Artist: Alien Nation
Album: Earth Defenders
Label: Sci Phi Recordings
Rating: 5 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
Sci Phi Recordings as their name and releases to date seem to suggest, seem to specialise in pushing Hiphop artists with a “futuristic” content to their work. Alien Nation, a three man Brooklyn outfit, are no exception, and their “Earth Defenders” album sees them pushing a similar X-Files meets Star Wars meets Back To The Future theme to the “Phoenix Orion” album also reviewed recently, (though nor perhaps to the same degree of intensity.)
What may be of interest to heads is the members of this group – the already mentioned Phoenix Orion, Naptron the Meta-Predator, and Supernatural. Yes, THAT Supernatural – freestyle maestro and supreme emcee impersonator. Let’s see if his critically acclaimed off-the-head skills translate well to wax…
‘Neo Elo’ is a strange opener – a rousing thumper which almost disguises the futuristic ideas that the crew possess with its sterotypical New York posse cut rowdiness. Somehow the idea of getting your dance on, getting your drink on, and getting your freak on is betrayed however by talk of satellites, earth people, and astral planes. As a head nodder it does its job, but the contradicting subjects that the emcees talk about, make this a somewhat confusing introduction to Alien Nation.
‘Mysterious’ slows things right down, utilising a loop from the Exorcist, and owing a huge debt to Bone Thugs with each emcee kicking a sing song verse, which is topped off by a haunting chant on the hook. This kind of style ain’t really my bag, but it certainly does a good job of setting a mood – the Exorcist sample and the whispers flying in and out of the mix send shivers down the spine.
The next couple of cuts serve to highlight the talents that Alien Nation, as a crew, most definitely have. ‘1999’ is an energetic asskicker, which is little more than a throwdown to other crews – we’re here, we’re better than you, what the fuck you wanna do about it?! The futuristic ideas are thrown to the side, as their stomping grounds in Marcy projects and Bed Stuy get namechecked by the three amigoes. Phoenix Orion in particular rips this track into little bits, and tosses them all over the studio floor. Dope. ‘Cybertron’ overcomes an incredibly cheesy hook, to transform into one of the better tracks on the album by incorporating a violent snare, and a catchy guitar lick into the mix.
Where there’s a ying however, nature dictates that there must be a yang. And where the previous tracks highlighted the positives of the album, cuts like ‘Light Tablets’, ‘Omega Minus’, ‘Space Bounty Hunters’ and ‘Metatron’, only draw attention to the weaknesses of pushing a futuristic theme for a full album. On all these cuts, the emcees come off as a little too smart for their own good – the endless stream of Star Trek speak quickly becoming more like a bad chemistry or physics homework, and less like a Hiphop album. The production on ‘Metatron’ and ‘Space Bounty Hunters’ also throws up flashbacks to the horribly overrated “Funcrusher Plus” – never a good thing in my book.
The sad thing is that if they were to drop the scientific psychobabble, Alien Nation’s music would actually become much more listenable. The standout cut ‘Freestyle King’ drops the futuristic facade in favour of letting Supernat and Phoenix just get busy. The minimal beat keeps things going, and the result is audio gold. The Rhettmatic-produced ‘The Pact’ also highlights how much better things are when the emcees act… um… normally – pledging their allegiance to Kool Herc and Bambaataa is infinitely more palatable than worshipping the ground that Shatner and Nimoy walk on afterall.
Conclusion? A mixed bag – it definitely shows promise, but the middle portion of the album threatens to bury the listener under a pile of audio elemental tables. Try to listen BEFORE you buy.