You can judge most rap albums by the name of the artist and the title they have given their record. Triple Darkness implies three dark souls, in this case Nasheron, Cyrus Malachi and Melanin 9. A trio of hardcore rappers from London with styles reminiscent of the Wu-Tang Clan. Fair enough, but what on earth is an "Anathema"? There are numerous definitions of the word, but the one that sums this album up better than any is: "a person or thing accursed or consigned to damnation or destruction". Being British myself, I spend my life complaining, but Triple Darkness demonstrate an educated ferocity unlike any other British rap group. The vocabulary is varied, the delivery is passionate and the British accent is as accessible as it gets. Peep Cyrus Malachi on the evocative "Anathema":
"Let's rebuild the wisdom like pyramids
It's the H-town militant; I'll knock you out like barbiturates
My ink is vivid, flows like aqua ducts causing you to schism
cause you to sober up and get your fuckin' dome crushed like Kola nuts
Bio-rhythmic hieroglyphics, I'm slingin' writtens like dubs
In awe of visions sent from above…"
Wholly produced by Chemo and Beat Butcha, two of the UK's finest beat maestros, there is a haunting atmosphere throughout "Anathema" that suitably portrays the grim, rain-sodden streets of London. "Machinations" continues the theme of bleakness with Nasheron and Cyrus Malachi trading rhymes over a morbid piano-led Chemo production. If the Prime Minister needed to hear what needs fixing in the UK, he just needs to play this record because gun control, homelessness, drug abuse, racial profiling, it's all here. That's nothing new for a hip hop crew to talk about, but the refreshing way in which the MCs encourage listeners to read and better themselves so that they can use knowledge to overcome hardship hasn't really been met with such a powerful presence since Immortal Technique burst on to the scene. Cyrus Malachi in particular, impresses on each track with his booming, thick Hackney accent. Nasheron is the weakest link of the three, with an offbeat delivery that sometimes feels like he is using long words to sound smart. Melanin 9 (who recently released his Magna Carta LP) is the most rounded MC with an effortless flow that combines insightful story-telling with pure assonant lyricism. "Politikin'" is a cypher-like collaboration with a ridiculous Chemo beat you could imagine Havoc and Prodigy spitting over. Melanin' 9 steals the show on this one:
"Since an adolescent concepted
Was blessed in the flesh to speak in depth, elect a ripple effect
So many niggaz claim that they rep to the death
Can never lean your problems on them same heads that rep
Collect debts, nothing less, steps ahead of the rest
Many chose death and respect, the essence is blessed…"
Just before another depressing beat takes the album into monotonous territory, an absolute neck-breaker is unleashed on "Heresy". Kyza Smirnoff, who later teamed up with Triple Darkness to form Orphans of Cush, tears the beat to shreds but it's the scratched hook that stands out most. "Snakes And Ladders" is the closest thing to catchy, although Nasheron is outshone again by Cyrus who GOES IN:
"The ghetto thug Moses
Stand juxtapose with the dopest, who could have known this?
Possess the soul of messiah, something higher
Drop jewels like the Oppenheimers, a powerful writer
Like Benjamin Zephaniah, conspire with metaphors each line I form
Is like a razor sharp knife to your spinal cord"
It's no surprise Mr Malachi can now be heard alongside the likes of Ill Bill and Ruste Juxx. "Pyramid Wars" contains a filthy beat where each MC opts to get vexed but overall doesn't really say much. Melanin' 9 shows his talent by not resorting to threats and comes across just as imposing with his descriptions of day to day life. The second half of the album is produced by Beat Butcha, and "Guerilla Penmanship" is about as upbeat as a hardcore hip hop track gets on "Anathema", which features Terrafirma member Skriblah. Nasheron surprises me with a verse almost Ghostface-like in its confusing yet somehow beautiful choice of words:
"Both beast and men, ruling restless
Hidden networks of criminals, the world's most villainous
Herd cylinders, war tactics similar to religious militants
On some Guerilla shit, out in Basra
Strike the shepherd and sheep shall scatter
Forged signatures on legal documents reveal the many faces of the sons of K'naan
It's miasmatic, like the drum beat that looped the pattern
The unknown source, extra terror astral in origin…"
"Gods of the New Millennium" could have appeared on Mobb Deep's "The Infamous" or "Hell On Earth" and not just because it sounds similar in style. It's a damn fine beat that follows the theme of the album to a tee, with a terror-filled string sample straight out of one of Dario Argento's finest horror flicks. "Thousand Cut Torture" takes the horror metaphor to Clive Barker levels of darkness, as Nasheron delivers his finest verse, but even then doesn't topple the mighty Cyrus Malachi:
"You don't want no arms like Hans Blix
Watch me clamp this, like lockjaw
Smack you so hard you take flight and soar
Like a condor, crack ya jaw when you hit the floor
I am the purest form, like coka leaves
Implode your dome with my dope poetry
Don't give a fuck what you're holdin' B
Bring skills to the battle, or get slaughtered like cattle
I'll stomp you out in the gravel, make your ribs rattle
Like crackheads, exact bloodshed on my foes
E-fifth rider, you best know
These are some icy roads, where there is bare hate contained like a xenophobe"
There are plenty of similes and metaphors being thrown about on "Anathema", which rather than trying to be clever (like most MCs use them for) they are used to good effect as descriptive methods, complimenting the intense deliveries. "Vagina Monologues" is a track designed to celebrate the ladies, but ultimately sounds out of place following the previous ten tracks of apocalyptic gloom. "Leviathan" is another disappointing effort, with a Beat Butcha production that sounds uninspired despite the energetic efforts of Blind Alphabetz. The track lacks focus and comes off as a poor version of a Canibus track on "Rip The Jacker". Thankfully the album ends on a better note with "Children of the Matrix" which utilises a sombre violin sample lifted straight out of a Japanese RPG. Lyrically, each member brings it, and guest emcee Blasphemy sounds like the lost fourth member. "Anathema" is London's answer to CNN's "The War Report" or the aforementioned "Hell On Earth" by Mobb Deep, a hellish soundtrack to the life of a city-block dweller. The rhymes may be harder to decipher because of the diverse vocabulary on display, but there is nothing wrong with learning a new word here or there. Unfortunately the last few tracks disappoint and the album may have been stronger without Nasheron, so while it is no rap classic, "Anathema" is a very strong piece of British hip hop that deserves a wider audience.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10
Originally posted: January 22nd, 2013