Monday, October 31, 2011

Dracula A.D.

As any Hammer aficionado can tell you, Alucard is "Dracula" written backwards, the alias he uses when he returns in modern days - obvious, but still enough to defray suspicion from members of contemporary society who'd never suspect a centuries old vampire could in our modern times. The term comes up again and again in vampire lore, from anime to video games, and it always means the king of all vampires is not far behind. So, I'm just suggesting you might want to have a clove of garlic or two on hand before playing Alucard's debut album, Watch Them Fall.

Watch Them Fall dropped on Creative Juices in 2009. But many of you may've already been familiar with the album by then, as there was an earlier, "mixtape" version in 2008. Of course, it wasn't a real mixtape (or mixCD even), with a DJ expressing his artistry through blends, scratches, juggling, etc - it was one of those "we don't want to market it as a proper album" mixtapes all rappers put out these days, where they just cut out the 2 second gap between each song, stick it in a slimline case and declare it a mixtape so label politics, sample clearances, etc somehow won't apply. But I digress.

So, who is Alucard? Alucard is a Brooklyn MC who's been down with Creative Juices since the beginning, dropping guest verses or full-length songs to their compilations since the early 2000's. He also does most or all of their album covers, including, yes, this one. And Watch Them Fall isn't so much an all-new album, but a collection of his music from over the years, which could partially explain why the album's so uneven.

To be honest, he feels like a horrorcore MC who lacks the conviction to go full-fledged horrorcore, and instead hedges his bets by just acting thug whenever he's in danger of being ridiculed for breaking too far free of the generic rapper mold. So lots of horror references and samples, and lots of "I punch MCs in the face until I break my hands... I fuck your girl and let the rest of my boys molest her"-type lines. So he can wind up feeling like a budget Vinnie Paz (and let's face it, Vinnie Paz is already a budget Vinnie Paz). But also like Vinnie, he has some excellent, compelling production, so when Alucard gets it right, the combination can be a lot of fun. Plus, to be fair, Alucard's flow is a lot less clumsy than Paz's, and his rhyme schemes are more clever.

It's songs like "Hatchling" that make it all worth it. Producer Real 6 loops up the main theme to House By the Cemetery with a hook consisting of crazy quotes from the Werewolf TV series. And Alucard kicks a perfectly bugged out, creative rhyme:

"The metamorphosis mega-force exists
Complex transformation process
Fingers elongate, the song makes
Rivers split to form lakes
Inform hate, violence at high res
Creatures with hind legs
Develop inside eggs
With webbed toes and bat wings
That swoop down to the ground and catch things
Like grapplings
Swings back and forth with chains
From attached rings
And attack kings
Brooklyn-bound Stood on a cloud that floats five hundred feet above the ground
Lookin' down
Lick the MDA off the back of a slimy toad
And dread the windy road
Until the trail ends
Scorpion tail bends

You better have a strong stomach
When the storm cometh
My mouth opens and thousands of hornets'll swarm from it
Form current, leave patches
Heat rashes, deep gashes
I pull the arm from the shoulder until it detaches
And the bones snap like tree branches!"

So, it's a fun album. The lyrics are often engaging, and the production always is. There is one really annoying skit, that consists of a never ending George Carlin quote played over a beat for three minutes. But apart from that, it's good times, and there's plenty of good guest spots by Creative Juices regulars like IDe, Critical, UG (fittingly), Savage, Jise, etc.

So, the 2009 album is just the 2008 mixCD without the endings of all the songs clipped? No, actually not. The 2009 album adds five new songs, which is cool. But the album has 22 songs, and the mixCD had 23. Which means the mixCD has seven songs not on the final version - both versions have unique content. Now, I bet you're thinking, "if only there were a detailed breakdown of the differences between the two versions available online somewhere, so I knew which one was preferable." Man, what're you new to this blog? Sit down and read. ;)

Exclusive to the mixCD:

Oh No - This is a fun, upbeat freestyle produced by IDe. Nothing spectacular, I can see why it was considered expendable, but it's nice to have.

What They Gone Say, featuring L.I.F.E. Long - The beat by IDe is kind of head nodder, but apart from that, this one's kinda boring, complaining about the typical underground rap gripes (what plays on the radio, NY police, etc). Not sorry to see this one go.

Full Of Hate -Another one produced by IDe, the lyrics and instrumental really fit the theme, so I was surprised to see this one go, but some of the rhymes are a bit corny ("church I never go, heterosexual dressed in black from head to toe. Fuck, I let 'em know so fast.")

Octane, featuring IDe, L.I.F.E. Long & Sav Killz - This is an okay posse cut, produced by Alucard himself; but nothing better. It's been replaced by a much better posse cut.

Altitude, featuring Savage Messiah - The track by Ide is cool, but they're trying a more playful delivery that comes off as a cheesy attempt to follow some bad trend, and the lyrics are lame ("I fuck a broad without the bra like Ron Jeremy"). A good choice to remove.

Order Of the Dragon, featuring Deep, IDe, L.I.F.E. Long & Relz - This is a better posse cut, produced by Felony (I don't know who he is, really, but he's done a couple other tracks for CJM). I was sorry to see this one go.

Daisy Cutters - I liked this one, too. Dope beat (by Benefit), good flow. Should've kept this one, I think.

Exclusive to the proper album:

Haunted Cathedrals, featuring IDe - I really like this track, with some tight scratches by DJ Bonus1 on the hook. This really has the more polished, finished song quality that something like "Oh No" lacks; so the change makes perfect sense. Good addition.

Voice Of Reason - The beat, by 2 Hungry Bros, is perfect for this project, and Alucard comes harder than usual. It's kind of short, but adds a lot.

Hatchling - This is the one I singled out above as one of the stand-out songs. This being an exclusive makes a big difference.

Loose Screw - CJM regular DJ Connect provides a perfect beat for one of Alucard's best vocal performances. Clearly influenced by UG, but I'm happy with that.

Cyclone, featuring IDe - The upbeat, old school organ track provided by somebody named White Shadow is fitting, but lyrically it's disappointing, at times even downright stupid ("music's postal. I ship priority, tracking preferred. A hierarchy of words, binary codes. We're all bare beanth our clothes"). Could've done without this one, frankly.

Boom, featuring Critical, IDe, Jise & UG - This is the much better posse cut I mentioned earlier. And of course, you have to get UG on an album like this if you can!

So, final tally? The final album is predictably better. Ideally, I would've swapped around a few different songs and made some different choices ("Cyclone" out, "Order Of the Dragons" in), but it's clearly the more consistent of the two. So I'd say just get the 2009 edition - it's not worth getting both unless you're seriously Alucard's #1 fan - if you want something appropriate for the Halloween season.

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