Thursday, May 06, 2010

That Ninja's Crazy

Believe it or not, I still have two album reviews on my plate from last year! Yes, friends, in my infinite slackitude I find myself quickly approaching mid-2010 with more than a little important business of old still in need of attention. Thankfully, with the Scrub Club re-release of Krondor Krew's 2009 EMPulse Records banger The 6th Rotation of the House of the Chaos Star, I can elegantly work in a long overdue critique whilst still remaining topical.

Go me.

Explaining the Krew to the uninitiated is a bit of a daunting task. How does one properly describe a nerdcore clique with undeniable heavy metal roots that's stage show encompasses oversized weaponry and full-on kung-fu aerobics? In truth, you can't.

Thankfully, The 6th Rotation ably illuminates the band's overall aesthetic.

Kicking off with the vaguely Schwarzeneggerian (and oddly Zen) battle anthem "Terminated," a jam that adds some heavily aggressive energy to familiar musical backing, the duo sets the stage with its transmutation of anger into creativity, a theme that is prevalent throughout the bulk of the album. This simmering fury colors follow-up "Baby Drama," a well conceived if occasionally lyrically simplistic tribute to troubled relationships, that then gives way to fantastical dungeon-crawler "Adventure," which somehow manages to marry D&D and g-funk in a manner that it both convincing and enjoyable.

From there, Shinobi Onibocho and Masurao slow things down with the introspective and philosophically challenging "Still Day," which fully employs the delicately sung chorus structure only hinted at to this point. "Threshold," however, is a literal cry for blood that, when contrasted with "Still Day," helps to define the odd musical mixture of violence and serenity exemplified across the breadth of the release. In fact, the brilliant transition between these two disparate examples is so striking that I also have to pause to compliment HT, EMPulse's producer-in-residence who helped mold the sound of the release.

"Juice" pays an obvious debt to the band's metal heritage (as well as their penchant for partying) and is a musical standout even when the lyrics go for low-hanging fruit. Similarly, "Darkness" doesn't exactly boast the band's best rhymes, but it still manages to be musically satisfying. "In the Pants" is an ogre war-chant that unceremoniously transforms itself into a little nerdcore lovefest, and, after a rather comical lead-in, "Not Like You" cuts up Portishead's "Sour Times" to great effect, easily proving itself to be a solid highlight.

The 6th Rotation begins its final descent with the driving drum track and growled, rapid-fire delivery of the eerie "Death Trap" and the dangerous ninja rhymes of "Sneaking," which boasts a beautifully complex chorus structure. "Talisman Attack" brings the funk back (coupled with some combat-ready sound effects) before ultimate closer "Ninja Masters" restates the band's musical mission statement with a distinct eastern flair.

At 13 tracks, The 6th Rotation of the House of the Chaos Star delivers the goods without overstaying its welcome. More importantly, it showcases the duo's most enjoyable joints to date while at the same time capturing just enough of the frenetic energy inherent in their live performance. (Which is, if I may be so bold as to state the obvious, where the guys shine.)

It's easy to write off a group like Krondor Krew, with their keikogi and oversized swords, as a novelty act. Still, while there is an obvious, functional, self-aware gimmickry to their over-the-top stage personae, the truth is that Sninobi and Masu have a genuine passion for music. The 6th Rotation is a tangible statement to that, and, while it may or may not silence haters, it serves as the perfect introduction to their unique style for new fans. 

Thanks to the Scrub Club re-release, the album is now freely available, so go give it a listen. It should easily suit all ninja rap needs. And then some.
"Thing will never be the same / My only constant is change / The life you had is rearranged."

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