Bionic Jive

Armageddon Through Your Speakers

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Being a second-wave rap-metal group arriving shortly after Limp Bizkit's rise to unexpected success, Bionic Jive can't help sounding a little formulaic. It's hard not to think of bands like 311 or Rage Against the Machine while listening to Armageddon Through Your Speakers -- bands who pioneered this rap-metal sound and sounded innovative doing so. But Bionic Jive didn't surface in 1992 like Rage, or in 1993 like 311, or even in 1997 like Limp Bizkit. They arrived in late 2001, and as a result, their music sounds very much of the moment. After all, where two or three years earlier rap-metal bands were anomalies, in 2001 they sounded incredibly commonplace if not ubiquitous, with bands like P.O.D. and Linkin Park coming seemingly out of nowhere and storming up the charts and into mainstream consciousness. Those who can manage to look past this -- or who simply don't care about this sort of stuff -- should find Bionic Jive's major-label debut rather impressive. The group features a guitar-bass-drums trio fronted by two MCs, and the sum of these parts is indeed potent -- never less than rousing and often manic in terms of energy. Furthermore, the group writes solid songs: The intros often feature memorable riffs, the verses feature some intense rhyming, the choruses feature overt hooks, and overall, the rhymes and riffs synthesize surprisingly well. So, in sum, Bionic Jive seems to have the rap-metal style polished and have a few great moments here with "Shut 'Em Down," "I Shot Lucifer," and "Swarm." But there are some problems. Sure, there are some great moments; unfortunately, there's also a lot of repetition here -- the group seems to have found a formula and is unwilling to experiment. And seasoned rap listeners can't help but find much of the rhyming here overly clichéd and, to a certain extent, out of context -- lyrical motifs involving money and Moët and pimpin' and poppin' collars can't help but seem derived. And in the end this problem just becomes far too looming -- this album just feels too manufactured. The best rap-metal employs its own motifs, draws from its own structures, and ultimately creates its own context. Unfortunately, few rap-metal bands do this circa 2001, and Bionic Jive definitely isn't one of them; they simply synthesize what seems like a potent formula. And though they indeed succeed at constructing a potent formula, that formula's just too evident to the seasoned listener. Fans of similarly formulaic rap-metal bands like Limp Bizkit and P.O.D. should find this of similar quality, though, and in that respect perhaps worth investigating.

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