Album Reviews

Swollen Members – Black Magic

(Battleaxe/TVT) UK release date: 29 January 2007


The Swollen Members website describes the trio’s fourth record as “their definitive album”, a strong claim indeed for a platinum selling act that represent Canada’s biggest contribution to hip hop.

Time will tell if they’re right, but after two years in the making Madchild, Prevail and Rob The Viking have returned to their characteristically dark, atmospheric rapping.

Their sound is full of pent-up aggression, threatening to break into out and out violence. That tends to be left to the guests, and they don’t come more blatant than Ghostface Killah, whose “cocaine is whiter than Colgate”, with a gun collection that’s “big in the Adolf section” – proof of leopards not changing their spots!

Thankfully such posturing is the exception rather than the rule, for the Members seem to be turning the lyrics in on themselves here. The record may have the usual plethora of guest appearances, but they tend tom be used to enhance the overall record rather than promote themselves shamelessly.

That’s especially true of Evidence of the Dilated Peoples, who guests on the maudlin Dark Clouds and the pent-up So Deadly, and Mr Vegas, who lifts the adventurous Dynamite into orbit with an unexpected cameo to go with its striking rhythms.

Most impressive of all is Rob The Viking’s production, with flighted piano arpeggios in Massacre, and an emotive piano solo to wrap up the coda to Prisoner of Doom, which could have been extended further. Blackout, too, makes an early, grim faced statement of intent that presses all the right buttons when heard on widescreen.

There’s a real chemistry between the group, so that when they rap in unison they speak from the same voice. The chorus to Pressure is a case in point, a strangely haunting song from its whistled intro to its chanted chorus. This more than any track on the album indicates the Swollen Members’ desire to take on America with its rock steady beat.

A mild irritant is the cutting up of the tracks on CD, so that intros get left on the end of the previous track. That aside this is a solid, assured album that’s clearly the product of experience, but manages to bring in some fresh ideas and talent on its way through.


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