Sometimes when you are least expecting it, great music will arrive. That’s what I experienced recently with Show Me the Body’s newest mixtape Corpus I. It wasn’t until early this year that I finally listened in on the New York group’s fresh take on seamlessly weaving together blood-pumping hardcore punk and tight, grimy hip hop on their debut album Body War. With songs like the brooding “Death Sounds 2” and rapid-fire “Two Blood Pacts”, Body War proved the band to be one of the best new talents in the burgeoning revitalization of rap rock that has been growing in the underground this decade. Frontman Julian Cashwan Pratt has a distinctive low apathetic tone in his disjointed rap style that displays several different flows throughout the album and he’s able to switch on a dime to a rabid hardcore belt when he needs to bring some dynamism into a track. Bassist and producer Harlan Steed and drummer Noah Cohen-Corbett round out the trio to envelope the songs in grimy grooves that can spark the most bruising of mosh pits.
Then just as I had listened to Body War enough to feel the dole of “new band with limited amount of material syndrome” I read the news of Denzel Curry being a feature on Show Me the Body’s newest project. The announcement turned some heads considering Curry has some significant clout from his unexpected hit “Ultimate” and the critical acclaim of his own project last year, Imperial. It was an unlikely pairing but one that felt like a perfect match considering Curry’s brand of aggressive, spitfire flow could easily match with the punk ethos of the band. I was enthused by the news but assumed that this was an announcement for an album that was in the making and not near completion. To my surprise, the album was out within a week.
My expectation for this album was tempered by my deduction that, because it had come out within a year of the last one and it was by a new punk group, it would be a very similar record to the first, with maybe some more features and slightly better production. Corpus I was not just a slight step forward but instead a confident leap into an ambitious genre-bender that takes considerable risks, which are met consistently by the band. The work is a collaborative showcase of how to take the bones of several different genres and sculpt them into a macabre effigy that is its own style but simultaneously can be recognized as all the individual components.
The band still retains the blend of rap rock it had on their debut but this time they are able to work in the genres of noise, industrial, black metal, breakbeat electronics, and more all the while tying every song together in a conceptual framework. Every track barring the first and second (the first being a seven second intro) has unique feature artists that make Corpus I feel more like a collaborative compilation than a pure Show Me the Body album. This idea may in fact be the band’s intention considering their SoundCloud page is entitled Corpus instead of Show Me the Body and it pictures a large group of artists who may be some of the artists featured on this project. The features on this project often are the lead of the song backed by the band’s playing and production without featuring Pratt whatsoever, something I have not really seen since Battles’s Gloss Drop.
The “Intro” lays down the concept and ethos of Corpus I. “I don’t give a f*ck what you do…just do what you know how to do and don’t f*cking make excuses.” Our narrator for the “Intro” and for the rest of the album, hopping onto the end and the beginning of some of the tracks, is a New York accented gangster type who pops in with somewhat hilarious, moving, and dark anecdotes that play on the albums themes of death and life on the streets.
The first song “Trash” then makes it clear the new direction the band is heading in on this song. This song features dark, constantly scratching, fuzzed out guitar and eerie alarming metallic synths beeping in each ear. Meanwhile Pratt is barking each of his lines and more savage in his screamed vocals than before. The lyrics relay lines about doing a variety of things out of necessity, drugs, love, trusting no one. Basically doing what you need to do to survive instead of anything you want to do.
The second song “You thought what you saw was it” makes certain that this new album is not going to be for the faint of heart. Eartheater, featured on the track, adds distorted screams that are so high pitched they are more like banshee shrieks than human screams. The lyrics and screams by Pratt do not give any warmth either except if you consider the hellish growl he displays on “Burning!”
“Hungry” is equally as noisy and harsh with its austere distortion, opening up the track by going into a noisy clutter of low, growling guitars and bashed metallic drumming. Dreameater matches the aggression and desperation of Pratt’s lyrics of previously feeling hungry for something but now feeling nothing.
The hyped collaboration with Denzel Curry, “In a Grave”, does not disappoint as Curry unfolds a flow and delivery that is actually more lax than his usual wheelhouse. Considering the aggression of this project this confutation of style from the expectation of Curry makes for a brilliant and catchy track and his synergy with Pratt shines. Eartheater appears again to add a glistening and shrill arpeggiated synth and Moor Mother adds an eerie choral hook. My only gripe is that Curry does not return with his hook line again because it is so amazing.
This breaks right into “Taxi Hell,” which is particularly impressive for displaying how Show Me the Body can turn even the most minimalist of instrumentation (an acoustic guitar and occasional background noise) into an equally disturbed and aggressive song as all the previous. Of course at the end they turn the original tune into another noisy dirge with the help of Justin Flammia, but it feels no more hostile than the acoustic portion. The track closes out with the first reappearance of our narrator giving a lecture about the prison system being set up to arrest more and more people.
“Slither” is another minimalist and moribund song that starts a trend of guests taking over the tracks entirely for a string of songs. Negashi Armada reiterates the theme of when you are in an environment of disrepair, the only thing that remains is dominance, in a manner that recalls Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu’s quivering vocals. It is perhaps a bit too inconspicuous at times.
Mal Devisa takes over the next song “Halogen” with powerful vocals that remind of “The Great Gig in the Sky” on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. It is an inspiring track in the sea of despondency that is Corpus I featuring a chorus of “I walked through the storm, and I only got my dress torn.”
“Stress” featuring Cities Aviv brings back the distorted punk energy. A good track for sure but it feels a bit redundant considering Cities Aviv mirrors so closely Show Me the Body’s usual style on their own. The narrator appears with one of the most disturbing and clever anecdotes about hoping someone his crew shot does not die, simply because he wants to continue his exciting street lifestyle without a hint of empathy.
“My Whole Family” features pure metal vocals from one of the features on this highly collaborative effort of Skunk Rott, Chris Wilson, and Pierre Botado. The song itself might be a little bit drowning with its two note alternatingly line but still consistent with the album. The narrator busts in with his least memorable line but it does manage a chuckle.
“I’m On It” is the next moment of catchy genius on the album. Casino Theo’s low and lurking flow combined with the plucking synth and bass line makes for a great alternative hip-hop nocturnal banger. The switch-up into a freestyle over a bongo beat is a wonderful digression.
“Spit” featuring Princess Nokia is a spacious and ethereal choral slow jam that is reminiscent of “Infinitum” off of Flying Lotus’s Los Angeles. A highlight for me but it could be seen as a digression from the style of the album so far.
“Cyba slam…” is another awesome danceable rap collaborative. Both Yo Chill and Chip Skylark interject each other on top of a house beat that sounds so natural but so distinct; it is an anomaly. The narrator gives a quick depiction of how it is to be a young person in this lifestyle, who does not care about anything outside his surroundings, like who the president is.
“Everything Hate (here)” busts in with an awesome noisy rhythm that sounds as inspired as Merzbow and Moor Mother reappears to rap instead of sing this time. The way the beat changes into a jungle beat at the end is masterful.
“Two Hands” has another minimal feel with a drowsy distorted chant by NOLIFE and disturbing shouts in the background. The metallic screeching sounds like some broken generator trying to start up.
“Why you lying” is probably the best track on the entire album. It starts off with the narrator’s best anecdote about why he enjoyed being in a gang and pretending he is sick so he can get stoned and make graffiti in his room. Then the song breaks in with awesome harmonic guitar strums and a ridiculous trap beat. Babyglock delivers a ridiculously catchy performance that could turn heads as a real talent. Unsure what capacity Tony Seltzer contributes but whatever he does works because the entire track is awesome. If this song were on any popular rap artist’s album it would be a Top 40 hit.
The final track “Proud Boys” featuring Dedekind Cut is a straight fiery jam that makes obvious a clear influence for the band in Death Grips. The closer is very close in style to the title track and closer of their latest album Bottomless Pit. Despite the similarities in the vein of genre-breaking rap rock Show Me the Body’s take is more evident of each style. While Death Grips blends the genres into something uniquely them, Show Me the Body revels in creating an exhibition of each form.
This album, to me, is a clear album of the year thus far. It is unique, innovative, catchy, conceptual, consistent, and a wild ride throughout. After last year’s Atrocity Exhibition by Danny Brown, I doubted that we would have another innovative album in industrial rap for quite some time (unless Death Grips surprised with another album), but Corpus I marks that this style is only going to continue to grow and become more relevant in the future, and there is new blood in the game.