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Beats Drenched In Reverb

(Jive Electro)

Hardknox made their first real entry onto the scene back in 1997 or so with the release of a hard-hittin single ("Fire Like This") on Skint records (home of Fatboy Slim and Bentley Rhythm Ace among others) that also landed on the Infinite Beat compliation alongside artists like Squarepusher, Naked Funk, and Nico/Fierce. It was a loud, big-beat track that fit in nicely alongside the other speaker-tweaking fare on the compilation and set the stage for their full-length debut.

This 11-track release is that debut, and as the name of the group may suggest, they do kick some amped-up beats. Although the graffiti-esque cover and explicit lyrics stamp might remind one of a rap album at first, the only thing this disc has in common with that genre is the Schooly D sample on one track. The interesting thing about the disc, though, is that instead of most songs being up in a very high BPM range for the dancefloor, the group is content to kick a slower groove and layer things on as thick and heavily as they can.

The album kicks off fairly quietly on "Coz I Can" with only a spoken-word sample of a little kid talking about street cred. It's goofy and sort of cliche', but soon a deep humming screech comes sliding in before a slower breakbeat drops. After awhile of these, the group seemingly gets bored before a sample of the track title comes in and the beat drops like a piledriver. The second track on the disc is a shorter re-working of the aforementioned "Fire Like This." It's another hard-slamming track, but this time the sample behind it all sounds like a couple of kids singing hopscotch tunes like, "nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, we're gonna rock you!" After the Schooly D flavored "Come In Hard," the group drops the biggest bomb of all with the seven and a half minute "Coming Back With A Sword." The track grinds along with a feedback laced beat and has a couple long builds that reach frenzy level before hitting even harder than before.

One of the only tracks to take a slower route comes up next on "Just Me 'N' You." Even though it contains some drifting, light sounds, there is still a thick beat sludging along in the background behind the vocals and goofy samples. The most mainstream sounding track on the album "Attitude" apes crunchy guitars, a less distortion-drenched beat and sexy female vocals that sound like they could have come from a Lords Of Acid track.

Basically, the album is sort of a strange hybrid between schlock electronic groups like the aforementioned Lords Of Acid, the crunchy sounds of a hard rock outfit, and beats that are cranked and fuzzed-out beyond belief on almost every track. They also use samples that sound somewhat out-of-place on a big-beat electronic release (like the strange "Bitch betta have my money" one on "Who's Money"). If you like your beats harder, but not fast enough to dance to and don't mind vocal tracks and some cheesy samples, it's a solid release and might just fill a void between Junkie XL and Fatboy Slim in your CD rack.

Rating: 6.5