Band: Zug Izland
Album: Cracked Tiles
Label: Psychopathic Records
Despite the fact that Zug Izland is signed to Psychopathic Records and has extremely firm links to exactly-what-it-says-on-the-tin duo Insane Clown Posse, ‘Cracked Tiles’ really doesn’t deserve to be banished to the bargain bin straight away. And as tempting as it may be, you cannot allow their name – the band’s namesake is the Detroit city infamous for it’s noxious waste plants – to cast a thick smoggy cloud over this thoroughly original quintet before listening.
After a 60 second intro of bass and minimalistic hi-hat – snare drumming underneath violins, chants and enigmatic sound effects, this debut album launches into it’s lead single ‘Fire’. Dirty basslines and unflagging drums with yet more programming make this a firm, loud and energetic favourite. A dextrous guitar solo; simple commanding vocals; a relentless tempo: perhaps it is not all that suprising to note that ‘Fire’ is already a hit in Detroit. Continuing for the next fifty-four minutes in the same way, ‘Cracked Tiles’ commingles hip-hop style raps, metal riffs and bass lines with horrorcore stylee carnival themes and sound effects among undeniably dreamy make-believe mirages.
Being in the Psychopathic clique with artists such as ICP, Twiztid and Blaze Ya Dead Homie as well as having band members with aliases such as Little Pig and B Nestor, it is really quite unexpected that Zug Izland vocalist Syn can resound such melodic sumptuousness whilst his peers are known and ridiculed for their outrageous and even downright asinine raps about gameshows and murder. What is even more stupefying is that Joe Bruce – AKA Violent J, the headfuck behind Insane Clown Posse and lead juggalo with the entire Psychopathic crew – is credited in the album as writer of all lyrics, vocal harmonies, album production and arrangement.
The antithetical nature of the musical and lyrical content throughout this recording is astounding. ‘Prison Song’ – an amalgamation of sharp offbeat claps and rhythm guitar, with couplets such as “I can remember half of her head was gone / And I remember it was all over the lawn” – leads straight into the serenely beautiful ‘Fly’. A repeated panpipe melody introduces the song over tribal patterns on conga drums and bongos, whilst in the background a piano and violin harmonise. Syn’s vocal abilities are exposed with magnitude through the fantastical lyrics in ‘Fly’ which build up such beautifully abstract images by being sung with so much passion and emotion. Vocal harmonisation in the refrain contrasts with the spoken word depictions in the verses ‘Spread your wings / Fly over frozen mountains / Crystal rivers, geysers, flowers’. In ‘Hiroshima’, Syn’s adroitness is further exploited with throaty chromatic growls proving his ability is really an integral part to the style of Zug Izland.
Still, whilst there’s beauty and fantasy in tracks such as ‘Fly’, ‘Always’ and ‘Cry’, there’s the wild playfulness and immature absurdity that one would expect in a band of this ilk. And although Violent J keeps a very low profile on this production, he certainly stamps his mark on it with lyrics like ‘She makes my dick hard when she sits on my lap / If she diss ma homies, I guaruntee you some drama’. In short, this album is a concoction of the weird and the wonderful, produced by some of the most disliked artists around, however ‘Cracked Tiles’ demonstrates that whilst these musicians are far from popular, they certainly have the ability to diversify and fuse together the most abstract of genres. Broken down to it’s singular elements, this album shouldn’t be good. But, somehow, it works.