Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Hacktivist - Hacktivist (EP) (2012)

When the name Hacktivist made it's way across the tubes of the internet and into our path, there was a solid minute of silence, followed by a collective "seriously?" After all, how is it possible that in the year 2012, a band is still trying to forge the bond between hip hop and metal? Somewhere in the past, a much younger version of me is giddy with delight. But what we couldn't have predicted is the difference between the rap rock days of yore, and the new wave of artists. It may seem out of place in the modern map of all things metal, but with this self titled EP from the UK five piece with a penchant for industrial riffs and heavy beats, it all seems so familiar.

With the aptly titled "New Age" leading off, it takes less than twenty seconds to assert what you are about to experience on the album. Each crushing kick drum beat blows you back from your seat. There is no DJ scratching in earshot, but a multitude of percussion and slamming riffs. With roots in the melodic djent category, only the syncopated vocal style separates this from the plethora of like minded bands. But after that short bursting intro, the jump to "Unlike Us" gives you a lot to think about. Packed into a three minute frame, the track is anchored by a slapping bass line and flurries of double kicks and massive chugging guitars. While the merger of rap and metal seems to work well at times, there are moments tangled in this track where the vocals don't echo the intensity of the backing band. Fortunately, the multidimensional instrumental that lays behind is rich enough to carry the weight. It isn't all just fills and rolls; there are atmospheric elements int he guitars to tie it all together.

With an increasing track length on "Blades," the formula becomes slightly harder to balance. An infusion of clean signing vocals over those same tricky guitars is refreshing, but quickly negated by a Linkin Park-esque bait and switch. And while all is far from lost, the notion that harmony and rhymes can coexist is stretched to the breaking point. The track that follows, which shares it's name with both the band and the album, is truly a blast from the audio past. And it is here that things start to unravel. With a dash of Korn mixed throughout, the resulting three minutes of hybrid styles feels more like a recycled mess than a fresh take on an old style. By the time you have come to the finale, the nearly six minute "Cold Shoulders," you are left wondering which band you are going to get. With a more aggressive opening riff, flanked by a bit of accented flow, you get what might be the strongest offering yet. But the staggering lack of lateral movement is far from flattering. An ethereal bridge section does wonders for the mix, but it all comes too little, too late. The outro instrumental shows more promise, but ends before things get fully baked.

What was old, becomes new again. It is a fact of life.Nothing in the music world ever really goes away, it just lays dormant until someone chooses to wake the sleeping beast. It happened with disco, and it is now happening with hip hop. For all of the albums flaws, Hacktivist do, in fact, have a fairly well conceived concept on their hands. The guitars lay down a fairly consistent foundation for everything going on, something that was always lacking in the first wave of nu-metal bands. With a strong instrumental already signed, sealed, and delivered, it is only a matter of time before vocalists J Hurley and Ben Marvin find their voice, and bring balance to the force. I'm sure that the timing of all of this is a sign of the apocalypse. But not even Nostradamus could have predicted this one.


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