By Kris Wernowsky
By Chaz Kangas
By Joseph Hess
By Julie Seabaugh
By Mike Appelstein
By Rachel Brodsky
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
After Def Jux Records released Cannibal Ox's The Cold Vein last year, hip-hop heads dying for a new direction in the art form began clamoring for more stuff that mixes ambient noise with East Coast rhymin'. RJD2 has stepped in nicely, but all hail the real kings of warm, noise-drenched, powerful hip-hop: Dälek. This Newark, New Jersey, outfit has singlehandedly rejuvenated all the jaded indie-rock Public Enemy—lovin' mofos by creating an album that makes you turn up the bass and slide down into your car seat while lamenting the attack on Abner Louima. Simply put, this is an amazing album of hard-hitting beats and brain-buzzing lyrics, with an emotion that crescendoes higher with every song. Dare we compare Dälek to PM Dawn? Maybe, if we call it PM Dusk at Armageddon.
The first cut, "Spiritual Healing," dives into what sounds like the repeated scream of a mechanical eagle as it's beaten with a bat. The lyrics are mostly abstract yet provocative: Who you pray to, my god/The black god?/Who you pray to, my god/The brown god?/Who you pray to, my god/The white god? The second cut is equally strong, with a slow tension that climaxes with the group's lyricist and namesake, Dälek, saying, "Yo, I'm askin', what happened?" over and over. The refrained question is delivered with such pleading earnestness, the result is compelling enough to bring tears -- not that you know the hell he's talking about, but goddamn, sniff, why did it have to happen?
As for the musical backdrop, group members Oktopus and Still create an industrial auditory assault infused with tinkly piano, 4AD-reminiscent ambient dreamscapes and sounds that mimic a hunk of steel meeting a rotary saw -- and don't forget the old-school drum breaks. Aww yeah.
Like Anticon or the Anti-Pop Consortium, when Dälek first began making music the group had a hard time finding a niche in hip-hop. But like those other groups, it didn't much care, either. East Coast independent label Matador released one of its 12-inches, and From Filthy Tongue of Gods and Griotsis out on Ipecac. Dälek has said that the original intent of hip-hop was much more punk-rock than all the pop music it has become, anyway. If that's true, then this album is this year's Never Mind the Bollocks.