Remember when the Wu-Tang Clan ruled the world? Well they did in the late 90s, with "Wu-Tang Forever" being one of a few hip hop albums to reach the #1 spot in both the US and the UK. Just to put that in to perspective, Jay-Z has only just had "Magna Carta, Holy Grail" reach #1 in both the US and the UK after releasing THIRTEEN albums. Of course, with "Wu-Tang Forever" storming the charts worldwide, "Triumph" possessing a suitably ridiculous, blockbuster video and yellow Ws popping up on clothing everywhere, it was only natural that the record labels would give the fans as much Wu-Tang as possible.
In 2014, it feels like we entered 36,000 chambers given the endless releases from solo members, affiliates of solo members, affiliates of affiliates and solo members of affiliate groups milking the Wu brand as much as possible. In all fairness, Black Knights have been associated with the Wu-Tang Clan since 1998's compilation album "The Swarm" which helped launch numerous careers.
Rugged Monk and Crisis the Sharpshoota have never been the most noteworthy off-shoot members of the Wu-Tang family. This record isn't full of effortless charisma like classic Method Man, nor exemplary displays of flow and rhyme schemes a la Inspectah Deck, but it's solid enough hip hop with a hint of that trademark Wu-Tang sound. Production is handled throughout "Medieval Chambers" by John Frusciante, and there is an atmosphere that whilst unremarkable, at least provides an atmosphere. It's not the intense, medieval experience some of Killah Priest's records evoked, but there is death, depression and an essence of chaos in Frusciante's instrumentals that echoes the dull pain of being locked up in a dark prison. Songs like "Keys to the Chastity Belt" are barebones to the point of lacking any real melody, which sees the beat switch up more drastically than feels natural.
"Drawbridge" suffers a similar fate, jarring any sense of rhythm that, as the first song, should help ease the listener in. Frusciante's beats are decidedly lo-fi, allowing Rugged Monk and Crisis space to make themselves heard, but it is the more lively efforts ("The Joust", "Roundtable") that see Black Knights earn their stripes. Unfortunately for the majority of "Medieval Chambers", the Knights' armour doesn't just sound rusty, but ill-fitting. Monk and Sharpshoota are largely ordinary emcees with no real distinctive presence, and Frusciante's uncomfortable renditions of Atari game noises and crashing drums never really gets going. It's not completely redundant, but is another album loosely tied to the Wu-Tang Clan that you can live without.
Music Vibes: 3.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 3.5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 3.5 of 10
Originally posted: January 28th, 2014