Rap metallers Team Fresh are very angry about things. Steven Rainey ignores the outdated polemics and appreciates a 'confident, inspired' sound
Can substance escape form? Can a work of art transcend the medium that it was created in?
These are questions that north coast rap-metal collective Team Fresh must surely be asking themselves, as their new single seems to represent a striving for credibility, and a severance with their early, more flippant roots.
Rap-metal is an inherently stupid genre, lacking the social and cultural grounding that made rap such an incendiary force, as well as lacking the melodic and textural strengths of 'traditional' metal, focussing more on rhythmic repetitiveness.
But, and this is crucially important, it has been an enormously commercially successful musical force, with bands like Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit, and Korn dominating the charts in the early part of the 21st century, and making periodic comebacks as if to remind us, 'We haven’t gone away, you know…'
Team Fresh have carved out a well-earned reputation as one of Northern Ireland’s finest live acts, a party band par excellence. With shows that feature sweaty mosh pits, crowd surfing, audience participation, and a whole lot more, to be a fan of Team Fresh is more akin to being part of a secret organisation, a loosely linked sect of like-minded individuals, prepared to fight, for their right, to party.
But this anarchic sense of fun has never successfully translated to their recorded material, with the banality of the lyrics being exposed for all to see, as well as some occasionally shoddy and misguided production choices diluting the live power of their music.
‘Boss Level’ seeks to address this failing, offering up a more mature take on the genre. A moody and insistent guitar line powers through, and there is some impassioned rapping, which all adds up to create some sense of apocalyptic, righteous fury.
Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t really figure out what it is that Team Fresh are talking about, beyond the fact that they seem to rage against a general social injustice – 'no liberty, egality, fraternity'.
But what does become clear on this single is that the band have found a way to reconcile the world of rap – an inherently urban, American musical form – with the cultural experience of being white and Northern Irish and exponents of metal.
There is no appropriation of black slang or patterns of speech, and the whole thing comes off as a confident and inspired musical fusion of two seemingly disparate musical forms.
Rather than recalling the party metal of Limp Bizkit, Team Fresh have come of age, and 'Boss Level' is much more in keeping with the genre defining work of Rage Against the Machine. They’re not quite at that level yet, but if their sound continues to develop at this rate, it’s entirely likely they will evolve into something altogether more interesting.
'Boss Level' is available now via the Team Fresh Bandcamp page.