Review Summary: Interesting, but not completely interesting. Hacktivist's debut EP shows potential and promise among other things but also a lot to be desired from a project this ambitious.
It’s fair to say that I don’t quite understand why “djent” receives so much scrutiny, I mean it’s got the things most metal fans are suckers for, grooves and quick finger dexterity. For those of you that don’t already know “djent” is (supposedly) a subgenre of metal. The word "djent" is onomatopoeia for the distinctive high gain, distorted palm-muted guitar sound employed by Meshuggah, coined by their lead guitarist, Fredrik Thordendal. Typically, the word is used to refer to music that makes use of this sound, to the sound itself, or to the scene that revolves around it. I happen to love Meshuggah, and I also do like Periphery and Tesseract a fair bit. Regarding the second genre at work here, Rap is among my guilty pleasures for the most part but I do love a good ghetto 808 with some lethargic, under-the-influence rapping about Ferrari’s and supermodels from time to time. Now, faithful reader, I want you to somehow, someway, COMBINE these two genres. C’mon, use your imagination; I know you can do it. When one listens to Hacktivist’s debut self-titled EP, they hear musicians do exactly what I just asked you all to do; combine both said genres.
Now, it is one thing to combine these seemingly unrelated genres of rap and supposed subgenre “djent”, but some studio magic will have to be performed in order to get this right. The person spitting the rhymes will have to be proficient at what they do to rap over the polyrhythm-laden grooves commonly implemented in the “djent” style. This release from Hacktivist for its big genre-fusing gamble is surprisingly cohesive and has its moments. The only problem is, these moments are few and far between.
Continuing on, regarding the pros of the album, the production is pretty clean, the band knows how to play their instruments and the emcee can certainly spit, but does it mesh well? Not really. The combination of said pretentious genre and also said pretentious genre creates (gasp) a completely pretentious sounding genre. I do like some Brit’ emcees but here he just sounds kind of obtuse. Nothing against Enter Shikari but I can’t stand their vocalist and this guy sounds EXACTLY like the guy from Enter Shikari. Plus, in the song “Hacktivist”, when the emcee delivers the line “I think that you bit off more than you can chew”, it sounds more like “I think that yaaou bet uff moor thaan yaaou can CHOOO”. Nothing against people of British descent, but they don’t exactly have a rap friendly accent in my honest opinion. They don’t sound as tough as their American contemporaries and their flow is somewhat choppy from what I’ve heard. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard some functionally good British rappers but of that there aren’t many and they’re definitely not here. This shortcoming in the vocal department only leaves me wondering, what if a certain big name, gruff Dirty South rapper did something “djenty”? (Seriously kidding, Rick Ross over djent would be terrible most likely).
Furthermore, the “djent” genre has its common flaw of redundancy and sadly, this brings this promising debut down further but not enough to be awful (thank god). Though it’s the same song over and over again in the instrumental department, the band does have a knack for writing some groovy riffs. I found myself banging my head and pumping my fist almost subconsciously, but it’s not like any other “djent” band couldn’t do that. There are little stylistic differences in the songs as well as some nicely executed motifs but they’re all for not as the release tends to sound generally rehashed from front to back.
In conclusion, Hacktivist’s EP shows an ambitious attempt at genre fusion but the concept ends up being utterly, brutally average. Lyrics have a general lack of maturity which can be fixed with more releases and also songwriting tends to have that recycled feel about it, which can also be fixed with more studio time. Though it is somewhat eye opening, it is also very average. I can't help but admire the band for trying; it does show promise if not much else. Who knows, this material is very jam-able so give it a whirl. Don't expect anything monumental though.