Album: Represent – EP
There are many ways we represent our surroundings—accents, dialect, fashion—you get the picture. However, accents can be learned, dialects can change with the formation of new slang terms and the resignation of old ones, and fashion is more and more becoming global as opposed to communal. However, music is one indicator of locale that stays relatively true to form. Fair enough—many northern metalcore bands found themselves adopting a distinctly southern twang during the late 2000’s, but that aside, many bands’ sound is an apt representation of who they are and where they’re from—which is where Kriminals come into play with their sophomore EP, Represent. This west coast quartet hail from the sunny beaches and blistering deserts of California, and if you can’t tell by the time you finish the album’s first song, you need to get your hearing checked. Influenced by every style of music the region has to offer—from bouncy hip-hop to hectic heavy hardcore—Kriminals provide an unfiltered experience that is distinctly themselves, as Represent doesn’t subject itself to trends or bandwagons—just brash, bold aggression.
Represent is a dynamic amalgamation of “old school” West Coast Hip-Hop and dissonant, devastating hardcore and metal. Guillermo Rodriguez defines this with his diverse and catchy drumming. Capable of hammering out steady, solid patterns that allow for fast-paced half-rapped segments or groovy, skull-busting breakdowns, Rodriguez hits home on hardcore anthems like “Kry Wolf” and “One For the Homies,” while still incorporating rap-influenced segments abundant on the band’s debut EP on songs like “Laced Up.” Working hand-in-hand with slinking, sludgy bass, Rodriguez crafts a crushing low end for guitarists Walid Gad and Justin Molina to work from. Gad especially—who is no stranger to playing in metal and hardcore acts—along with Medina give Represent a great deal of its immense diversity. While the duo rarely show off any form of technicality, they work together excellently to create catchy and groovy songs that allow excellent interplay between the band’s hip-hop and hardcore halves. Some tracks—particularly the rap interlude “GTA” see a strictly-synthetic component to the band’s instrumentation; this highlights the fullest extent of Kriminals’ rap influence, while also giving the listener a reprieve from Gad and Molina’s groove-laden onslaught, as “One for the Homies” especially beats the listener into submission.
Where Kriminals’ musicianship favors groovy nu-metalcore and gritty hardcore, the band’s vocal dynamic is a much more diverse example of their sprawling influences. Frontman Michael McCormick finds ways to add slurry, trap and hip-hop swagger into just about every track. Whether it’s the way his harsh mid-range roars drop into lightning-like spitting on “Open Your Mind Before You Open Your Mouth,” or the entirely rapped “GTA,” McCormick doesn’t bother hiding his proclivity for verbal acrobatics and vocal prowess. While his better tracks are those like “Kry Wolf” and “One for the Homies” where he works well with Gad and Molina’s groovy guitar playing, “GTA” is still a solid venture, even if fans who came for Kriminals’ more crushing and aggressive play on metalcore might end up skipping it entirely.
Where Kriminals’ debut felt gimmicky and a little bit forced, Represent flows like a more natural showcase of who the band really is. “Laced Up” and “One for the Homies” sees the quartet scaling back the over-the-top and occasionally cringey rapping that plagued their previous record, while “GTA” indulges the inner hip-hop fanatic that resides inside many heavy music lovers. The only weakness in Kriminals’ sophomore record stems from the relative lack of material. Boasting seven tracks on paper, two of the songs are essentially samples or instrumental (in the case of “The Whip”) with both being under a minute. Then there’s “GTA” which is lengthier but doesn’t involve the entire band—once more, leaving those who prefer the band’s metalcore musicianship out in the cold. This leaves four full songs: not bad for an EP, but still disappointing to those who were anticipating seven full tracks of scathing nu-metalcore fury. Even in light of this, Represent remains a solid outing, a refined and matured take on the band’s debut EP—seeing them move from “guilty pleasure” to just a pleasure.
For Fans Of: Emmure, These Streets, Hacktivist, Genocide District
By: Connor Welsh