Review Summary: House Of Pain errs too much in attempting to restore their reputation as hardcore rap artists here, resulting in simply too much filler and not enough genuine highlights.
“Jump Around… Jump up, jump up & get down”. In 1992, House Of Pain’s first ever single as a group became a world wide smash hit with massive crossover appeal. On the trio’s follow-up, ‘Same As It Ever Was’, it appears as if the group have intentionally gone out of their way to restore their reputation as hardcore rap artists. Of course, the resultant effect is that there is very little that can be considered “mainstream” about this release at all.
House Of Pain waste no time laying down this foundation as on opener ‘Back From The Dead’, lead vocalist Everlast sounds as if he has been on an endless diet of razor-blades! His voice is so deep and raspy that it is almost maniacally scary. Furthermore, part-time collaborator DJ Muggs infuses the cut with a bass loop that adds an even darker vibe.
It is not just Muggs that has made the discovery though as DJ Lethal also appears to have discovered that a bass loop can assist in the genre. In the instance of ‘I’m A Swing It’ though, it provides a genuine hook. Meanwhile, Danny Boy’s vocal contribution allows this cut to be one of the more accessible on the album. If a call had to be made on that front however, the honor would have to go to lead single ‘On Point’. This song’s more conventional chorus allows it to be both immediate and memorable, while Danny Boy once more plays a key role as he counter-balances Everlast’s distinct rapping style. It still confounds how Danny Boy only appears on 4 songs here!
Unfortunately, there are serious concerns regarding depth on ‘Same As It Ever Was’, as evidenced by the choice of the 2nd and 3rd singles. Both ‘Who’s The Man’ and ‘Word Is Bond’ display mixed results and are only passable at best. The attempt to infuse a lighter vibe on the latter only partially works, while the inclusion of a cameo by Diamond D also does not add a great deal. Otherwise, the album strays into the same trap as two years earlier with it being overlong (49 minutes) and containing way too much filler.
Another concern is that the songwriting has taken a dip since the trio’s debut. Musically speaking, it is probably on par with the self-titled release as the beats are just as strong and the aforementioned addition of greater bass at least adds an atmosphere to the album. However, for the most part, the lyrics significantly regress, with very little standing out as either clever or memorable. When that was arguably one of the strong points on this album’s predecessor, it means that there is a rather big hole to fill.
Where House Of Pain attempt to make up for that is with a greater emphasis on storytelling. This is especially the case on the latter half of the album with ‘It Ain’t A Crime’, ‘Where I’m From’ and ‘Who’s The Man’ all relying on that trait as their main selling point. Unfortunately, only ‘Where I’m From’ stands out in this sense, as it successfully conveys the message of not forgetting your past, amongst a suitably lighter vibe and catchy recitable chorus. The cut also comes together well musically with both bass and horns effectively working together to provide further depth.
Everlast’s distinctive voice always meant that House Of Pain would provide the hip-hop genre with something just a little different from the norm. Unfortunately, on ‘Same As It Ever Was’, there simply is not enough behind the individual songs to carry the album through to be anything more than passable. Furthermore, House Of Pain errs too much in adjusting their balance to appeal to a more hardcore audience here, resulting in simply too much filler and not enough genuine highlights.
Recommended Tracks: On Point, Where I’m From & I’m A Swing It.