Hailing proudly from Fresno, California, Farooq are here to kick your ass. Their third album, Heat, offers a hearty bowl of genre-mashup stew combining thrashy hooks, stomping hardcore riffage and breakdowns, and hip-hop-tinged slices of funk. Wait, that sounds like nu-metal. What’s going on here?
Heat bursts into action from its first notes, flattening the listener with “Owning It” and “Get 2 Work,” a pair of whirlwind and frenzied affairs. Both tracks are stuffed with savage axecraft (especially on the latter), throaty hardcore screams, and a nifty meat-headed breakdown apiece. Carved in the mold of late first-wave metalcore in the vein of Hatebreed or a less-intense Converge, with plenty of hip-hop influences to satisfy any bros in the audience, Farooq at their best weave between an old skool hardcore sound, groovy but intricate thrash riffs, and a thick, bass-led groove worthy of only the mightiest headbangs. The best example on the album, by far, is “One Nation Under,” which boasts several noodly, squealing solos book-ended by rippling basslines and furious riffage worthy of Slayer1 over coarse snare fills. It even manages an engaging (if bro-tastic) rap verse to contrast the rabid screams and gang vocals, and smartly opens with the breakdown, flipping a formula that otherwise grows stale. I would also loathe failing to make mention of album closer “Stone Cold Steve Hawking.” While the song veers awkwardly from surging chugfests and syrupy breakdowns… that title, y’all.
The aforementioned diversity comes at a cost to cohesiveness. Tracks—like “T.O.T.W. 2018” or “Mall Metal”—are uneven or contain potentially questionable musical ideas, like the former’s Corey Taylor-esque rapping (but with substantially worse flow) and wildly overlong breakdown or the latter’s dreadfully macho spoken word sections. Further, the synthesis of styles on this album feels incomplete, with the hardcore and thrashy sections standing distinctly apart rather than being interwoven like many of Farooq’s predecessors; further, the hip-hop elements are also not well incorporated, falling prey to abrupt transitions on “T.O.T.W.,” “The Story,” and “Mall Metal.” As a consequence, the album finds itself afflicted with much the same lumpy texture as most of the worst examples of nu metal, despite taking its lead primarily from hardcore. It doesn’t help that, despite listing a slew of current and recent has-been pop rappers as influences, Daniel Dominguez’s flow rarely escapes the abysmal style that plagued the nu-metal scene.
Dominguez’s yells and screams, conversely, are frequently some of the best performances on the album, ranging from deranged to anguished to focused, but always righteously pissed about something. As mentioned previously, Adam Lopez’s bass is titanic, with monstrously catchy riffs that anchor the rest of the mix like a big black hole. Guitarists Phil Camacho and Brandon Rubio are lesser contributors by comparison, and frequently chug too much for their own good. “One Nation Under” and its interplay of stinging solos and biting riffs exhibit their potential. The mix, while having the bass extremely prominent, is otherwise somewhat pedestrian, with the guitar or portions of the drum line becoming muddled at times, or the guitars overtaking the vocals or percussion at others. Also per usual, the above is exacerbated by a squashed master clocking in at DR 5 to 6. The material is thankfully persistent enough in its aggression to keep this from hampering things too much, and short enough to more or less entirely dodge the potential to exhaust the listener, but an overloud master is an overloud master.
With its too earnestly macho aesthetic, bungled hip-hop infusion, and uneven songwriting, I can’t say I like this. However, Farooq have a ton of heart, and I wish them the best of luck. If they can iron out some of the style inconsistencies I might come around. This is bound to appeal to some of you, though.