“We have truly embraced the darkness and the chaos of the seas,” hails MC Exile Eye halfway through Melodica Deathship’s voyage into deepest, darkest hip-hop waters. It’s fair to say the Dublin-based crew are in uncharted territories – this has to be the only nautical-themed hip-hop record out there, sailing along like a phantom ship in a thick fog of murky, dubby beats, ghostly electronics and rhymes “as sharp as the blade of a cutlass”.
The duo of Tim (Exile Eye) and George (Deep Burial) have been making waves with their menacing live shows in the last year or so, even threatening to upstage MF Doom when they supported the Metal Faced chancer last month in the Button Factory. Three years in the making, their debut album Doom Your Cities, Doom Your Towns harnesses this stage alchemy on two hefty slabs of vinyl that’ll blow your speakers if you’re not careful.
This record is as far as it gets from the ‘street’ – it’s nowhere near dry land for a start. Where clichéd rap violence is full of ‘gritty’ urban samples of Uzis and Glocks, the dense soundscapes on Doom Your Cities… are pierced by clashing pirate blades, cannon fire, crashing waves and squawking seagulls overhead. Amid walls of sound reminiscent of Dalek, Cannibal Ox or, closer to home, Legion of Two, the Deathship pillages elements of sea shanties, Irish folk, drone metal and more, with eerie melodica solos never far away. It’s a perfect complement to Exile Eye’s rhymes which sound like legends passed down through generations of salty dog sailors – grim warnings of “the mighty enchantress… evil at 10,000 leagues” on ‘Loook to the Seea’; sending desperate messages in a bottle from the ‘Wreck o’ Th Elizabeth Dane’ and the ‘Blaxck Shjip Cxoming’ on “carbon seas… as the sirens they howl”.
A further hand is extended to the folk tradition on ‘1803’, which takes the lyrics of Bobby Sands’ convict ship ballad ‘Back Home In Derry’ and forges an epic spoken word lament, caught in a storm of woodwind clamour and a squalling guitar line by Steve Von Till from Neurosis. It could upset a few purists, but we reckon even Christy Moore himself would give it the thumbs up – what’s rap but another form of folk music anyway? It’s a perfect homage – the revered song has been unshackled and passed down to a crew who’ve given it a new home on one of the albums of the year. Who says music piracy is a bad thing?