Ghostemane - Anti-Icon Review

Label: Blackmage

Release Date: 21st October 2020

Rating: 9/10

"Latest studio album Anti-Icon is a sonic landscape straight from a nightmare. It's jarring, dark, and full to the brim with dread and mystique."

Anti-Icon artwork.

The SoundCloud rap scene has produced a multitude of rising stars since its surge in popularity and arguably, Ghostemane is at the forefront of this. Shrouded in equal parts mystery and charisma, the Florida born rapper has had quite the release schedule in the five years he has been making music. This now spans nine studio albums, plus a multitude of other releases that include multiple mixtapes, EPs and compilations on a list that’s as long as the eye can see.

Latest studio album Anti-Icon is a sonic landscape straight from a nightmare. It's jarring, dark, and full to the brim with dread and mystique. To some, this release will be hard to digest on account of how experimental it is, but those that take time to really invest themselves in the music will walk away with one of the best releases of the year under their belts.

‘Intro.Destitute’ is the first track, beginning with a pulsing electronic beat that feels oppressive from the onset. This claustrophobia continues for well over a minute: when it finally does end a breakdown straight from a hardcore band like Knocked Loose breaks the silence. ‘Vagabond’ is up next: a personal highlight, the track lasts for less than two minutes but has everything from the trademark rapping to roaring guitars to trap beats, plus a plethora of other influences such as nu-metal and industrial. Lyrically, the track is heavy, detailing the loss of his father: "It all started when you / Left me for dead, now I've been a wreck / And momma told me daddy ain't gonna be back." Most of the themes present on Anti-Icon are emotionally bleak. Discussing loss, suicide, drug addiction, and depression, this LP certainly isn't for the faint-hearted.

A multitude of genres are hinted at on the next four tracks. ‘Lazaretto’ has a hardcore stomp filled with gutturals, growls and shouts which doesn’t allow the listener to lock into one single groove as it jumps between a number of musical genres. Synthesisers glitch and crack over a massive breakdown at the end; ‘Sacrilege’ opens with a Nine Inch Nails inspired synth line straight into another high pitched rap section from Ghostemane. The mostly instrumental ‘Winds Of Change’ provides a reprise for a minute or two despite being one of the darkest pieces from the album.

The chorus on ‘Hydrocholoride’ is simple and haunting, Ghostemane repeatedly screams "I don’t love you anymore", borrowing vocal inspiration from NIN’s Trent Reznor. Near the end of Manson-inspired ‘Anti-Social Masochistic Rage [ASMR]’, a choking sample is introduced: the spluttering and coughing are unnerving, and it doesn’t get any more comfortable with repeated listens. Penultimate track ‘Calamity’ is the most jarring of the thirteen songs on Anti-Icon. Halfway through, an almost peaceful bass guitar slips to the forefront before an ear-splitting scream disrupts the quietness.

Anti-Icon does not fall into the category of anywhere near an easy listen: the album is a frenzied collection of songs that does its best to disturb the listener in varied ways. Its frenzied, disturbing and awe-inspiring all at the same time and keeps demanding more from each listen. The listener is whiplashed from genre to genre throughout the thirty six-minute run time, but it all comes together as naturally and seamlessly as possible. For fans of rap, heavy metal and just general strangeness, Anti-Icon is a must-listen.

Words by John Canham.

23rd October 2020.

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