Cypress Hill is one of the most talented and experimental rap/rock groups of all time, and Skull & Bones represents this fact very well. This is a two-disc album. Skull is the traditional yet matured Cypress Hill rap sound, and Bones is a new metal rap sound, which is unlike cliche metal rap, and delivers catchy heavy riffs and well-written lyrical patterns. I'll do this review in two halves and give two separate ratings and an overall rating.
Skull starts off with a short eerie intro, which leads to a catchy tune with some nice scratches and Cypress introducing them in a true hip-hop fashion, a nice start to the record. Most of the tracks from Skull are reminiscent of the group's second album Black Sunday, with fairly dark yet catch hip-hop generic tunes. ANOTHER VICTORY has a chimed melody with violins holding the rhythm well. B-real raps the whole track and some funny disses are thrown in for good old Cypress hill humour. "You piece of s**t, you don't know who you fu***n' with" is a good example. CUBAN NECKTIE is also an orchestral track similar to the material from Temples of Boom, yet it is quite an average filler track, as is what you want from me.
RAP SUPERSTAR is one of the singles from the album and one of the group's best efforts. Another chimed starry backing is used, and yet another orchestral rhythm. The lyrics tell us what it's like to survive in the limelight, and how every move has to be plotted. "I thought it was all fun and games, but the price of the fame is high". This is also one of the bands most successful tracks. CERTIFIED BOMB is another classic track. A funky staccato piano chord structure is used, and what sounds like a cello dubbed over the top. Its overall very catchy and backing lyrics keep the listener drawn in. Frequent "Bo Bo Bo, bab badadada" keep the bass flowing and the heavy rap feel continuous and steady. HIGHLIFE is another single from the album. It starts with a simple progression and a truly fantastic first lyric "I roll you up like my Rizla". Again the orchestral instruments are used to create a sombre feeling to the song. The lyrics tell us about kids growing up wanting the high-life, but misinterpreting and ending up at the bottom of the pile. Another classic.
This is one of the best hip-hop efforts from Cypress Hill. The mature sound is very welcoming and not too different as to scare devout fans away. Though it may be more mainstream than usual, it is still a more than solid effort. 3.5/5
Now for the rap-metal side of the album. The overall sound is one of the most unique I've heard, with excellent riffing and very heated lyrics used to create some very aggressive music indeed.
VALLEY OF CHROME is the opening track of what feels like a completely different release to Skull. References are made to the first album "How I can just kill a man" and the song starts with a moderate speed bass drums and distorted harmonics played for the melody. The chorus breaks intensely with a heavy and catchy riff with the words "You better never let them catch you alone, you might die in the Valley of Chrome!". GET OUT OF MY HEAD is the most genius lyrical structure I've ever known Cypress hill to use. The short emphasis on every syllable works very well with the creepy bassline. Again, the chorus breaks to the metal section. Another highlight.
Two tracks from bones I believe to be filler/generic rock songs. These are DUST and A MAN. These are still perfectly valid cuts for the album and deliver an enjoyable listen, but aren't as up to scratch as the awesomeness of CAN'T GET THE BEST OF ME and ROCK SUPERSTAR
The lack of experimentation with the guitars brings this disc down to a 4.5/5, but otherwise it's a stellar rap metal effort from the group.
The main highlights of the album are in fact the two singles from the Bones C.D. CAN'T GET THE BEST OF ME follows a specific rhythm using only only one chord for the verse. The lyrical duet in the chorus is somewhat spectacular, "You can't get the best of me! / You can't hole me down!" Each mc takes a verse and the song has a weird yet interesting break with a short palm muted lick repeated. The outro increases in volume and in vocal velocity, leading to a pounding cadence. This track is a true masterpiece.
ROCK SUPERSTAR is the metal instrumentation version of RAP SUPERSTAR. I prefer this version to the rap version, but that's just because I'm generally a metal fan. The beats are the same but the chorus uses a heavy distorted guitar instead of a mixer. Again this is a highlight of the album.
Overall, this is the most musically diverse and listenable Cypress Hill album to date. There is something here to satisfy most musical tastes, and the lyrics range through a wide array of emotions that many can relate to. Final rating --> 4/5.