Some music is characterized by a seamless fusion of subtle musical influences that, in the end, makes for a style unlike any of its constituent parts. That is not the case with Allston avant-rap group Absolute Flavor's new LP, 1000 Years of War. On the album, rather than achieving a unique sound by the elegant appropriation of small bits and pieces of different genres, the group instead makes its mark by mashing together the loudest and most obvious parts of those different genres, frankensteining together an album that encompasses a crazed and harsh landscape of sound.
Flavor is set up as a three-emcee rap group, though at points they depart completely from anything related to hip-hop. Their sound alternately bears resemblance to the following, among others: Metallica, Beck, Deltron 3030, Dr. Octagon, Dan Deacon, Plastic Beach, Black Moth Super Rainbow, and, at least for a couple songs, Tom Waits. The group jumps schizophrenically between these hugely varying styles on twenty four (mostly short) tracks, which together amount to one exhausting assault of an album for the listener. The only noticeable trend seems to be frequent, short rap verses, and a tendency to abruptly break into ejaculations of heavy metal, as if to perform a rude awakening after their tangents into mellow electronica, ambient noise, and standard rock may have lulled the listener into relaxation. The group's prerogative seems to be to combine shock-value art with mutated forms of popular music's conventions, with the result being that some songs are perfectly nice and appealing to mainstream indie sensibilities; others are wholly grotesque; and most of them are somewhere on the scale in between the two extremes of taste.
There’s a loose, largely nonsensical lyrical theme involving apocalypse, consumerism, robots, etc. (i.e. Deltron, Plastic Beach) and sadistic, almost sci-fi sexism (i.e. Dr. Octagon) but it does not govern the overall effect of the album, as the huge instrumentation and production establishes dominance over the literary facet almost immediately. The rapping itself is highly varied in content and quality -- unsurprising since it's a project of three musicians who profess not to even like rap music, or listen to it very much. At times they range into an affected "non-rap" style that recalls current-day avant-garde rappers like Lil B. Other times they throw down solid verses that are clearly the result of some study of great rap and its best practices. Other times it's unclear what is happening. One thing that does become clear, though, early in the album, is that it's not music that is intended to be considered by the normal standards of hip-hop. Rather it uses the act of "rapping" in its most narrow, stripped down definition -- removed (not fully, but as much as is possible) of its obvious cultural connections and connotations -- as a tool by which to pry into other styles of music and see what happens when they mix.
The album is definitely worth hearing just for the novelty of its ambition, peculiarity, and unapologetic intensity. But for a listener who typically gets off listening to music that can be described as "difficult," 1000 Years of War might be a sublime aural event that breaks new ground at the intersection of avant-garde insanity and established musical foundations. Or it might just be offensive. Better just to try it out and see.