straight from the 1970’s. There is also the rough subject matter that coexists within “G” and it pulls the listener in multiple directions. In one way, the listener experiences the gracefulness behind the instrumental, but then experiences in an entirely different light, the lyrical style where Guilty Simpson explains, “Tucking the clock cleaner for block schemers, because if you’re rocking high sneakers, they might rob ya. Every day inner city problems, I used to wish my parents chose a condom…” Guilty Simpson then continues on, “I used to hit the studio with a gun tucked, you never know when life imitates art, better then to role play when the game starts.”
This is going to be the consecutive theme of Glitches In The Break as the record will always contain a chopped vocal sample that is then clashed against the hard synthetic wall of sound. The nine-total tracks are each a message within themselves and contain a personal experience that lands the listener in the shoes of the MC for but just a moment. With the following track “Reagan (Feat. Fat Ray)”, it becomes a tale of the come-up within someone’s life. It is only a single glimpse into how the world can be a shifting wall of both synthetic and robotic movements within the humanistic nature of man, and how quickly the tides can shift. With Fat Ray’s final words, he describes, “And you would be surprised to see how much shit the naked eye misses, like a fucking eye witness, the game glitches…” It is almost a way to describe the entire project of Glitches In The Break as it allows Black Milk to work, shifting a Frankenstein-esque monster of musical power that eventually falls into the gentle waves of silence.
With the synthetic powerhouse of instrumentals and the touch of humanity inside the verses, Glitches In The System is a quick, but filling meal that does not outstay its welcome and acts as a returning friend that will always be around for a quick play.
As the Polish musical machine punches on through the steel and mortar that blocks them, Sacrilegium erupts as a monolith from the 1990’s; a stain on music as black as the lyrical settings that their music portrays. Without question, Sacrilegium is a diamond in the rough of black metal that is centered around the themes of individual spirituality, nature, impending darkness, and the final moments of Paganism that now come forth, in a full circle type manner in 2017 with their newest release, Ritual (EP).
A journey to animosity follows with the Polish black metal monsters, as Sacrilegium manages to spawn an endless onslaught of perpetual assaults through consistent poundings on the percussion which is led by MG 42, the slicing guitar and vocals handled by Suclagus, and the ripping chords through Hellthorn handled on the bass. As a unit, Sacrilegium moves together and focuses on keeping a tight-knit on their trifecta. Even as the Ritual (EP) only barely reaches into the fourteen-minute span, Sacrilegium creates a hellish world of damnation and suffering. The band resembles a cultist styling as they function like clockwork, playing off of the energy of each member and capitalizing on creating truly crushing blows that resonate over and over again. In a professional manner, Sacrilegium is frightening at times and bares their teeth through the entire journey. In a literal sense, Sacrilegium is a crisp ride on a chimera that rejuvenates the system and takes a quick dash for the kill in a necessary time frame.
The tracks on Ritual (EP) manage to bleed into each other and never feel as though they drag on. Even while keeping the sound rather similar to each other, they still feature slight breakdowns where Suclagus will have a featured part in perhaps a solo on the guitar or a spotlight for his vocals. The same can be said for the other members, both MG 42 and Hellthorn who have specific sections of a track mapped out to fit their play styles. This gives Sacrilegium an extended edge when creating a diversity within their sound. To break up the monotony, they decide to layer additional instruments like synthesizers, backing vocals, and other atmospheric sounds to fill some of the voids left by the band.
For an example, on the self-titled track, “Ritual”, there is a gentle use of ethereal voices to lead in the instruments like hunting giants on a smaller prey. The voices are overpowering to an extent and follow a continuous pattern of containing some sort of other-worldly entity in black metal, but Sacrilegium uses the bleeding seguing motions to their advantage as “Ritual” moves into fruition. It becomes a swift, balancing act between a vicious frenzy of blast beats and continually pulverizing musical sense that only until succumbing to the final moments of silence does it finally cease.
Ritual (EP) is a standing ovation to the old days of metal music and a call to arms for showing new bands how it can be done again. Sacrilegium does not exactly flip the script and provide any ideas that are entirely new or from the deep recesses, but it does provide a substantial look into the future album being released by Sacrilegium sometime this year. Black metal can become an oversaturated medium by some standards, but Sacrilegium manages to stay on top of the incoming competition as they have done for the past near thirty-years.
Deep within the Norwegian forests lays an unruly evil, a darkness that surrounds the trees and engulfs the night sky. There is a horrible cloud that oversees the emptiness of the foreboding forest, because there is something that lurked in those forests years ago. An entity known to man as Darkthrone stalked the woods, perfecting a witches’ concoction of low-fidelity recordings and relentless alchemy that created one of the highest rated Black Metal albums in musical history. From Darkthrone’s twisted mind to another, Transilvanian Hunger dawned the white-painted faces, the black-stricken clothing, and the midnight skies of flame once again.
To put class in an art form is a feat only achieved by those who are masters of their craft, those who dedicate time in and off the clock to construct new meaning into their path. To change what surrounds them for the better and to produce for those in the future, to be led by their example and understand how to create history. The Alchemist is the man that never takes a day off as he has created countless projects, done hundreds of beats, and spent what seems like an unlimited amount of time in the recording studio. His limits know no bounds and strike straight into the hearts of millions. While moving on, Israeli Salad is not just a delicious dish, but it brings an enticing entrée of Middle Eastern style with all the flair of American Hip-Hop.
“Arrival” is anything but a standard finger-food for the opening meeting, Israeli Salad is at first glance a beautiful arrangement of glorious guitars and gentle percussion while it slowly begins to segue into the true “meat” of the record where The Alchemist can put forth some instrumentals that include chopped but not screwed samples of classical piano, bass riffs, and vocals. What The Alchemist does on Israeli Salad seems as if it was created by black magic and runes, but it is more simply put as an adventure of sound that both enthralls and displays a prowess to the musical ability. From the new, more rapid styling on tracks like “Collage Pt. 3: Rush Hour”, and the fluttering sounds of “Chetzi”, to the boom-bap styling of “Turn This Sh*t Up Pt. 2” or the subtle climbs of “Matzik”. It appears as though when given even the strangest of sampling material, The Alchemist can make a masterpiece.
He reaches deep into the different regions of sounds and pulls out some head-moving, feet-stamping, true to life hip-hop that any producer could not have even dreamed of. Israeli Salad is a shorter project, reaching only thirty-seven minutes; but it still has an incredible amount of depth behind it as well. The twenty-track behemoth manages to keep the attention, while shifting consistently, but also plays out long enough to reach a substantial full feeling. Even as the tracks change, the beats shift, and the dust settles, The Alchemist blends genres of music and shows dozens of diamonds on the tracks, like “Meduza” where he segues from the previous “Yala Yala” and continues moving with a breath-taking guitar solo and drum fills that sound ripped straight from heaven. It feels like a full band was recorded and not just one man behind the MPC (Music Production Controller).
The final moments of Israeli Salad are just as alluring as the opening notes. Israeli Salad shows more as an expedition than just another record, the transpiring beats are sent as a message to break the boundaries that lay before you, open up your eyes to the surrounding sounds, and keep an ear out for what lays ahead of you. The Alchemist is a proven master of mixing beats, cutting selections, and finding samples; with an open ear, it can change the world.
Thrash metal is an organic instrument of malicious intent that when executed correctly, can shift entire hoards of people into lunatics. Cryptic Slaughter is a diamond in the rough that strikes viciously and swiftly, their swords are sharpened guitars and blitzing percussion. Rushed from the punk-esque vocals and the over-the-top guitar solos, Cryptic Slaughter moves from the sunny beaches of Santa Monica, California, into your home and around your mental within minutes. Not only is their sound a universal groundbreaker for thrash music, but it was a quick manipulator of other artists that surrounded Cryptic Slaughter, spawning a wave of rapid assaults that seemed nearly endless.
Their debut full-length record, Convicted is a monumental punch and manages to shake the airwaves and punish the Earth as it moves; striking fear into those who get surrounded in the noisy cloud. From the first seconds of “M.A.D.” where the bass and percussion hit together in syncopated rhythms to build this sudden push within the musical lines and a push for a revolution in the pits, Cryptic Slaughter is angrier than ever from start to finish. With Bill Crooks handling the vocals, Les Evans on guitar, Rob “Blasko” Nicholson, and Scott Peterson on the percussion, Cryptic Slaughter was a quick wrecking force of ballistic intent. Every track has an entirely similar sound where it creates the simple but effective, two-step style on the percussion with hi-hats and cymbals crashing and clashing every moment. There is also a sudden audacity behind their actions to make a hybrid animal of both punk music and hardcore, seamlessly blending the two into one destructive beast.
With several moments appearing to be horrific through lyrical expression, the track “Lowlife” is a sullen mixture of both hopeless questioning and political prowess. From the lines that discuss, “What the hell is going on? I feel like I’m dead, is it life around me… or am I fucked in the head…” to the passage that describes, “…There is no way out, you’ll just have to fight it out. No useless world to save, nuke threat and no escape.” Cryptic Slaughter came up in a time where many artists where describing their disdain for the Reagan Administration and throughout Conviction, there are many references to both Ronald Reagan and the government’s power over the general population.
In the following track “State Control”, Crooks mentions to his audience, “Born to live, then to die, never ask the question why. State control by mindless men, believe in death, they live to win.” There is a sudden disconnect from the thrash sectioning of Cryptic Slaughter as they instead adopt a surf-rock approach for the introduction of the track. A memorable riff that balances between something both new-waving, and the rough edges of punk music. The riff is soon abandoned as the percussion moves back into a two-step that introduces Crooks and the other instrumentalists that rage with iron fists. Cryptic Slaughter decided to run with born-hard aggressive tactics of drilling a message with music and resorting to the primal instincts to display their agenda. It is satisfying however and works well when paired with the constant pounding featured on Convicted.
Even through the noise-ridden tracks that follow, Cryptic Slaughter keeps a mostly consistent style of making the loudest message possible. Whether it be a frantic fight with paranoia, or to the overthrowing of the United States Government, Cryptic Slaughter is a band that brings a new element to a quite old classic sound. One of the originators of thrash/death metal, Convicted is an instrumentalist dream living within the hard-hitting reality. From the rapid guitar work to the final moments of winding down, Cryptic Slaughter does it swiftly and efficiently.
Danny Brown hails from Motor City, Detroit, the infamous city of industrial beginnings and humble homes. From the downtown areas of sprawling city life to the urbanized factories of yesteryear, Brown emerges from the rubble, born anew from the ashes of a decaying nation. He spreads his metaphorical and lyrical wings to reach into the unknown grasps of experimentation with his newest masterpiece, Atrocity Exhibition.
Brown has always been a frontrunner of using hip-hop musical style and a clashing abrasiveness to display a prowess toward showcasing an exciting and comedic element that had been seemingly missing from music. The lyrical style is brash, near slapstick at times, but never ceases to be an amazing standout display of raw, unfiltered emotion. From the bitter moments of “Downward Spiral” where Brown explains in a horrific manner; a display of loneliness, depression, substance abuse, and the uneasy feeling of emotional frustration. Brown explains, “Everybody say, you got a lot to be proud of, been high this whole time, don’t realize what I done. Cause when I’m all alone, feel like no once care, isolate myself and don’t go nowhere…Drowning frustrations in a ocean of sin, thinking irrational, I have no emotions.” This is the powerful catalyst for Brown’s emotional flooding and is the seguing momentum that Brown capitalizes on when shifting the boundaries from shades of tone on tracks like “Ain’t it Funny”, “Tell Me What I Don’t Know” to the final moments of Atrocity Exhibition with “When It Rain”, where the attitude of the tracks change, but the tone and approach stays consistent.
There are moments of downright shadows on Atrocity Exhibition, where Danny Brown reaches into the ill-tempered recesses of the mind and takes those levels of emotional agony into a creative outreaching position. Not only is he managing to put forth a level of lyricism that is both mature and engaging, but he is also able to create a window into the darkness that surrounds fame, the chains of material possession, and the inner psyche of someone who might just possibly be insane. The track “Lost” is a prime example of how Brown manages to show this darker side of the mirror that represents Brown, but how he also still keeps his older, more childish style of lyricism where Brown explains, “I’m like Spielberg with lil ill words and hoes on that curb, gotta screw loose, I’m cuckoo, mentally disturbed but still smart enough to hit this bitch with a rubber.” It is the moments like these on Atrocity Exhibition where Brown shows his creative output while managing to still put a comedic spin on his twisted path and situations. Even with this being a mainly emotional disturbed album with lots of pitfalls that Danny Brown expresses through his own fish-eyed perception of the world around him, there are at times where Atrocity Exhibition is a beautiful album. The instrumentals are some of the most other-worldly and of the most off-the-wall style that it is incredible how Brown can somehow mold them to fit his style and manage to approach these beasts with a ready smile on his face.
Shifting momentum can be a difficult process for any producer or MC, but Brown uses his experience to launch into “White Lines” which is another track that really stands out for both the instrumental and for delivery on Brown’s aspect where he lyrically stands as a heavyweight. The hook of “White Lines” as perceived revolves around the topic of cocaine, but Brown leads a different type of perspective, Brown begins, “Lines and lines of coke, heart beating hope it ain’t my time to go. Take another snort, no way, no no… Lines and lines of coke, nose bleeding got me with an itchy throat. Heart beating fast, oh no, oh no, oh no.” All while the carnival-esque instrumental backs Brown in this constant clash of the light-hearted party style that Danny once had, to the now introverted style of beat selection that Brown sided with on this project.
Even before this on the hip-hop heavyweight track, “Really Doe” which features Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, and other shadowy rapper, Earl Sweatshirt whose last project, “I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside” was another mostly depressive project that featured an introspective look into the personal life and new-found maturity within the career level. “Really Doe” is a truly explosive track and while it was featured as a single off the record, it is still an instant crowd mover when it rears its head on Atrocity Exhibition even now. While it is the most approachable track off of Atrocity Exhibition, it still features the only more up beat, straight-forward style of hip-hop track on the entire record.
Then as the final moments of Atrocity Exhibition flash in the distance, Brown still has a few tricks up his sleeve with one of the last cuts, “When It Rain” where Brown shows for one last time that he can rap on any style and he really does come through and shine through the strange, schizophrenic, and rapidly-tapping instrumental ripped straight from Brown’s blitzing mind. There are sections on this track where Brown just lets loose and begins an onslaught of his usual clapping lyricism, Brown near shouts, “Oh, you ain’t know that when it rain, when it pour, get your ass on the floor now. Oh, you ain’t know that did you? Better duck when you hear them gun shots go off, pop off when them shots go off, knock off, you tried to play me soft.” Brown then continues on to say, “Glocks all in your face, dog, no baseball, better run home. Hit ya lung, blood on your tongue, Exorcist, your head get spun, Exodus, I might forget. Bitch, when it’s time for your ass be done.” Throughout Atrocity Exhibition, Brown manages to exhibit a solid look into the true working mechanisms behind his career movements and the way that he operates.
Danny Brown might not be a reliable narrator for some of the stories that he personally embodies, but Brown makes Atrocity Exhibition a true to life display of exactly how horrible decisions can make for an electrifying experience and artistic outflow that captures in essence what it means to change the straight-forward styles of hip-hop, blending the lines of genre, and making for an experimental art show that reflects the darkest side of one man’s personal journey.