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King Cannibal - Let the Night Roar

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Artist: King Cannibal

Album: Let the Night Roar

Label: Ninja Tune

Review date: Sep. 29, 2009

There’s a certain exhilaration to the best grime rhythms that, mixed with the right atmosphere, serves as a statement of purpose. On the one hand, there’s an artist like Distance, whose beats are sharp but skeletal, drenched in a minimalist noir attitude that holds the listener at a (ahem) distance. The music doesn’t engage, though that’s part of its charm. On the flip-side lie Milanese or Vex’d, whose rhythms are heavy, but seemingly intent on embodying domination, almost setting themselves up in opposition to the listener: "Can you take it?" Again, that can still produce great results.

The most effective, though, are those songs that feel like an invitation to come along and do some damage together, a call to arms in many ways much like protest music. It’s fitting that it’s the combination of industrial sonics and dancehall rhythms, then, that make some of the songs on Let the Night Roar so exhilarating. Like an attack on the sci-fi present, Dylan Richards, a.k.a. King Cannibal, hits with an extremely strong debut LP.

Smartly sequenced, the strongest cuts bookend the album. After a brief introductory snippet, "Aragami Style" smolders for a deceptive 30 seconds before it comes in with growling bass synths and beautifully dark, heavy beats. Despite a couple of eerie, droning breaks, it doesn’t let up or chicken out. The closer, "Flower of Flesh and Blood", lays down fast, complex percussion over a heavy, slapping rhythm and low-end synths that push constantly forward.

Most of the tracks are instrumentals, but thankfully those that aren’t don’t make the common mistake of sacrificing the music for the sake of the MC. "Virgo", featuring Face-A-Face, is the most traditional dancehall song, with frenetic chanting over clip-clopping beats and thick electronic blasts. On "Dirt," things get really fierce as Daddy Freddy’s shouting nearly explodes amidst bass synth bursts and skittering percussion.

Oddly, the single "So... Embrace the Minimum" is perhaps the least distinctive of the album’s songs. While nicely done, it’s clearly of a lighter weight, classic down-tempo dubstep. It’s perfectly fine, and may appeal to a wider audience, but it lacks the depth and the driving energy that imbues most of Night’s songs with their power. Even those that emphasize the atmosphere more than the rhythm usually don’t hold back, whether it be the occasional vocal sample or chilled factory-floor ambience.

With this debut album, Richards has indeed dropped a call to arms. Let the Night Roar bursts with highly-charged songs that rank up there with The Bug’s London Zoo as some of the best industrial dub on offer.

By Mason Jones

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