You'll have to be prepared to search for the real jewels amidst the all-pervading gloom.
Paul Clarke 2008-05-16
This is the debut album from this London hip-hop collective centred around The Heresy. The duo is loosely based around the concept that today's black youth need to relearn the wisdom of ancient empires such as the Egyptians and Olmecs in order to overcome the trials of life in the ghetto. You don' have to look quite so far into the past to discover who The Heresy's musical ancestors are, however. For most of the beats producers Beat Butcher and Chemo have created for Anathema sound exactly like they were unearthed on an archaeological expedition through the Wu-Tang Clan's legendary 36 Chambers during the mid-90s, whilst for all the rhymes about ''Imhotep'' and ''biorhythmic hieroglyphics'', MCs Cyrus Malachi and Nasheron seem to have been studying the lyric sheets in Nas records as much as scrolls in Sanskrit.
This is a combination which can, at times, result in tracks like Pyramid Warz and Leviathan, which are fantastically tense and taut. The beats contain as much barely-veiled threat as the rhymes, while wracked female voices and ominous piano chords echo over the crisp snares. Meanwhile the lyrics intertwine arcane imagery with street-level narratives straight from Hackney's 'Murder Mile'. The album is at its best when the guests like Melanin9 – combined with whom Cyrus Malachi and Nasheron form the so-called Triple Darkness – appear to provide a third flow. Indeed, on occasion they can rank alongside the likes of Foreign Beggars when it comes to taking UK hip-hop to a higher level beyond just whingeing about record companies or having to live on beans on toast for a week.
Yet much like the ancient civilizations they turn to for inspiration, after a while The Heresy can began to feel somewhat set in stone, the beats sounding so cold and rigid that they're practically fossilised, while some of the more elaborate rhymes collapse beneath too many metaphors. Not that Anathema isn't worth digging into, but you'll have to be prepared to search for the real jewels amidst the all-pervading gloom.