Let’s start off by acknowledging that BLACKGOLD are not shaking the status quo by any means. Primarily, their rise to prominence has come as a need to fill a hole, namely through marginal updates to make a very clear-cut nu-metal and rap-metal sound a bit more contemporary. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with that. They’ve done well off the back of it, at any rate; their singles have been getting attention, and support slots with Limp Bizkit and Skindred—as well as a few high-profile festival appearances this summer—are putting them in front of the right audiences. All of that has come within their first year of existence, and a fairly fun debut EP that wore its colours in eye-searing fashion, but could pull it off more often than not.
But at the same time, BLACKGOLD are the sort of band for whom the propensity to crumble entirely is always waiting in the wings. They aren’t too creative or explorative in their lane, and it’s already a fairly dated one they’ve camped themselves in. Should the vigour or entertainment factor dissipate, that’s more or less it. So to bring a self-fulfilling prophecy full circle (albeit perhaps a bit prematurely), Volume 2 is a downgrade in almost every conceivable way. Not even a minor dip either; already, BLACKGOLD feel as though their entire stock of creative mojo has depleted, only two EPs in.
It goes to show how precarious their entire existence is, as they so closely ape an archaic brand of nu-metal down to its absolute bones, including its brutally short shelf life when the novelty runs out. Granted, it’s also just a demonstrably worse version of what they were doing before. It’s stodgy and plodding in a way that wants to pick up a slamming groove but never does. There might be some okay heft to the guitars and even the bass at times, but BLACKGOLD rarely do anything of note with it, nor do they feel as though they even want to. At least on Boogeyman, the seedier beats and samples contribute to an air of menace that’s something, regardless of how basic and cartoonish it can be. Compare that to Way Out, which tries to emulate the posturing of King 810—right down to the violent tendencies and gunplay—but can’t even reach that level, even when their ghoulish, grisly intentions have become vastly overplayed.
There’s a nature of unintended parody here that doesn’t help BLACKGOLD in the slightest. They clearly want to sound snarling and imposing, and cutting a figure of streetwise sneer that spiritual forbears like TRC could bring to the British scene. But they’re so shallow in doing that, and especially in their lyrics, so lame in what they’re presenting. Villain stands out the most in that regard, as vocalist Spookz tries to align himself with various fictional villains (including the Joker, of course), with the real challenge being not to cringe a little bit more with every hackney reference made. Freak is similar, playing to ‘outcast’ notions and stereotypes that have been worn down to nubs, and with barely anything of interest worth gravitating towards.
And the sad thing is that BLACKGOLD are clearly trying to sell this with all the conviction in the world, while also feeling so painfully unaware of how limited they are. Spookz definitely plays a large part in that, where his vocal sneer is more just a little miffed than outright threatening, hamstrung further by a rap flow as basic and lumpen as the music it’s paired with. The weaknesses are almost impossible to miss, particularly when BLACKGOLD lean into them as heavily as they do, and wind up even more difficult to take seriously because of it. Take On Another Level, for example—nu-metal fetishisation is nothing new, but hearing it thrown out in a ‘back in my day’ context feels like it’s taking the argument way too far, and lines like “Wish we could take you back / Back when music was rad” is just another boulder of salt rubbed into the wound.
It’s not like none of this is a blindsiding blow though. As originally stated, BLACKGOLD aren’t a band for whom the intentions of success came from big swings or vital new perspectives in music, and that’s primed for the briefest flash-in-the-pan that’s probably already come and gone. Maybe there’s an upswing to come, and maybe it’ll be fun live, but for now at least, Volume 2 feels more the expected baseline for this band going forward. A more hostile detractor might scoff at how their biggest alignment to Limp Bizkit pretty much sealed their fate, but at least Limp Bizkit were fun for more than a single EP! BLACKGOLD, meanwhile, seem to disintegrate under the slightest hint of pressure, and Volume 2 is the pile of rubble they’ve left to show for it.
For fans of: Limp Bizkit, King 810, Wargasm
‘Volume 2’ by BLACKGOLD is released on 5th May.
Words by Luke Nuttall