What on earth's that noise? The Ox are back with a bang. Or should that be marauding stampede? Blade Of The Ronin, the long awaited second album from the revered underground duo Cannibal Ox brings a whole herd of guest spots from the likes of MF Doom, Wu-Tang’s U-God and Elzhi. Out on CD from ihiphop.
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- Blade of the Ronin by Cannibal Ox
8/10 Andy Staff review, 19 March 2015
Cannibal Ox - Remember them? Keeping fans waiting longer than the Stone Roses did for their 'Second Coming'. Vast Aire and Vordul Mega return with 'Blade of the Ronin' some 14 years after 'Cold Vein'. For their come-back they've roped in some heavy hitting friends, U-God of the Wu-Tang Clan featuring on 'Blade: The Art of Ox' for one. I'd like to say he lends a distinct 'Wu' vibe to the track, which he does, but as much of the album has the feel of vintage Wu, his appearance isn't particularly a stand out moment.
With a title mentioning the Ronin and other tracks with titles like 'The Power Cosmiq', 'Harlem Knights' and 'Sabertooth', you know you are going to get a dose of that mystic, epic, myth fuelled nonsense/wisdom that the Wu did so well. That said it does generally work. This is hip-hop at its underground best - whilst no all-time classic - across the 19 tracks there are a number of standout tracks and no real miss-steps. MF Doom will improve anything in my opinion and indeed his immediately recognisable tones feature on 'Iron Rose'. Not the first time he has worked with Ox - fans should check 'Da Supafriendz' from Vast Aire's solo LP 'Look Mom... No Hands'.
This being a hip-hop album, some of the tracks are skits, interludes, intro's etc... However they serve a purpose; the entertaining 'Solar System (Cosmos)' skit helps with the cosmic vibe. Final track 'Salvation' is great, mellower than many other tracks its lolling beats and meditative lyrics are a thoughtful finale. Elsewhere 'Gotham (Ox City)' offers a more stripped back, sparse vibe whilst 'Vision' featuring Quantum rides a tougher beat that offsets nicely against the more laid back moments.
Not all of the album works, I found 'The Fire Rises' a bit grating, the semi sung vocals that 'compliment' the MC just annoy and felt forced. Similarly 'Thunder In July' could have been a reasonable posse cut, but again the sung title refrain seemed a little geared to commercial ears. That may be personal as I rarely enjoy the sing/rap combo. Largely this is nitpicking. Fans of the aforementioned Wu Tang Clan will find much to enjoy here, it's largely one for the underground hip hop follower, but is far from inaccessible with plenty of hooks. This isn't full of the funky/off beat samples that characterise a Doom release for example, but it does work the MC riding the beats model very well. With just enough in the way of the odd scratch, vocal sample or synth use say, to give each track a quality vibe to get the head nodding. Those that habitually pick up Definitive Jux releases will want this, and with their current work rate you may not want to miss this - it could be 2030 before the next Ox album.
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