Release Date: 10th October 2018
Genre: Hip-Hop / Industrial / Hardcore
Over the course of 4 years, Los Angeles-based rapper Ghostemane has carved out a distinctive niche for himself, setting out to become an influential force in the underground hip-hop scene. Incorporating unique influences from the worlds of metal and electronic music, the man otherwise known as Eric Whitney has subtly pushed trap into darker, more extreme territory. Despite this, many readers will rightly question his place in alternative music, but if you dig a little deeper it will become clear that this latest effort N / O / I / S / E very much earns its place within the walls of heavy.
Up until this point, Ghostemane very clearly dealt in Three 6 Mafia and Raider Klan influenced Soundcloud rap with an emphasis on atmosphere and unusual subject matter. In interviews he has spoken highly of classic death/black metal and originally cut his teeth in various Florida hardcore acts, namely handling guitar duties in Nemesis (material from this period can still be found on Bandcamp). However, none of this points to the far more extreme musical direction this project has taken in 2018. ‘Intro.Desolation’ opens with a throbbing, oppressive electronic soundscape before haunting clean singing from the man himself floats spectrally into the mix. This gives way to ‘Nihil’, feeling more in the vein of the classic Ghostemane sound but with vastly improved, muscular production specifically designed to rattle the teeth out of your skull. First single ‘Flesh’ is equipped to light up both the moshpit and dancefloor with an irresistible bouncy groove, morphing into a slamming industrial section reminiscent of Youth Code in the second half. In terms of rapping, several different voices and characters are utilised over a wide variety of flows, flitting between screaming, semi-sung and hyperspeed technical delivery, leaving no hint as to which one will come next. This real sense of danger and unpredictability is what makes N / O / I / S / E such a fantastic and unique musical experience, displaying parallels with Code Orange’s game-changing Forever. This is showcased most prominently in ‘The Singularity’, a stomping industrial number with bone chilling melodic vocals, and secondly in ‘Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep’ an instrumental track sounding like it could comfortably belong on a Trentemøller or a recent Boards Of Canada album. Whitney’s hardcore past rears most noticeably in the penultimate cut ‘Black Blood’, driving rhythms and yelled delivery before the “YOU CAN KILL ME…BUT I’LL NEVER FUCKING DIE” moshcall descends into a monster sledgehammer beatdown.
N / O / I / S / E could possibly the most dramatic and impressive musical step-up by an underground artist in recent memory. The mystery surrounding the project has made Ghostemane a figure to keep an eye on with clear career growth, but none of that compares to the leap he has taken here. Not only in terms of creativity, but with songcraft, atmosphere and a strong all-encompassing concept, this record is captivating and undeniably memorable from start to finish with not a single dull moment. ‘Ballgag’ perhaps summarizes this release best, maintaining strong Memphis rap foundations with a dark hook before exploding into an industrial chorus that sounds like its been torn straight from Pretty Hate Machine era Nine Inch Nails. However, like many transitional albums, N / O / I / S / E is not without its faults. Symptomatic of artistic growing pains, some of the more experimental and genre-bending sections don’t always blend seamlessly into the majority of tracks. In the same way that Void attempted to blend metal and hardcore in the 80s, it often feels like each style is boxed into its own section within the song’s structure, rather than being mixed seamlessly into the whole. Many rock fans may also take issue with the horrorcore pastiche that permeates most of the record, but in reality this comes down more to personal preference rather than poor execution.
Overall N / O / I / S / E shines as a bridge between the world of alternative music and popular hip-hop, moulded with a sense of care, passion and understanding for both parties. At 29 mins it whips by, making it instantly more palatable for a generation of younger listeners with a drive to discover new, more abrasive sounds. As one of the world’s biggest and most influential musical hotbeds, the fact trap can incorporate ideas from both metal and electronic music and force them into the wider public conscious is incredibly exciting for alternative culture. Ghostemane has solidified himself as an artist to watch and only hints at the disparate places he could, no doubt will, push his sound into the future.
Recommended Track: ‘Ballgag’