Review Summary: An infectious album with drive, creativity, and strong lyricism.
For an 18-song, 66 minute debut record, BackWordz sure does a good job of keeping your attention. It has some occasional awkward or grating moments, but it offers a fresh contribution to the scene. The album starts off with a solid trifecta of songs. “Pop It Off” is basically what you would expect from an intro to a metalcore/hip hop album. It flows well into “Individualism,” a song with a strong coherent message. The lyrics are strong, and there is also an engaging short spoken bridge between the final verses. The final lead single for the album, “Self-Ownership,” presents an extremely clear message with specific topics and amazing flow. This song really helps to highlight the diversity of the band’s musical tastes by offering verses that are quite different within the song. Fronz’s cameo in the second verse is a net gain, but it felt like more of a name-drop than an organic inclusion. His lines were significantly weaker than Eric’s, and his screaming pitch will leave some listeners dissatisfied. His inclusion highlights that the back-and-forth in verse two could have worked with almost anyone.
“Demon Rat” is an interesting song, but the pre-chorus leaves a lot to be desired. Eric July does a lot of stuff well, but he is not a strong singer. His raps and screams are top-notch, but his half-sung pre-chorus drags the song down a bit. The breakdown reads like a speech from Malcolm X or Thomas Sowell, and it’s one of the more explicit condemnations that BackWordz offers on this album. The next song, “Statism,” was released over a year ago. The remastered version is solid, with a nice contribution from Craig Mabbitt. The other older single on the album, the remastered “Utopias Don’t Exist” fits well on the record, but it’s been around for so long, it seems silly to discuss it in this review.
On “You Are You” the listener can really feel July’s annoyance at racial expectations as he expresses “no matter what my ancestry was, I was never a slave.” It’s not their strongest work, but it is nice to see Alex contribute to the verses instead of being constrained to the chorus. “Tell Me” serves as the first break from metalcore, but it is no soft track. Eric July really shines as an emcee on these verses. And unlike in “Demon Rat”, July’s refrains fit well as semi-sung choruses. It’s a treat for people that have followed his raps, and it serves as an appetizer for his separate rap ep. “Be Great” is a top-notch “get psyched” song, with intense hardcore verses and chorus, a brilliant Nas-like storytelling rap, and an uplifting bridge.
“Praxeology” possibly the weakest song on Veracity - more of a lecture than a song. July’s verses are strong, but some lines feel very forced. The lyrics amongst the breakdowns are essentially quotes from an Austrian Economics textbook. “The Professional Protester” delves into the debate over gang violence and the awkwardly named "black-on-black” crime. Sonically, it is infectious. Lyrically, it’s guaranteed to offend. But that is one of BackWordz' best qualities. They are not afraid to speak up on any issue they deem relevant. “Addict” is a nice break from the heavy material of most of the album. It takes place over an engaging beat, but Eric doesn’t ever noticeably show up. It is the only song on the album that features only singing. No raps, no screams. It was a bold move, but it lands pretty well.
“Democracy Sucks” features a neat balance between Alex, Eric, and their featured artist, Lauren Babic. Eric’s flow is strong as hell in the verses, and his lines fit perfectly with the pacing of the song. Babic’s contribution is a nice addition, and it frees up Alex, the primary singer to test out a new range. “Let Me Live” is the fastest song on the album. The drive of the drums and guitar fuels Eric and Alex’s intensity. Eric freely flows between raps and screams, which adds to the dynamism of the song. The gang vocals are a nice touch in the bridge. “Snap” is nearly all July. The screamed chorus plays well, much like in “Be Great.” Heavy and well-driven, “Statheist” has one of the best choruses of the album. Slowing down Alex’s lines makes the lyrics really play out and stick in the listener's mind. The first two verses aren’t July’s best work, but the third verse and breakdown make up for it pretty well.
The album comes to a strong close with “Set Us Free.” It wraps up the album with some softer material, and its the first time I really enjoyed Eric’s singing. The backing beat and violins accompany Alex’s chorus well, and the guitar at the outro helps to place a confident conclusion on the album. Overall, this album was a real win for independent releases and to the virtue of patience from both the artist and fans. It had some shortcomings - a few mixing issues, singing choices, lyrics that lecture - but it had far more positives than it had drawbacks.
Top songs: Self-Ownership, Set Us Free, Individualism, and Be Great.