Review Summary: A crack team of 90s icons assembles to create a modern rap metal. The results may surprise you.
I think we can now officially call 2017 the year of the rap metal revival. After several strong releases already this year (and Prophets of Rage just around the corner), Sen Dog of Cypress Hill has teamed up with members of Biohazard, downset., Fear Factory and Worst to unleash Powerflo’s self-titled debut album into the world. And boy is it a stormer.
Opening up somewhat like a classic Body Count tune, complete with heavy thrash influence and use of samples, Powerflo gets off to a flying start with “My M.O.”. Chugging riffs from Biohazard’s Billy Graziadei and downset.’s Roy Lozano, amidst air tight production create a perfect platform for Sen Dog to take the spotlight and contribute to the song’s huge crossover appeal. The band makes good use of electronics to add atmosphere to build hype and slow things down throughout the album, allowing brief moments for the listener to take a breather and collect themselves before flying full throttle into the next track.
While the album is primarily oriented towards a very groove/thrash driven sound, some songs such as “Where I Stay” have a strong hip-hop influence which wouldn’t be too out of place on a turn-of-the-century Cypress Hill album, with guitars turned up a notch. Album highlight “Crushing That” is full of hardcore punk riffs and an irresistible energy that sets it apart from the rest of the album, leaning more on Graziadei’s Biohazard days and even showing a different side to Sen Dog’s rapping style, showing a more restrained delivery in the verses while the aggressive flow is reserved for the chorus. With such a diverse cast making up Powerflo, it’s good that each of the band members’ own styles are given room to shine at different points on the album, from the more hip-hop oriented “Where I Stay”, “Crushing That”’s punk vibe, the pummelling aggression of “Victim of Circumstance”, and various industrial flourishes that are apparent throughout. This combination of influences helps to create a style of rap metal that hasn’t really been tapped into before, and it’s refreshing to hear that the genre still has avenues that it can explore and expand into even in 2017.
The problem with having a varied album, inevitably, is that some tracks will be somewhat hit and miss. While some tracks are sure to make Powerflo establish themselves in the 2017 metal scene, some tracks such as “Resistance” and “Less Than A Human” feel somewhat forgettable and lacking the "X" factor that makes the other songs just work, with a rather weak end to the album compared to the fantastic first half. References to modern pop culture and technology, such as the shoutout to social media platforms like Instagram in “The Grind”, are also doomed to become dated in a few years’ time as well. Inconsistency is something that has to be expected in a first effort from a band with such a wide range of influences, though, and while some tracks do miss their mark somewhat, it’s not that their necessarily bad, but they just can’t live up to the standard that the album’s highlights set.
Overall, you have to give Powerflo kudos for delivering such a fresh take on rap metal. They’ve combined their influences well and created a diverse album which, despite some forgettable moments, is pleasantly consistent when there were concerns that the mixed backgrounds of the musicians might create a huge muddle of styles that fail to mesh. With the band indicating that this is more than just a one-off project, it’ll be interesting to see how Powerflo can perfect their style on their next effort.