New Music | Friday Roll Out: Grand Mantis

It seems there’s a fire, a blaze that consumes everything in its path. As it engulfs and destroys all in its wake, with nothing left to feed on, it continues to burn brightly with the raging torment of a thousand souls. That may seem a bit dramatic but how else would one describe the debut offering of Grand Mantis, the collaboration between lyricists Yikes The Zero & Osevere, as well as DJ Skipmode and guitarist Thaddeus Cole-Pepper?

As Grand Mantis, the group delivers the FANGS (Knife Hits) album, an astute juxtaposition of flavored cacophony, odd beats, imposing melodies, and strangely inviting loops. But this isn’t art rap for art rap’s sake, life within the group’s music is much deeper than that. The album is challenging, as the opening “Reignfall” that urges with a myriad of sounds and tones that could be backward church organs, guitar feedback, and sputtering scratching as Yikes & Osevere trade rhymes and interesting phrasing. When you catch Osevere spitting “Go and thank your boy, he’s still a beast in the lab like Hank McCoy” and “With a frequency that storms like Ororo, that spear in Wakanda, I go beyond that for tomorrow…” He speaks a language some will understand, playing with the imaginary, allowing it to get his point across. The entire song shouldn’t make sense, but it makes all the sense in the world. With this Grand Mantis enters the fray.

The deconstructed/reconstructed tracks never detract from allowing even the most postulant listener to understand there’s a strengthened Boom-Bap beneath or within Grand Mantis. “The UMPH,” with its eerie underlying hum, allows the group to ride the repetitive beat to freely flow with guitar melodies, rhythmic scratching and Cole-Pepper’s sinister notes. But if there’s anywhere we should all be in agreement with is “This That,” where we find the Grand Mantis emcees waxing poetic over edgy melodies, controlled noise, a thundering rhythm, and melodramatic guitars that sound like an array of instrumentation. Am I wrong, I don’t think so. Regardless, when Osevere spits, “Shit seems kinda different, change in an instance, banging in the distance…” he easily sums it all up. And then we get to “Nameless” where yes, things change again as Yikes The Zero offers a playful off-key chorus as Osevere chimes along. The melody and beat play like 90s-era Hip-Hop, like a joyous Ultramagnetic. It’s a bit peculiar but completely enthralling.

Throughout FANGS, Grand Mantis’ urging lo-fi sound rips and roars nostalgically while also living contemporarily. If one could visualize the sounds that emanate from Grand Mantis, the group’s lofty imagery could in fact be embodied by a myriad of Jean-Michel Basquiat pieces strewn across the asphalt of urban streets.

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