There’s no set-in-stone way to tell if an album will be bad, but rather a culmination of inklings and expectations that just so happen to come to pass. Tool hadn’t released an album since the Cretaceous Period before this summer and even then it wasn’t that good, in no small part due to how it couldn’t live up to the frankly insane hype that had been bubbling under the surface for over a decade. Meanwhile, Scarlxrd released a mediocre-at-best album just seven months ago, and it’s not unfair to suggest that no serious improvements will have been made in such a short space of time. The sad thing is that Scarlxrd actually has potential, taking the loud, unkempt stylings of SoundCloud rap and pairing it with screaming metallic sound and fury for something that’s admittedly thrilling in the smallest of doses, but gets tremendously tiresome when the exact same formula is recycled time and time again. Somehow he’s already released seven albums which have faded into obscurity as quick as they came, and with at least the last couple having undergone no significant evolution or expanded the trap-metal sound beyond where it started, IMMXRTALISATIXN shows no indication of being much more than yet another limb of stagnating white noise primed and ready to be forgotten.
And as good as it would be to pull a bait-and-switch where it turns out that IMMXRTALISATIXN is actually the sort of scene-defining opus that Scarlxrd’s entire career has been building up to, that’s never even felt like an option. This is twenty-four tracks long and clocking in at over an hour, and when taking into account how horrendously limited as an artist Scarlxrd can be, the level of tedium is written on the wall from the very start. Apart from some very scant isolated moments, this is about as innocuous and forgettable as not just SoundCloud rap, but music comes, and the rate at which it’s drained of ideas across an already unsustainable length is a fairly solid indication of how lacking in dimensionality Scarlxrd actually is.
The primary reason for that is because IMMXRTALISATIXN has shown almost its entire hand in approximately its first third, and for the rest of its obscene length, Scarlxrd is left spinning his wheels and recycling the same ideas and production tricks over and over again to the point where the whole thing becomes a chore to listen to. It’s not even like the base idea has grown that much between albums either; there’s still a decent amount of rattle to the trap beats he chooses, but with the bass blown out to exorbitant proportions once again and breathless scream-rapping filling up most of his bars, the constant minor variations on one already narrow theme lose so much steam by their umpteenth iteration when so little is done to make each example distinct. It goes without saying, then, that when Scarlxrd actually moves tries something new or attempts to expand his range, IMMXRTALISATIXN develops some indication of staying power that simply can’t be mustered elsewhere. The eerie keys on PRXBLEMATIC and stabbing, grime-influenced breaks on I WANT 1 BILLIXN PXUNDS aren’t too sharp of deviations, but there’s enough on top of their base forms to give them more longevity, while the scratchier beat and Four Tops sample on ASK could have come from a different artist entirely, but is undoubtedly the most distinct and refreshing that Scarlxrd sounds across this entire album. It’s not like he can’t handle quicker, more detailled hip-hop flows either, as a pretty great switch-up on 00007 proves, but moments of abject quality are so fleeting here, and amidst the torrent of mundanity that is such a huge majority of IMMXRTALISATIXN, there’s barely a chance of them being able to stand out. When the same formula that gets so tired so early on is constantly returned to with only miniscule variations each time, that’s not a recipe for anything really successful, and the amount that IMMXRTALISATIXN drags with so few memorable or standout moments is strong testament to that.
That just leaves it up to the lyrics to somehow rectify it all, which anyone with any familiarity with Scarlxrd or this entire subsection on hip-hop will realise as a pretty thankless case to put stock in. The central concept of the vices and virtues of a newfound ‘immortality’ within the scene is okay (even if the general sentiment in this particular case feels incredibly optimistic at best), but it’s not like there’s much done here with it. It’s the usual dichotomy of dull flexing and edgy nihilism, both of which Scarlxrd can admittedly deliver with intensity, but also in a very one-note fashion that never even comes close to the emotional apexes that both sides could benefit from. It’s honestly most reminiscent of an artist like 6ix9ine in the way that everything is slammed together as a whirlwind of chest-puffing, cartoonish bravado, and while Scarlxrd’s tonal range isn’t as embarrassingly low, there’s still not much of interest here. It all just rattles by with little consequence, and the experience feels no richer when it’s over than it did before it began.
That’s not even to say that this sort of thing can’t work either, but the fact that Scarlxrd is so concerned with quantity over quality is a downfall that IMMXRTALISATIXN might as well has plastered on its front cover. Cut this back by about half with just the best moments, and this could at least be a decent album where the aggression feels intense and concentrated; instead, it’s a sprawling, plodding blob of an album that’s overall exhausting just to get through in one sitting. There’s clearly a goal for bigger things in Scarlxrd’s head and that can be respected, but something as overdone and just plain boring as this isn’t going to achieve it, and really only overshadows the moments that could actually get there with some care put into them. Apparantly there’s already another album on the horizon so it doesn’t look like that’s going happen any time soon, but we can live in hope, no matter how naïve it might be to do so.
For fans of: Ghostemane, $uicideboy$, Bexey
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘IMMXRTALISATIXN’ by Scarlxrd is out now on Lxrd Records / Island Records.