- Boomslang, Attack the Vampire
(Self-released, CD, digital download)
Anyone who knows them will tell you this: Montpelier hip-hop duo Boomslang are great guys. It's no secret they've got a reputation across the state for being supportive, professional and a blast to work with. Vermont Public Radio even ran a feature on them recently, highlighting the fact that they do profanity-free sets. Indeed, you won't find a single cuss word on Boomslang's latest LP, Attack the Vampire.
Based on that press, then, you could be forgiven for assuming the duo's music would be Walt Disney soft. You'd be wrong, though. The Boomslang aesthetic is as hardcore as it gets: a crushing wall of sound propelling a high-energy, high-volume motormouth as he destroys the microphone. This music is not an invitation to party — it's more of an order.
As on Boomslang's eponymous debut album, it ain't hard to tell that the material here has been honed at live shows. This is, first and foremost, a two-man demolition unit, dedicated to hip-hop as performance. Where their first LP captured that raw vibe, this time around they've worked with SkySplitterInk, whose careful mixing and mastering propel the sound to new heights.
The 10 tracks here reveal a lot of growth. Attack the Vampire is packed with experiments. But perhaps the most remarkable is Boomslang's incorporation of guest artists for the first time.
The album leads with "On and On." The track is a collaboration of Boomslang and the Precepts, the latter a melodic Burlington rap project featuring rhymes from Learic (the Aztext, Cultural Chemistry) and music from Jer Coons and Eric Maier (Madaila, Future Fields). It's a single-worthy start — and a high point that's matched by "Xmas in Vegas," on which Boomslang's Sed One trades bars with Maiden Voyage over catchy funk loops.
Sed One has a serious set of batteries. The insistent energy of tracks such as "Anybody Listening," "Acetylene" and album closer "Razors" makes it crystal clear he's been carrying shows solo for a long time now. His style cleaves toward an earnest '80s revivalism: straightforward and strong. While that approach fell flat a few times on the duo's first LP, it never stops working this time around.
Boomslang's production style is still fun, inventive stuff. The gravitational center of the album is producer JL's tasteful, thumping drum sequencing, which lays a foundation for layers ranging from spaghetti Western soundtracks to glam metal to house music. Boomslang stay true to the omnivorous roots of hip-hop throughout the album, and it never once sounds forced.
Attack the Vampire is the work of a creative team hitting its peak. Boomslang remain as playful and eclectic as ever, but their sound is more honed. Both Sed One's flow and JL's production are more restrained and mature. Between this newfound focus and the outstanding mixing work, this could be the album that launches Boomslang out of Montpelier and into an unsuspecting hip-hop universe.
Boomslang host an album release party at Sweet Melissa's in Montpelier on Friday, October 27, with Maiden Voyage and Champagne Dynasty. Attack the Vampire is available at boomslangvt.bandcamp.com.