Album: No Competition, Only Enemies
In the past three to five years, the worlds of metallic, chug-heavy hardcore and violent, aggressive hip-hop have been mingling. They haven’t exactly been merging, but rather, lending influence from one musical hemisphere to the other—producing groups as heavily rap-inspired as the UK’s Hactivist, or, more recently, Californian crushers, Kriminals. With their debut EP, No Competition, Only Enemies, these Bay Area brutalizers combine mid-90s and west coast hip-hop influences with low-down-and-dirty metalcore in a head-on collision that has few frills and even fewer breaks from the band’s boundless aggression—creating a fun and bouncy release that will serve as a stellar guilty pleasure for fans of even the most technical music.
Instrumentally, Kriminals provide the listener with bounce-friendly, bone-smashing breakdowns with little room for progressive elements or musical technicality. Aligning themselves with the likes of Emmure and Monsters, Kriminals are not a band who are attempting to win over the listener with awe-inspiring instrumentation or creative songwriting. They do breakdowns that are as bold as breaking-and-entering and are more aggressive than assa]\lt and battery; nothing more and nothing less. No Competition, Only Enemies is a sequence of punchy, intense moments of heaviness joined together by bouncy, fluid sections that serve as a sound backdrop and allow portions of Kriminals’ rap influence to shine through their metallic, thick and heavy haze. Percussionist Guillermo Rodriguez is (no pun intended) instrumental in this aspect of Kriminals’ dynamic. While his thick, meaty kick-drum is perfect for some of the EP’s heavier moments—like “Ego Trip” or the climactic breakdown to “Family Last”—his splashy cymbal work and piercing snare serve to work together with his quick and bouncy footwork to provide patterns that flow as smoothly as any top-40 hip-hop beat. “Sho You Right” is a great example—reminiscent of Emmure’s “Sunday Bacon,” it is quick and throbbing without being overbearing or out of place for the track’s otherwise minimalist introduction. However, Kriminals’ instrumental aspect is defined by more than Rodriguez’ rampage behind the kit: bassist Justin Medina and guitarist Walid Gad work in dialectic tandem to play up both the band’s metallic, hardcore side and their head-bobbin’ hip-hop facet. Medina is crucial to the latter—as his bouncy, writhing bass tone roars loud during Kriminals’ nu-esque sections where the band’s penchant for rapping reigns as king. “Thot You Were Different” is an ideal example, as the track focuses on the band’s ability to brutalize the listener all while keeping a fun and energetic vibe. Opposite to Medina’s bass work, Gad serves to bring focus to the band’s crushing breakdowns and ear-grabbing grooves. At the end of the day, Kriminals are a metalcore band, and Gad’s fretwork reflects that perfectly: riffs and technicality are few and far between, as more often than not, Gad can be found gorily disfiguring the listener with deep, destructive chugs.
Just as the band’s instrumentation is a no-holds-barred, straight-to-the-point metalcore experience, No Competition, Only Enemies is home to a bold and honest vocal approach that is polarizing to say the least. Vocalist Michael McCormick doesn’t have the genre’s greatest range, nor is he necessarily the most talented screamer “-core” music has ever witnessed—however, there could not be a better fit for Kriminals’ metalcore-and-rap mash-up. McCormick spends a majority of his time screaming with a raw, harsh and gritty shout—exemplified at the end of the band’s introduction and throughout the barn-burner “Family Last.” However, McCormick’s other style is one that makes clear the band’s penchant for gangsta rap and hip-hop; as McCormick strikes at the listener with smoothly slurred syllables and harshly belted one-liners like the ones heard throughout “Ego Trip” to complete Kriminals’ nu-metalcore dynamic. This is where McCormick’s vocals become divisive—those who liked Emmure better before Emmure’s Frankie decided he could rap will likely lose interest in No Competition, Only Enemies because of McCormick’s occasional foray into the world of spoken rhyme schemes and rapping. However, those who aren’t put off by the occasional bouncy backdrop and paragraph of punishing rhymes will find great amusement in moments like the build up to “Sho You Right”’s climactic breakdown. After all, while McCormick might not bring genre-defining talent to the table, he does bring enormous amounts of energy and practically limitless amounts of fun to any listener willing to immerse themselves in his unique combination of vocal styles.
When’s the last time you had real fun listening to an album or EP? If you hesitated even a second, then you owe yourself a listen to Kriminals’ debut EP. At the end of the day, Kriminals aren’t about wow-ing the listener with intense riffs or super-speed blast beats—nor are they a band hoping to win over the listener with beautiful singing or unbelievable range. What they bring to the table is energetic, intense fun, as No Competition, Only Enemies is an EP that will have the listener’s head banging and bass thumping from beginning to end. Short, heavy and to-the-point, every aspect of the band’s album has something for the listener to enjoy—from “Family Last”’s catchiness, “Ego Trip”’s intensity or the crunchy, visceral anger in “Sho You Right.” Kriminals are a fresh, fun four-piece—doubters and music snobs need not waste their time questioning the nuances of the band’s talent or merit.
For Fans Of: Emmure, Monsters, Hacktivist, Shemales From Outta Space of Death
By: Connor Welsh