Army Of The Pharaohs
Ritual Of Battle


3.5
great

Review

by Lewis P. STAFF
January 13th, 2008 | 46 replies | 41,965 views


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Horror theatric-drenched supergroup release one of the year's finest old school ventures.

There’s something to be said for that old adage, “Go big, or go home.” It not only packs a wallop to a person’s self-esteem, but some artists just thrive on it; it is their quirk, their call to arms to bring everything they possibly can to the table: I am here, I am loud, so take fucking notice. Within rap, there are quite a few names that live by this rule, and 2007 saw almost no shortage of them. There was Kanye’s venture into pop (not to mention his media-whoring dispute with 50 Cent), Pharaohe Monch’s sexually charged politics, and RZA’s assertion that we do, indeed, need the Wu-Tang Clan (and we’re still waiting). But what would ultimately grab the year and throttle it would not be in grand musical styling (though the year’s best, Monch’s Desire, hardly lacked on this front) but in shock value (though, well, Desire had this, too). And I don’t mean Timbaland’s limp release (which lacked both shock and value), but the theatrics that rap artists have employed for years and what 8 Diagrams seemed poised to bring to the table (it is, after all, what we need), and what Ritual of Battle ultimately stacks in spades. Oh, how we love our dramatics.

As a supergroup, Army of the Pharaohs houses a wide array of eclectic performers, all jumping full force into the horror film theatrics that pad out the one-hour-plus running time. The group consists of 13 performers-- Ritual of Battle only takes advantage of 12 of them (Apathy was busy recording elsewhere)-- though it’s a credit to the strong cohesion of the record that they each get a moment to shine. After the opening sets up the appropriate them of Ritual of Battle (“I shall demonstrate the might”; “The pharaoh said that I should obey his voice!”), Chief Kamachi commandeers the opening verse, cracking the song’s back over the one-two step of its percussion and twinkling chimes. The true standout moments, though, come from the quick and eloquent transition between each progressive rapper during a song. In album highlight “Dump the Clip,” the language defined sample and Egyptian tonal shifts creating a memorable melody, Celph Titled’s low baritone effortlessly picks up where Esoteric’s youthful, flitting performance leaves off. In the slapdash rips and loops on “Strike Back,” backed by a bouncing piano, Demoz deconstructs Planetary’s verse, stepping over the off-kilter cabaret feel of the classic piano, while Vinnie Paz (of Jedi Mind Tricks fame) lends his croaky voice to dismantle the final verse. As a successful whole, Ritual of Battle showcases a number of talents on display, each adding their own style without overshadowing the other.

Lyrically, Ritual of Battle has no problem glorifying the brutality that would send the likes of Bill O’Reilly into frenzy. On the sonic score of Blue Steel, reminiscent of an ‘80s horror film score, Vinnie Paz raps, “I’ll aim the shotty at your body/shoot it through your chest/Then I’ll take a second to remind you of your gruesome death,” promising us that “[he] ain't fuckin' around,” and he is indeed “like a dude possessed.” Much of the album plays out like this, like some thoughtful and gritty throwback to classic of horror flicks, with references to films like Halloween and even Black Christmas (here lovingly attached as a song title and given a modern, gang-related spin). With “Black Christmas,” Demoz begs for a gun and bullets for Christmas, the harrowing and sinister piano sporadically slicing the boom bap as the song lumbers towards its five-minute mark. Many songs rely on this formula of horror scores, the album’s latter half especially drenched in it. “Through Blood by Thunder” is one of the more memorable exercises as a string-laden track, with the devilish sneer and Hitchcockian flair. First single “Bloody Tears”’s melody is lifted from the legendary Castlevania series, with the gun shot spattered “D and D” close behind with a Halloween core, creating thick tension within the thunderous drumbeats and crass vocal performance by Des Devious. The one-two punch of “Drama Theme” and “Pages in Blood” create the most atmospheric duo on Ritual of Battle, the former sticking eight of the rappers into its solemn martyr-obsessed organ track, and the latter treating its electronics like a funhouse carnival straight out of a Rob Zombie flick.

Though it’s hard to tell if Ritual of Battle could have been more successful than it already is had it been cut down to a more accessible length (it’s tough to labor through the first few sittings), it’s still impressive that these guys can stay consistent, even when the album stutters under the weight. With an impressive onslaught of producers (Esoteric proves quite adept behind the scenes, turning in three of the album’s strongest tracks; “Murda Murda” is an impressive collision of lyrical flow and bass-thumping beats), Ritual of Battle is technically sound, an album that has no problem berating the listeners without consoling them with hooks. It helps to bring the horror elements to Ritual of Battle to life, a fact not wasted on the group who walk a tightrope between shock value and disgusting over-the-top storytelling.

Then again, it only strengthens the notion of war and warriors that finds the guys charging the epic horns in album centerpiece “Frontline.” In no way are these guys going to skimp on the dirty details, a fact that could carry this group into a heavily debated, cult-like status. And for a bunch of guys devoted to the horror genre full of go-big-or-go-home, cult-like phenomenon, I’m sure they wouldn’t have it any other way.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
plane
Staff Reviewer
January 13th 2008



6093 Comments


I was stuck on the fence between a 3.5 and a 4 since it is sort of too long and gets grating occasionally, but just listening to it all day and reviewing it, I decided to just go for it since it has become one of my favorite rap albums from last year.

SynGates
January 13th 2008



2467 Comments


Demons and Gargoyles, Lions and Wizzards. We're leavin 'em hard boiled, and fryin' their gizzards.
Great review. Bloody Tears has to be my favorite from this.

Thor
January 13th 2008



10183 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Celph Titled is the fucking man.

Mikesn
Emeritus
January 13th 2008



3709 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

just got this, i'll give it a listen soon

good review This Message Edited On 01.13.08

Thor
January 13th 2008



10183 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'll be the first person to say this here. Battle Cry is the best AOTP song.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
January 13th 2008



17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Such a good album.

ohcleverhansyou
January 13th 2008



885 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This CD is very awesome. Celph Titled impressed me much.

UrbanM11
January 14th 2008



117 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i'm glad someone finally reviewed this album. great cd

Capricious
January 14th 2008



58 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Laundromat thug passion? Strike Back is ace. Seems overrated but good.

plane
Staff Reviewer
January 14th 2008



6093 Comments


I got the debut last night and it's as good or better. Might write up for that too soon-ish. I'm still iffy on this rating but meh I don't really care, it's great.

SynGates
January 14th 2008



2467 Comments


yeah I couldnt believe it wasnt added yet

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
January 14th 2008



16083 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

okay so I think Jedi Mind Tricks rules as much as the next guy, but wow overhype.

plane
Staff Reviewer
January 14th 2008



6093 Comments


yeah man a 4 hype

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
January 14th 2008



16083 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

It wasnt the 4
it was the constant THIS RULES

plane
Staff Reviewer
January 14th 2008



6093 Comments


well i mean i agree sort of. this is more like a 3.5 but i was really positive going into the review and i just like it a lot so it's a low 4 or someat

Iluvatar
Staff Reviewer
January 14th 2008



16083 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I think a lot of the members are kind of lame, and there is too much filler.
Some good songs though.

Killed4less
January 14th 2008



328 Comments


Jedi Mind Tricks is great so I guess I'd probably like this, I'll have to check it out.

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
January 14th 2008



17920 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

haha iluvatar you are so bad

BallsToTheWall
January 14th 2008



44164 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Seven and Bloody Tear's badass. Concept alone seemed worth checking out.

Zebra
Moderator
January 14th 2008



2647 Comments


great review



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