You have to hand it to Jedi Mind Tricks’ frontman, Vinnie Paz, that even in the post-indie hip-hop apocalypse aftermath, he is still able to organize the various members of Army Of The Pharaohs every year or so to bang out a full-length album. And that is pretty much what they do, as In Death Reborn is a relentless, beat-you-over-the-head, stab-you-with-a-box-cutter, no-nonsense lyrically driven, hardcore hip-hop album, from top to bottom.
There’s not much room for highly conceptual songs, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, simpler radio/club friendly tracks, on In Death Reborn. What you’re getting here is roughly 15 emcees in friendly competition, roasting rugged beats with a series of scorching battle rap verses. At the head is Vinnie Paz, who ups the lyrical ante himself, spitting bilingual verses in English and Spanish / Italian, on songs like “See You In Hell”, or raps with breathless precision on “God Particle”.
With the bar raised this high, everyone is bringing their best to the table, but who really steals the spotlight is Apathy, who delivers jaw-dropping verses with fluid cadence all over the album. “Broken Safety” finds Ap adjusting his voice and delivery to the darkness of the track, while both “Luxor Temple” and “Visual Camouflage” are also standout moments. Everyone is on their A-game here, but Ap’s rhymes are worth the price of admission alone.
With many familiar faces, at times this feels like a Demigodz album, as many of the members intersect with both crews. And that’s not a bad thing, it really just boils down to that this is Vinnie’s brand, and Demigodz is Ap and Celph’s. Kind of like how Wolverine is both an X-Men and an Avenger, if you will.
The only downside of In Death Reborn is that with a team deeper than the original Wu-Tang Clan, many casual fans will not recognize some of the less popular members. The core of the team keeps the album feeling cohesive, however. Secondly, the record does get a bit monotonous in some places, as the songs trade traditional 3-verse-and-a-hook song structure for unconventional five or six verse tracks. While the production can be overbearing at times, thankfully they know when to pull back, on pared down beats like “Luxor Temple” and “Sumerians”, which really stand out.
All in all, ATOP’s delivered another solid record with In Death Reborn. Despite a long list of names that make up the crew, rarely do you feel lost among unknown voices, because everyone is bringing their best to the table. This is a lyric-heads’ album through-and-through, so if you’re looking for dumbed down hooks or soft radio records, go somewhere else. Otherwise, this one will make you wish you still had a rewind button.
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