Dälek – Precipice Review

I know what you’re thinking: “exter-mee-nate.” You’re thinking alien species, you’re thinking catchy and corny one-liners, and you’re thinking science fiction. You’re not feeling the bristling tension that simmers beneath the surface, the dismay and loathing that courses through every fiber of this album. It touches extermination with a single finger, dwelling atop fog-shrouded cliffs with a sense of nirvana that dwells in light and dark. Helplessness and frustration with the submission gives Precipice its decidedly grey tone, and it’s largely up to you what you do with it.

Dälek is a duo from Newark, New Jersey, having quietly added to the late-90s burgeoning industrial rap scene with debut Negro Necro Nekros. Hip-hop courses through this crew’s veins, their compatriots the likes of Death Grips, clipping., and JPEGMAFIA, but metal’s battle jacket graces members MC Dälek and Mike Manteca’s shoulders. You’ll find that Precipice, the act’s eighth full-length is the most melodic and accessible album since 2002’s From the Tongues of Gods and Griots, with the likes of 2004’s scathing Absence or 2016’s trippy and psychedelic Asphalt for Eden1 highlighting their discography. Combining serene ambiance and a haze of static with pensive percussion and passionate rapping, Precipice loses much of its bite in favor of a lyrical prowess that bleeds through its one-dimensional instrumentals.

There are legitimate reasons that artists like Hacktivist, Rage Against the Machine, and $uicideboy$ who cross rap-metal genre lines are met with controversy, but to their credit, Dälek’s noisy atmosphere is palatable and accessible. Melding meditative ambiance and warm synthesizers diplomatically with passionate rapping and slick beats is an odd fusion, but for the second half of Precipice, it works in their favor. “The Harbingers,” “Devotion (when I cry the wind disappears),” and “Incite” are gorgeous and heartbreaking in equal measure, as MC Dälek spits out verse after verse of misery and reform while the otherworldly atmosphere suffocates the palette with paradoxical opaqueness. One finds that the more hazy the better, which is why “A Heretic’s Inheritance” is an interesting audio experiment, featuring Tool guitarist Adam Jones for droning guitar riffs that give a nearly Amenra aura of haunting repetition. The title track takes on a dissonant, nearly horror-esque melody that chokes the raps, while “Incite” features a thick Burial-esque garage beat that injects fresh energy. Lyrics are the biggest highlight of Precipice, freshly poetic affairs that balance abstract imagery and striking balances of beauty and ugliness with unmistakable themes of anti-establishment and call for change.

That being said, Precipice leaves much to be desired in the instrumental department. Namely, Dälek feels distinctly tired in its atmosphere. Particularly in its first half, melodic samples and ambient overtures are beaten to death in their excessive repetition, coming across as painfully one-dimensional. “Boycott,” “Decimation (Dis Nation),” and “Good” all feel like the same track, sporting similar atmospheric vibes carried by the same generic hip-hop beat. While MC Dälek offers his most fleshed out lyrical meditations to date, Mike Manteca fails hold up his end of the deal. While we’re certainly not expecting the next Eminem or Busta Rhymes, as atmosphere is god above flow or wordsmithing, the samples and beats are painfully underwhelming. Lacking movement, purpose, and structure, tracks feel stuck in one repetitive loop. Because of this, especially compared to the evocative storytelling of clipping. or the drug-fueled fever dreams of Death Grips, Dälek feels like a toothless one-trick pony.

Dälek’s call for societal change and dismay with systemic issues is worth hearing. Rights are denied, inequality is rampant, and ignorance is cancer – MC Dälek holds a mirror to us that is framed with his loathing and pain. Unfortunately, Mike Manteca’s grip on production and mixing falters in its generic beats and over-repetition, and that’s a huge fucking shame. While the more meditative mood graces the back-half of Precipice, it dooms the front, leaving potentially great singles in shambles because of its toothless repetition and painfully generic beats. It’s a tired album, for better and for worse – metaphorical dismay with a fucked up system. Precipice is a far cry from the legend of the act’s explosive beginnings, and while it remains a lyrical apex, its instrumental performance sees it plummeting from the heights.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Ipecac Recordings
Websites: dalek.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/dalekmusic
Releases Worldwide: April 29th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. Released through metal label Profound Lore.
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