In the world of hip-hop that wears its rock crossover credentials on its sleeve, Dälek have often felt even more removed than most. Their home on Ipecac might be a contributing factor in the arms-length view that’s been kept, but the simpler explanation is that they don’t have the vociferous presence as others in their scene. There’s tempestuous fervour around Death Grips or clipping.; Dälek, meanwhile, can be seen to just knuckle down with their own business. It’s why Precipice’s older-style hip-hop fits them better as a more unassuming way, while also having the noisy, industrial shudder that keeps its impact lasting longer. They’ve got that in common with clipping. at least, a comparison that Dälek can’t quite live up to on what’s more akin to an underground legacy act who know where they fit at this stage. But even that’s painting Precipice as a laurel-resting exercise that it definitely isn’t, especially with how detailled MC Dälek will go in lyrical cadence and word choice without it feeling self-indulgent. He’s forceful while still having a controlled demeanour about him, looking to champion equality and black excellence in the face of a system designed to subjugate both, reinvigorated by the pandemic and injustices the last few years have flung into the limelight. In a way, Dälek operate almost like Run The Jewels on this album, not just in how MC Dälek’s vocal timbre is basically what you get when splitting the difference between El-P and Killer Mike, but in how Precipice has a mobilised, purposeful feel while still remaining accessible. Granted, that’s more relative when looking at the bigger picture, but the basslines and boom-bap percussion on tracks like Good and Holistic feel classically skewed in how they turn out, to where they’ll become the dominant factor overall. On the other hand, there’s the squealing guitar from Tool’s Adam Jones that spirals around the void of A Heretic’s Inheritance, and the album as a whole wears a bleakness rather prominently in how cold and frigid this production will feel. It clashes a bit with how hook-focused Dälek seem to want this to be (which seems to be the case when they’ll be repeated so frequently in tracks), but it leaves a potent impression of an act still on a creative streak. As much as mass appeal clearly isn’t on Dälek’s docket, it’s not too hard to pull out moments with a lot of resonance here, and that continue to define an underrated act who continue to deliver.
For fans of: clipping., billy woods, cLOUDDEAD
‘Precipice’ by Dälek is released on 29th April on Ipecac Records.
James And The Cold Gun
At present, James And The Cold Gun feel the most buoyed up by the names around them. James Joseph, formerly of Holding Absence, is a noteworthy presence among them, as is Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard, not in the band himself but serving as a considerable patron, and whose label Loosegroove the band are signed to (as well as Venn Records for some extra leverage). None of that really speaks to the music though, something which hasn’t been completely omitted from the buzz around this debut EP, but perhaps hasn’t been given the weight it should. Then again, it’s hard to parse out what would really be adequate, seeing as this is yet another collection of roughened, bashed-out garage-rock that makes the two-piece dynamic feel very telling. Had this been released in the mid-2010s, it wouldn’t have felt a hair out of place, given the extent that Queens Of The Stone Age are in the background, and Royal Blood are much closer to the lens. To be fair, James And The Cold Gun aren’t bad at what they’re doing in that lane; keeping the bass more prominent is certainly a good thing to flesh out what can be a notoriously shallow sound, and that tends to lend a more frenetic, punky pulse to Around The Bend or It’s Mutual. In terms of the power-duo set, False Start averages out to be a cut above most, largely through the instrumental detail that comes through. You get the sense that the duo aren’t hung up on an erroneous ‘less is more’ attitude that’ll kill a lot of releases like this in the crib; the changes aren’t major, but the dual guitars and more fierce drums are good to have. But that’s more a bump up for a style that could do with a full-on reinvention though, where James And The Cold Gun aren’t necessarily painting themselves into a corner, but rather limiting what they can pull off in future. There’s the built-in crackle of energy that’ll probably go down better live, and not much else, in all honestly. The writing is more serviceable that standout; the production, while clearly in the hands of experienced individuals, isn’t anything to write home about; it’s just a deeply okay slice of rock music that can afford to be a lot more. And there’s only so much flexibility the ‘it’s a debut, there’s room to grow’ argument can offer; that’s definitely a factor, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s hard to see how that could play out. It’d be great to be proven wrong, as James And The Cold Gun clearly have talent, but only time will tell how true that’ll be.
For fans of: Queens Of The Stone Age, Royal Blood, Death From Above 1979
‘False Start’ by James And The Cold Gun is released on 29th April on Venn Records / Stonegroove Records.
C O N T R O L
It’s not surprising that Guerrilla Warfare bear some similarities to Fever 333, but as the oft-expanding remit of 333 Wreckords Crew’s signings have shown, they still stand as their own thing. They’re more rap-metal than rapcore, though that’s hardly a delineation with much discrepancy between it, especially when Guerrilla Warfare are just as similarly incendiary and vital. Well, perhaps not quite to the same degree, when the vocals on C O N T R O L being mixed so far back can distract a bit, but otherwise, there’s plenty to really get behind here. There’s a great sense of creative flexibility on display, such as how the title track so deftly nails its switch-ups between low-end nu-metal and a creeping trap rumble, all wrapped in a heft that’s still direct and forceful. Apparently this is part of a two-part concept piece about the human psyche and how that feeds into society, though it still totally holds up as its own thing divorced from that. That’s mostly thanks to how Guerrilla Warfare’s presentation is so forward-thinking and how the ideas it encompasses are interesting enough on their own merits; it might end on somewhat of a cliffhanger note, but that’s also attached to How to Breathe in Space, possibly the most layered and expansive note that the EP has to offer. On the flip side, there’s plenty of aggression to SmaLL hiLLz and MuLLigaN to serve as pure bangers in their own right, aided by a production that captures a tension and edge that’s very indicative of nu-metal’s original shining lights. Even in some vocal performances with a striking resemblance to Fred Durst in their overall tone and inflections, there’s no danger of falling into the cornier or more parodic side of rap-metal; Guerrilla Warfare are totally in control of where they’re going, and there’s never a moment where that’s brought into question. It certainly plants them among one of the more exciting up-and-comers within metal, a band with a clear vision of where they’re going and a concise way to eventuate a standout presence within it. With a bit more material and additional traction beneath them, expect to be hearing a fair amount more about Guerrilla Warfare before long.
For fans of: Fever 333, Stray From The Path, Dropout Kings
‘C O N T R O L’ by Guerrilla Warfare is released on 22nd April on 333 Wreckords Crew.
Look What We Have Done
From the ashes of The Spook School rises Squiggles, the new project from drummer Niall McCamley that’s carrying their particular torch in rather similar stead. The homespun indie-punk sound remains, now with a slight bedroom-pop scale-down to inhabit an even more insular space, though it’s the pervading ethos that’s perhaps most relevant. The feeling of togetherness and place in a community that made The Spook School so beloved in their circles has been carried over, with McCamley’s noticeably untrained vocals offering up a lot of charm that goes a long way in just four tracks. This does appear to be little more than a sampler to test the waters of where a project like this can go, but it’s likable enough already, particularly when McCamley can lean into a sticky earworm like on We Only Came Here For Your Hearts. Beyond that, there’s nothing about this EP that’s showy or flashy, undoubtedly by design but perhaps succumbing to the typical bedroom-pop lulls because of it. It definitely needs to be said, though, that Squiggles is a much more attractive prospect from the off; the hope and sparkle it emanates is a welcome change from being asphalted over by irony and dejection, even down to a brisker, jauntier pace that does leave its positive mark. The indie-punk spirit is very much still the dominant factor, which presents its own hurdles in terms of identifiability, but McCamley freewheels across his output in a way that makes it difficult to dwell on. It’s just nice to hear music this wilfully exempt of all cynicism once in a while, looking to push forward as bright-eyed and hopeful as possible, and Look What We Have Done provides a quick fix of just that in earnest.
For fans of: The Spook School, Martha, Fresh
‘Look What We Have Done’ by Squiggles is released on 22nd April on Alcopop! Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall