Anyone who knows anything about dark DnB will be aware of Lethal.
Recently, I interviewed Lethal and its clear the man has put in some serious work over the years. He was a major contributor to the infamous Offkey Recordings and has also provided us with a wide range of releases on some very respectable labels, enabling him to build an impressive back catalogue. In addition to this we have his seemingly unlimited output on his own Surround Sound Recordings making him truly a force to be reckoned with in DnB circles.
Its his latest addition to the catalogue that we’re here to talk about today. His very first LP … “The Sprawl”.
When it comes to LP’s, I’m somewhat oldskool with my opinion. I believe that an album should be a complete picture. Its very easy to dump a whole load of tracks in a folder and call it an album. Its a lot fucking harder to create a true journey for the listener, to paint a complete picture, to compose something that sounds whole as well as sounding great when broken down into fractions.
“The Sprawl” ticks all of these boxes and many more along the way.
We begin with the distant, haunting pads of the title track. This is a fantastic opener, we are greeted with a futuristic narrative which sets the scene and theme of the album nicely, filtered drums and synths build the suspense until we drop straight down into “The Sprawl”.
Solid drums and low down swelling subs provide the structure for fluttering atmospherics and distant percussive elements. This track seems to lunge at you in some ways, at times enabling the listener to drift off with the atmospherics only to be brought back down to earth with some clever drum edits alongside the ever present, beautifully understated synthesis.
After being eased into our surroundings, Lethal shifts up a gear and we move onto the next piece of the puzzle, “Icebreaker”. The track beings with a dominant pad laying the foundations for distant, glitch-hop-esq percussion and filtered vocals. We drop straight into a hip-hop influenced intro laced with the heavily processed vocals of Hostile Mc. The concept and delivery are flawless and the content fits in perfectly with the overall theme of the album.
The drop on this is absolutely immense. Weighty, faced paced drums provide the backbone for rock solid bass stabs that pounds the listener into submission in an instant. The synthesis here is top notch, merging perfectly with the bass stabs to devastating effect. We charge through mid range flutters and knocking percussion like stampeding Bison until we are greeted with that unmistakable hip-hop vibe from earlier. During the break down we are treated to more vocals and some truly inspiring drum programming which paves the way for the stampede to commence again, we twist and turn through the second drop while all the time being hammered by the bass stabs (in the best way possible). A wonderful early highlight and a glimpse of what Lethal is capable of when in charge of a sequencer.
Next up is “Blue nine”. The intro pads and chimes blend perfectly to create an enveloping, futuristic, outta space kind of vibe. Filtered breaks and synth stabs build the suspense as we are hurtled towards the drop. This track is a straight up roller, some may say that this track doesn’t do a lot, the fact is, it doesn’t need to. Chunky bass and trademark knocking percussion, futuristic stabs, swelling top end synths and rolling drums, this track has it all, but the real beauty lies in the simplicity. A true slice of genius.
Moving on, we delve into bleepy, off beat territory with “Panther Modern”. This track is absolute filth. A grotesque, glitchy, snarling, nasty piece of work of the highest calibre. Growling synths and lumpy drums lay the base coat for twisted, distorted mid range stabs, alongside more bleeps than an R2D2 convention, organic percussion compliments the deep sub and helps to maintain the groove as we roll through this monster of a track. Superb.
As we enter the sonic mastery of “Jacked In” we are welcomed with another spoken narrative, in keeping with the theme of the album, the in depth oration sits perfectly amongst the intro elements. We speed towards the drop at a breakneck pace, taking in sharp, top end synth stabs, distant sirens and a screw face endusing lead that is utterly infectious. This track is a full on tech assault, classic Lethal at his very best. Smattering bongos and cheeky percussion fuel the momentum as tearing synthesis and solid beats drive us forward through the many layers of this amazing piece of music. A classic for any dance floor.
During the course of the album the listener will notice that a few of the tracks contain spoken narratives. These narratives all compliment the vibe of the individual tracks, but they also provide vital continuity and when you listen to the album as a whole piece, they also help to paint the complete picture. Its almost as if the story unfolds a little more with each track and this next track is no exception.
“Flatline” begins with a cinematic backdrop, authentic breaks and oldskool stabs build the momentum until we are dropped into some serious sci fi tribal business. This offbeat roller gives us everything, big bottom end supports tribal drums, authentic percussion and distant whistling pads give way to the rave stabs as we are transported to some random jungle somewhere in space. Nasty reeces and some clever drum editing compliment this effort nicely. Another great highlight with a welcome oldskool twist.
Moving into the next track we maintain the authentic jungle vibe. Haunted pads give way to steel drum percussion and a groove that lures the listener to the dance floor. Lethal displays his versatility with this one, “Babylon Rocker” is nothing short of a full anthem. Twitchy, Bad Company-esq top end stabs lead us into an absolute monster of a track. Booming sub bass drives us forward and lays the brickwork for pounding drums programmed with jaw dropping precision. The groove on this is fantastic, it literally urges you to dance. And lets face it, thats why we’re all here. Top marks Lethal.
Next up is one of my own personal favourite’s on the album “Kuang (The Virus)”. This all out steppa is immense. Concrete drums and tinkling percussion give way to massive slabs of bass, subtle synthesis and prominent top end lead stabs. This is one of those tracks that would literally go down in any club, anywhere. So simple yet so diverse.
Delving slightly deeper into the abyss, we float down into the shadows once again and are greeted with “Straylight”. With this growling, lurking beast of a track, Lethal reminds us just how dark it can get sometimes. Distant wailing vocals feature heavily alongside beautiful chimes and far away atmospherics. Solid breaks and rib cracking bottom end push the bass cones to the very limit as we travel through the outer edges of cyberspace. Fucking stunning Lethal.
As we come to the end of our journey, we are treated to the last piece of the puzzle. “Wintermute” pulls the rug right out from under our feets. A final tech assault and what a parting gift. The gnarly lead morphs in and out of itself as the core elements drive us through the effort at 300mph. Oldskool stabs and clinical percussion lead us into a huge breakdown, big rock stadium drums push us forward into the second drop. Its relentless, militant and just what the doctor ordered. A perfect way to end this superb album.
Overall Rating from me is 9/10
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Until next time … Peace.