E-Town Concrete

The Second Coming

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While mainstream rap-metal acts often found success by merely amplifying rap's most obvious elements, New Jersey's E-Town Concrete seemed truly intent on integrating vocalist Anthony Martini's gruff flow into its sludgy, hardcore rhythms. Even if Time2Shine's idea bank eventually ran dry, it was a bold attempt in a genre normally so content to follow the leader. E-Town has returned with the appropriately titled Second Coming, which expands the group's instrumental and stylistic palette while solidifying its foundation with more focused performances and, of course, large helpings of heaviness. The otherwise seething "Soldier" ends with an extended instrumental section that can only be described as light jazz, while "Dirty Jer-Z"'s verses employ elements of funk underneath some of Martini's most succinct raps yet. Naturally, the song explodes into a metal chorus, featuring the unassuming vocal hook "I'm the king/Make room for me." While Martini's MC skills have improved, E-Town falls into a different kind of rut with this effort. Where its debut just ran out of creative steam, Second Coming seems to plateau after establishing its two well-defined sides. There's the grating hardcore influence in the chorus, complete with Martini's vicious, no-less-diminished yawp. But, inevitably, each song tumbles into amped up hip-hop for its verses. E-Town performs the songs with greater skill and patience, but they're much closer to the rap-metal norm, without much of that street-level feel that defined the eager Time2Shine. That eagerness is distorted by a greater amount of chest-beating told-you-so's ("Guaranteed") and awkward stabs at more melodic material ("Stranglehold," which is redeemed a bit by the bold line "F*ck you god/You never answered my call"). "Sick World" achieves a better balance and the otherwise same-y "Shaydee" does feature some solid post-hardcore riffing. But, overall, Second Coming is pretty disappointing because it wastes E-Town Concrete's obviously strengthened instrumental prowess on material that seems to reach too obviously for the conventional gauntlet. Despite existing in an embryonic state, Time2Shine really had something. Here, Martini and E-Town seem too intent on having something to prove.

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