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United States of Horror [Blister] *
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Performer Notes
  • Personnel: TheOGM (sound effects).
  • Audio Mixers: Francis Caste; Clovis Xiv.
  • Every musical generation always has its share of saccharine and inoffensive artists to cater to chart enthusiasts -- just what you need to experience the full weight of their opposites, and there's no better example of the latter than the New Jersey-bred/Los Angeles-based alternative hip-hop outfit Ho99o9. Having established a presence on the alternative scene since 2012, the duo have earned fans due to the no-holds-barred ferocity channeled throughout their lyrics and beats, and their sinister wall of sound. Their raucous, punk-infused, middle-finger-to-fascism hip-hop delivered over a number of mixtapes has earned them comparisons to the legendary Black Flag and revered California hip-hop group Death Grips, and their touring alongside titans of originality Dillinger Escape Plan has allowed concertgoers on both sides of the Atlantic to experience the sheer scale of their bonkers live act as well. Here (with collaborative input and production credits from TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek and Santigold drummer Ian Longwell), the duo give us their first album, the aptly titled United States of Horror. It's fast, relentless, bold, and fierce. Songs such as "Face Tatt" and "Bleed War" play out with their walloping electro-kick drums, fuzzy basslines, and defiant lyrics, and are perfect examples of the macabre vigor packed into the album's 17 tracks. Not everything here strictly adheres to the primary electronic hip-hop sound, though: tightly wound snares and blastbeats rip through the mix in cuts such as "Street Power" (parts of which come off as akin to "Kick Out the Jams" by MC5, with occasional segues into sections adorned with sparse trap cymbals). The same can be said for the intro to "New Jersey Devil," the structure of which is brilliantly erratic as it switches between aggressive, palm-muted, sludgy distorted choruses and gloomy verses laden with nihilistic vocals and arpeggiated guitar chords. Elsewhere, the languid trap beats return to spit and sputter in "Splash" and "Hydrolics" (that ubiquitous trap beat amazingly comes off as anything but standard), and this is what Ho99o9 are good at: they clearly care about the auditory nature of their songs rather than simply aiming for a percussive frame to lay their vocals over. While howling defiance is packed into the chest-thudding chorus of "Knuckle Up," the closing track, a surefire highlight, is a quintessential protest song for times in which right-wing populism is on the rise in the Western world. This is nowhere better exemplified than in the song's bridge, where a few spoken word bars encourage the listener to stand up against racism, police brutality, and government oppression, bookended by huge choruses of fiery bass with wailing, siren-like synths swimming around the mix, effectively bringing the album to a perfectly explosive end. United States of Horror boasts a sleeker and more crystal-cut produced sound palette than Ho99o9's previous efforts; that's not to say that the guts, grit, and feral nature of those releases are absent -- they're very much here, breathing and festering from start to finish. ~ Rob Wacey
Professional Reviews
Clash (magazine) - "For the most part, Ho99o9 are way past just wanting to make their listeners uncomfortable - they want to rile them up and see them take action..."
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