Monday, July 16, 2012

Album Review: Killarmy "Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars"

Best Friends Camping Trip 1995

Hey Neighbor!

Killarmy, right? Those guys. Known for rotten beats, clunky lyrics, and lots of terrorism. And also known for nobody knowing about them. Except me. I even know that they are from Ohio! #Salute? Definitely.

I don't really want to review this album because I don't really like it. SPOILER ALERT: It's too much Killarmy. It's an overdose. I appreciate it, and I like some of the songs, but nothing here has ever made it into my regular rotation. So why am I reviewing it? Because it sets up my all time favorite hip hop album: Killarmy's "Dirty Weaponry". That's right friends. I like "Dirty Weaponry" better than "Illmatic", better than anything from the Wu, better than anything else period, and I have liked it the most for years. It's a fantastic album. If it were a cookie, your grandma would have made it. THIS ALBUM, on the other hand, would be like one of those giant cookies that you see at the mall. One bite is okay, but the shit is too big!

So I'm not a fan of this album or it's long ass title. In fact, way back in 1996 I picked up the single for "Camouflage Ninjas" and "Wake Up" based on the Wu name alone and I was very disappointed. I thought both songs were low quality and had no real connection to the Wu (except that "Wake Up" was produced by the RZA) . I thought this was a "talented famous people hooking up their less talented family" situation, and I was right. (Except for the "less talented" part, but I didn't know that at the time).

I thought "Wake Up" was a much stronger song, even though "Camouflage Ninjas" has the Raekwon sample. Both songs have good beats, but Ninjas sounds like amateur night lyric-wise, "Wake Up" is just too raw lyrically . . . but it has an amazing beat. But the major problem with both songs is this: they're boring. I can't nail down the reasons exactly,every element is there, but the lyrical delivery gets old quickly and the shit gets monotonous. In the end, I didn't listen to the single many times and I forgot about Killarmy entirely, until I noticed the whole album had dropped and proceeded to buy it.

I was not impressed. Actually, it was more hit-or-miss. Some of the beats were slamming and all the samples were amazing, but none of the songs were that great. I think the boredom that plagued the single was present on every song. It was difficult to sit through the album, and if you tried to listen to this shit on headphones, you'd be bored out of your mind.

Like I said, the album did have some good things going for it: I really appreciate the military theme, and all the calling out of wack rap. It hate wack rap, and calling it out is what I look for in good hip hop. I think that's the only reason that I bought the follow-up album. But it only goes so far on this one, and while I think almost every song on here has something going for it, none of them could be considered great. So I'm going to do my least favorite thing and review this album track by track. Mainly because I want to highlight the good in the album. So here we go...I'm sure I could review every track by saying "Boring. Good beat. Great sample." So just assume that unless I say otherwise.

1. Dress to Kill
Boy, this intro sounds strange today, Killarmy starts off by using a sound bite describing terrorists, only they are using it to describe themselves. That's another defining attribute of Killarmy that I guess I forgot to mention: they really set themselves up as a terrorist group. Which was kind of okay since it was before 9-11 and nobody really thought about that stuff.

What about this track specifically? The beat is fantastic. 4th Disciple just killed it, and I'll make it known that he is actually a member of Killarmy, not just a random producer. So that's a plus to have a producer as a member of the group. And a good producer at that. The core of his beat sounds like something out of 1950's pop, but then it's got all these crazy Wu layers of rawness. Then it's got sirens, gunfire, explosions, a raw break beat, people making gun sounds. It's good as hell.

And remember all that shit I said about every song being boring? This song is not, the hook is pretty much a perfect introduction to Killarmy:

Grab ya army suits, your phat black boots, military gear, and go out like troops.

The lyrics are sharp throughout, and I have to give more credit to 4th Disciple for that, he handles these MCs perfectly (and I assume that they are a tough bunch). Killa Sin and Shogun Assassin both drop decent verses, but 9th Prince drops a mess of a verse that derails the whole track, it's too far off beat and the lyrical content is too much. WTF 9P?

2. Clash of the Titans - (featuring Street Life)
There is no way I knew who Street Life was when this came out. He takes the fourth verse, but before we get to him, let's talk about everyone else. First of all 9th Prince once again comes with that disruptive flow that kind of throws the whole track off. I don't remember disliking 9th Prince at all, in fact, today I would consider him one of the better Wu affiliates, but I guess at this point he was just a voice lost in a group where everyone sounds very similar, and his off-beat flow was overlooked because the guy who raps after him (Dom Pachino) really sounds off.

Anyway, Streetlife brings the best verse and I think that he probably deserved an early Wu affiliate album as much as anyone else, but he didn't get one. Beretta 9 Finishes the track strong, which is no surprise since he is one of the better MCs around.

Once again, the chorus sticks to the military theme, and plays a hell of a lot better than most choruses:

Nothing but the army shit, the raw shit / The Military war hits with gun clips

So that's good! But with two bad verses out of five, and a beat that's good but not great, we have a song that's just okay and makes me feel bored.

3. Burning Season
We have another good beat, overlaid with sirens and gunshots. We have another good chorus which, once again, follows the military theme (good job on sticking to your guns, Killarmy). Here it is, as delivered by 9th Prince:

YO! It's burning season. Y'all thugs is guilty of high treason.
Many of 'em bleeding, some getting sent to the grave for no reason
On the streets n----s kill with without a license, in Scarsville
It's all for real 'cuz everything is real
Don't sleep on the average cat he's packing steel

Everybody delivers a good verse this time, and...uh, actually Killa Sin is the only guy on this track. 9th Prince holds down the chorus, but Killa Sin takes all three verses and they're all good. Killa Sin is a good MC, and 9th Prince sounds good on a chorus. This is like a preview of how good Killarmy would be in the future.

4. Blood for Blood
This is the first song that I actually remember from this album. Everything else I've had to look up, sure I recognized the previous songs once they started playing, but I must have spun this song a lot because I remember liking it.

This is what Killarmy (and Wu Tang) do best, they mix smooth shit with stuff that's too raw for the general public. In this case, we have the butter chorus "Blood for blood...a bullet hit my true love's side" side by side with ridiculously rough lyrics.

Let me be clear: this beat is terrible. The worst one we've heard so far on this album, but something amazing has happened: 9th Prince and Beretta 9 both deliver great verses on some classic Killarmy shit. Unfortunately Dom Pachino starts the song off and doesn't have the energy to lead, even with a short verse. ShoGun drops a decent verse, but 9th Prince kills this shit. This time his rugged off-beat flow matches the beat and balances against the chorus, and all the oddball references work. But as soon Beretta 9 spits his first "Yo!" the shit is over, it's exactly like hearing a click-clack, because the verse is hard as hell..maybe a bit too long, but still good.

5. Seems It Never Fails
This is a good song. Islord and 9th Prince are a good combo, especially over a jazzy smooth beat. But this chorus is awful (as opposed to what we've heard so far), the repeating "seems it never fails" is the downfall of this track, it's like slamming on  the breaks ofthe song...and since the track starts with it, it make it an easy track to skip. But if you can get past it, I would call this track good.

6. Universal Soldiers
With a title like that you'd think this track can't miss right? Well, it starts with the most perfect kung-fu sample imaginable for Killarmy. A little too perfect, if you ask me:

"What is your style, and what is your clan?"
"A soldier that uses military style."
"Oh? So there may be a war?"

Is that real? I don't think so.

Anyway, underneath that amazing bit of dialogue we have what sounds like Morse code, and some kind of high-pitched RZAesque vocal sample saying "you're not a soldier". It's very good, and follows the established format of smooth shit in contrast to the rough vocals and loops. Once Killa Sin starts spitting and the beat drops it's kind of hard not to say "oh shit!" because of how nice it all is. Everyone kills the beat, even Dom Pachino who (so far) hasn't done so well. In fact, on tracks like this, the rougher the flow (Dom Pachino and 9th Prince), the better it sounds. Especially when these guys kick off a verse so well.

Unfortunately, SoGun is the liability this time. His verse stinks and his vocal production sounds off, like maybe he recorded his verse at a different time on inferior equipment maybe? I'm just guessing. These guys just can't all get it together for a track...someone is always lagging.

7. Love, Hell or Right
Maybe this will be the track where everyone pulls their own weight. Nope this is a stinking skit. Blah! But the trumpet loop + guns is bad as hell. This is a good ass skit and a great intro to Wake Up. 

8. Wake Up
Ugh! I think we already covered this shit, right? RZA produced, beat is good, lyrics are not that good (boring), and the chorus is good (wake or get woke). Nice, but not a keeper.

9. Fair, Love & War
Uh-Oh, another list of three things. Killarmy loves that. How will this one go?

Good. The beat is so sloppy, its like stepping in a muddy bog and your boot comes off (that's a good thing, duh). Everyone puts in the proper amount of work and fits well over the smooth beat. Shout to 4th Disciple again. This time we have no chorus, just a lot of terrorism quotes. So Killarmy.

"...they are angry conflicts of desperate people who feel they have neither the resources nor the clout to fight their enemies at the negotiating table, so they take their negotiations to the streets."


10. Wu-Renegades
Now, I don't mean to be an ass, but is a Wu Renegade someone who is a renegade against the Wu, or is it a member of the Wu renegading against something else? Who knows? Maybe Killarmy knows? I don't know. 

All joking aside, this is a solid track. It's got all of the Killarmy essential elements, and finally everyone is on the same page and pull together for a great track. Killa Sin's opening lines of the second verse are just insane, as soon as he spits the first "Yo", everyone knows it's going to be good.

"Yo. It's like I remember slapboxin, now we clap shots to catch props,
from lockin rocks on the block to chop the fat crops and chalk.
I see the Jakes and motivate cause half my team be holdin weight
We march across the Golden Gate Bridge
My mind is in the solider state"

That's vintage shit. Now my sources tell me that 4th Disciple steps out from behind the boards and actually spits the 4th verse (and it's the worst one...STICK TO PRODUCING 4th DISCIPLE!). I could go without that. So I'll give this song an official "good first half" rating.

11. Full Moon
Now, if ANYONE ever talks shit about 4th Disciple (like I just did), I will quickly come to his defense, as the sample on this track is ONE OF THE BEST ONES EVER. How in the hell did you find this?

"When I came to you there on that cold...telephone call, horror of the night, and you came out to meet me and then tell me things and sit down on the porch swing........"

DOPE. 9th Prince and Killa Sin regulate on the track delivering rough rhymes in stark contrast to the smooth and mournful chorus sample. Plus the layered Killa Bee sounds AND gunshots really add to the track, but the shit is murdered when 4th Disciple adds war sounds to the chorus to end the track. This song is the best one on the album.

Let it be known: Killarmy should have ended the album here, the rest is where we cross into "too much" territory.

12. Under Siege
Even the hardest Full Metal Jacket samples can't save this track. The beat is just too chaotic. The lyrics are tough to follow, and the chorus is too military. Next.

13. Shelter
The chaos from the previous beat is not resolved with this track. Although this beat is better, it's still extremely rough. Once again, it's so raw that it distracts from the track. It just makes me think about skipping the rest of the track. A clip of this one would have been perfect as a very short interlude between two other tracks, but alone it's another skip.

14. Camouflage Ninjas
So I guess this was the official first single off the album, and they tacked "Wake Up" on it as a B-Side so the RZA's name could be on there. Ahhhhh! I'm so sick of reviewing this album and I've already taken like a million breaks. You could just listen to this song and decide if you like it or not. Go ahead, what's stopping you?

As for me, I think it's boring except for the scratching on the hook. Okay?

15. Swinging Swords
I'll give you this, Killarmy, this is a great name for a song. It has an official video! Can you imagine a time when this was on TV?

Killarmy - Swingin Swords by Cana_19

While I would LOVE to review this video now, I'll save it for another day (actually I would hate to review it now because I'm, so sick of writing about this album....but some part of me really wants to get cracking on Killarmy's whole music video collection because it's nuts.) Anyway..this song? Well, that sample is kind of genius and kind of irritating, and the song as a whole is just irritating and boring.

16. War Face
Listen, I would have said that you can't lose sampling Full Metal Jacket, but a few songs back, the Killarmy team managed to prove me wrong. But while that last song failed at the hands of 4th Disciple, this song succeeds under the production of the RZA.

One other thing, this song has five verses, and three of them are spit by guys with with the number 9 in their name.

9th Prince
Cloud 9
Beretta 9

9! I wanna see your war face, soldier, where's your war face, camouflaged inmates collapse war gates. Not bad. The whole track is okay. But, guess what: it's boring! Last song!

17. 5 Stars - (featuring Masta Killa)
A real live Wu Tang Clan member guest vocaling right here at the end of the album! On the beat from M*A*S*H! The TV Show! (Actually the song is called "Suicide is Painless" and it is hands down one of the best non-hip hop song ever made). 4realz.

But even with a solid sample of one of the best songs of all time and a guest from Masta Killa, this song is nothing more than boring. Plus the M*A*S*H  theme doesn't sound right and the bass is weird. What happened with the bass? 4th Disciple? Hello? And the beat is a mess. The lyrics are okay, and I like the missile sounds and the constant machine guns, but the "music" sucks so hard that it makes the whole song suck.

Plus, I never realized that Masta Killa was on here until I was researching this review today. I can't imagine how he felt walking into the studio, probably early on a Tuesday morning, cup of coffee, whatever. Ready to work and when he walks in all of RZA's cousins are laying around in too much camouflage and with weird hats and they're watching M*A*S*H and yelling a lot about generals giving killing orders and there is way too much noise and he was probably looking for Method Man and Ghostface and he realized that he was the only one who showed up so he probably said "FUUUCK THIS SHIT!" but then RZA was like "Yo, it's a paycheck" (on the phone) and Masta Killa was like "FUUUCK let's get this shit over with". So he spit his verse quick and got the FUCK out of there because they are definitely going to use whatever he spits because he's the only "celebrity" who showed up. So then the verse was too quiet and not that great so Killarmy was like "Just put loud ass missile sounds over the top of it and explosions" and that's what we have and it's really a bad song. That's definitely how it happened.

IN CONCLUSION: THAT WAS SO LONG!!!!!! Why did you read that? I'm never reviewing another whole album again...untl Thursday when I listen to my favorite hip hop album of all time, the follow up to this one: "Dirty Weaponry"! But I'm not counting that one because it's so good, and there aren't really any bad tracks (one that seems like it's going to be bad, but a few seconds into it you're like "FUCK YEAH!" and then you would turn it up but it's already all the way up so you just punch the wall and break a chair).



  1. Forreal? This is one of my fav albums... Killarmy is amazing. Wake Up is incredible yo! Whatever. I'm glad to see you were really feeling Dirty Weaponry. Unite To Fight is dope as hell. Killarmy!!!!!

  2. All I can say is that you have a right to your own opinion...