rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Nuge Snight
02. Battery Not Included
03. The World, The Flesh, The Devil
04. Bite My Face (feat. Corey Taylor)
05. Slo Bread (feat. Bun B)
06. Protect My Bitch Pt.2
07. …Speak Of The Devil
08. Skinhead (feat. Saul Williams)
09. Lower Than Scum
10. Devil At The Crossroads
11. Limits (feat. Jasiah)
12. Dead Or Asleep?

It starts with a burst of excoriating, abstract noise. As much as they have been hyped and praised by all kinds of notable people, HO99O9 are clearly not in the business of compromising to make their music more appealing. The first of 12 bewildering but utterly mesmerizing slabs of mutant sonic terrorism, "Nuge Snight" is a massive jolting dose of sound that seems to incorporate noise, hip-hop, industrial and unhinged electronica into one streamlined but eminently unpredictable whole. "Battery Not Included" is even better, as jagged thrash riffs collide with punishing, robot beats and the duo's psychotic vocal attack. Midway through, a bittersweet, soulful melody emerges from the storm, before morphing into a hateful chug-fest that ends as abruptly as it began. Again, HO99O9 do not sound particularly interested in writing hits, and this is so exciting and against the grain that it sells itself.

"The World, The Flesh, The Devil" is evil, stressed-out trap-core, with dysmorphic voices skimming across thudding, dubbed-out beats, culminating in a bug-eyed, punk rock climax. "Bite My Face", featuring a demented cameo from Corey Taylor, is what happens when electro goes straight to hell, its rolling pulse and metal-through-the-mincer onslaught bringing the noise and the funk. Everything sounds more focused and streamlined than on the band's 2017 debut, "United States Of Horror", but this is an arguably nastier and heavier record than its predecessor. Even the most overtly hip-hop moment on the record, "Slo Bread" (featuring UGK legend Bun B),is texturally dirty as hell and woozy and menacing as a result. Meanwhile, when HO99O9 really lose their minds on the scattershot twitch-up of "Protect My Bitch Pt. 2", we are so far away from any notion of mainstream music that it's hard not to rise and applaud.

Not that "Skin" has no accessible moments. "…Speak Of The Devil" is as distorted and ugly as anything else here, but it's glacial gait and spooky synths bring a certain restrained melancholy to the table. Likewise, "Devil At The Crossroads" is a shuffling, electro-rock detour with one foot firmly on the dance floor. But in every other respect, this is a profoundly fucked up and fiery record. From "Skinhead", with its glitchy hybrid of punk, rap, sludge and spoken word from polymath poet Saul Williams, to the closing "Dead Or Asleep?" , which switches from filthy trap beats and noirish paranoia to vicious, flailing alt-metal freakout, this is the real antidote to all that polished and sterile, faux-alternative crap that people get so excited about. Audacious and heroically noisy from start to finish, "Skin" will hurt your ears.

Author: Dom Lawson
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