Review Summary: T/O/X/I/C
Toxicity can be looked at from multiple angles, especially when one accepts that no matter how hard we try there will always be a toxic part of ourselves. Within life, it’s the gentle balance between healthily suppressing the virulent and also expressing it in a non-harmful manner (for ourselves as well as those around us). What’s so intriguing to me within music is how an artist’s persona (not the artist themself) is able to fully embrace the toxic, creating music that doesn’t attempt to filter out the deepest, darkest shit one’s destructive version thinks of. When talking to other people about this concept I often use the Rick and Morty episode ‘Rest and Ricklaxation’ as an apt analogy, and for those who’ve managed to avoid the show thusfar, the plot circulates around the idea of completely separating oneself from their own “toxins”, leaving behind two separate personas that are undeniably connected to each other.
I feel as though I’m rambling, but my point is far from imprudent; Ghostemane is one of the few rappers that is completely in touch with the toxic version of himself. Throughout his career, he’s delved into occultism, demons, sexual impulses, death, etc. all in a strange yet unique medley of $uicideboy$ rap voices, black metal production, and outbursts of raw emotion. The exciting thing about N/O/I/S/E
is that he’s advertised the album as his hardest, darkest and loudest attempt yet. Without spoiling too much, the album definitely delivers in that aspect, yet what’s even more impressive for a long-time fan is the release’s ability to sound thematically constructed and complete. Although structurally the flow of the bangers-into-industrial experiments more than helps, it’s moreso his complete immersion into the venomous, spiteful side of Eric Whitney (notice the inclusion of his real name). I don’t want to speculate that in the past he’s held back, so to speak, but rather I’m trying to emphasize how the album sounds like someone truly in touch with the good and bad sides of themselves, consciously choosing to let the bad perform a chaotic tantrum for those who may see a part of themselves within the persona.
‘Nihil’ and it’s first line “I’ve been in a rut…
” is quick to expel this poison, accompanied by Ghostemane’s signature detached deep growl and a mosh-inducing stop-start bass pattern. Previous songs like ‘Rake’ have teased this fusion of harsh punk and turbulent trap, but within the first four tracks the contrast is extremely apparent. ‘Flesh’ features whispered space and metal-influenced breakdowns, yet the single’s centerpiece is a high-pitched rapped verse that is shot out with the mechanical ease of a machine gun. While these few tracks are easily some of his most hype songs, it’s the latter half that encapsulates the guttural, hellish feeling Ghostemane so naturally conveys. ‘Inside’ sounds like something off of The Downward Spiral
as it doesn’t fully return to the rap sound until the closing minute, instead opting for a thrashing buzz of synths and guitars while Ghostemane yells about recent bouts of depression and loss. The closing verse of this track mirrors this in a reflective, mature way, “Why y'all think I'm cool？ I don't like that / Rest in peace Gus, wanna bring you back / Don't tell me to collab with aesthetic trends / All these rappers got you fooled they ain't really friends
”. It’s a nod to a lost friend (Lil Peep) yet also a very self-aware diss towards the commodification of posthumous material and Ghostemane’s own resilience to participate in this side of rap. It’s admirable, especially considering the entire release was self-made and put out without a label. ‘Gatteka’ furthers this conscious separation from other rappers (“I just can’t relate…
”) and the closing two tracks explore how this isolation is affecting his own psyche (‘I think I was born in the wrong generation / nobody talks to me, nobody is relating
While the closer is nearly completely out of character for the rapper and N/O/I/S/E
, it’s a touchingly bitter way to cap things off. Featuring a simply plucked guitar, it’s a song about the parallel of longing for someone and the anxiety that comes with it, letting the blackness of these feelings literally translate into disturbing static noise that leaves one extremely uneasy. As a whole the album sounds like it was recorded in a murky cave; Ghostemane’s voice is often intimate and echoey as you can vividly hear his intense screams as well as his anxious breaths. Within this dark dwelling is a world constructed by the toxic waste he chooses to let go, filling the cavernous void with horrifying structures and figures that resemble his own pains. It’s successfully frightening and original in how it splatters influences and personal hardships across the damp walls. It’s where the toxic version of Eric Whitney lives, so pay him a visit at your own risk.