Album Review: Ho99o9 – SKIN

[DTA; 2022]

Over the course of various EPs and mixtapes and one LP, Ho99o9 have forged a distinct amalgam of hip-hop, horrorcore, industrial rock, and punk-infused metal. For their second full-length album, Skin, theOGM and Yeti Bones joined forces with Travis Barker and DTA Records, continuing to hone a seminal blend of infernal noisescapes and nihilistic diatribes, throwing in the occasional sonic hook.

Opener “Nuge Snight”, a reference to the incarcerated co-founder of Death Row Records, is a blister-fest of drum-fusillades, static-y electronica, and theOGM’s nightmarishly urgent voice. “Battery Not Included” features warp-y synths and venomous vocals that could’ve been plucked from The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Midway through the piece, the band navigate a relatively spacious and chorus-y bridge, then reembrace a cacophonic onslaught, showcasing their ability to employ soft-loud dynamics.

On “Bite My Face”, the band similarly transition from a hyper-aggressive opening to an almost balladic mid-section, quickly resuming their stentorian blitz, theOGM and guest Corey Taylor (Slipknot, Stone Sour) providing a mishmash of snarls and shrieks. The mordantly dubbed “Protect My Bitch”, on the other hand, highlights the band’s distrust of conventional forms. Disjointed vocals, dissonant beats, and preemptive blasts of distortion deconstruct any semblance of thematic or musical cohesion, the track standing as a hedonistic repudiation of order, linearity, and Christian-capitalistic morality.

A slasher soundscape on “Slo Bread” brings to mind Paris, Texas’ satirically apocalyptic “Heavy Metal” from Boy Anonymous (which, in turn, brings to mind “Murder Ink” from late-90s Dre). “The World, the Flesh, the Devil” could be rephrased “Money, Sex, Power (and Our Obsessions with Each)”. Opening with a reference to “blood on a knife,” theOGM adopts a free-spewing, murderous tone. Sharp and jerky beats reminiscent of recent Death Grips accent and punctuate industrial glitches, metallic blips, and militaristic drones.

With “Skinhead”, the band display their affinity for accessible riffs, revamping Nirvana’s “Aneurysm”. Saul Williams offers a relatively laidback and diaristic rap, followed by theOGM’s demonic scream. The succinct “Lower Than Scum” mines a similar template, cool riff complemented by streaks and dashes of mechanistic noise and a stream of subversive growls. On closer “Dead or Asleep”, theOGM moans “Hard to see the enemy when it’s living in your head,” voicing the way in which one often wields the very psychological weapons that were used against one against oneself, deepening and perpetuating one’s own trauma.

With previous work, particularly their first LP (2017’s United States of Horror) and 2021’s mixtape Turf Talk Vol. 1, Ho99o9 spotlighted their affinity for catchy punk riffs and grindhouse mixes. With Skin, the band explore similar templates, though less concerned with pop elements and more focused on sustaining gestalts that evoke hyper-agitation. Ho99o9 vividly express the anarchic impulse, conjuring the despair and volatility inherent to our postlapsarian age.