Swollen Members – Monsters II review

Despite their ridiculous name, Swollen Members are one hip-hop trio that deserves to be taken seriously. Monsters II is nothing less than an audial feast; a mouth watering spread composed of a vast and copious array of unique individual flavors, that have been synergized into one surprisingly satisfying musical dish.

I know it’s difficult, but try to imagine Cypress Hill, over Tech N9ne style beats, mixed with a dash of Wednesday 13 style horror. Now envision that sound being spit from the mouths of two high energy Canadian rappers. Yeah, I know. Sounds fucking awful right?

Yet, somehow they make it work. A fifteen track whirlwind of monsters, darkness, and chemical weapons. Never boring, always unique, and on occasion completely sensational. Rob the Viking’s refreshingly original and complex beats elevate Mad Child and Prevail’s vocals to a level unmatched by many of the hip-hop mainstream’s most beloved superstars. The lyrical content, though often scattered and recurrently nonsensical, is relatively solid and complimentary to the overall mood of the record for the most part.

A few laughable lines crop up from time-to-time, raining flippancy and mawkishness down on the Canadian emcees lyrical parade (“I’m the Mad Child I make murderous material, wake up in the morning and I eat my cereal”).

Aside from occasional lazy lyrics (and apparent inability to come up with something relevant that rhymes with “material”), the high-points of Monsters II outnumber it’s low-points en masse. The popular opinion seems to be that “Trust” is the albums stand-out track, and quite predictably, I find myself at odds with my peers. Though “Trust” is an undeniably fantastic song, it’s during Monster’s markedly complex centerpiece “Heartland” that the Wünder-Trio of Canadian hip-hop illustrate what they’re truly capable of.

Arabic Flute soars like a flying carpet, over a stripped down beat composed of three acoustic guitar chords, supported by a kick drum bass hit, finger snaps, and the faint hiss of sundry cymbal rolls. The light-hearted and playful lyrics mixed with the quick, exotic rhythm provide a much needed shift away from the dark and haunting heaviness of the album’s first seven tracks.

There are, as per usual, some lesser tracks on Monsters II, that you will inevitably skip on a regular basis after the initial listen through. There are also a few mundane, middle-of-the-road tracks to slog through. Monsters II is by no means a perfect album. What makes the album worth spending your hard earned allowance on, are the tracks that Swollen Members hit square in the jaw. That tingle you get when listening to songs like “Heartland” and “Trust” for the first time… That’s what music is all about.

Swollen Members have created a unique, elaborate, and entertaining record, with no misconceptions about being anything other than what it is; a dark, horror-tinged, club-worthy hip-hop album, that never takes itself too seriously.

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