Courtesy: Century Media
Independent rapper Hyro The hero (nee Hyro da Hero) has made quite the name for himself since he released his debut album Birth, School, Work, Death back in 2011. In the years since its release, the up-and-coming artist has made quite the name for himself, earning a nomination as Best International Newcomer by Kerrang! in 2011, performing with Wu-Tang Clan the same year, joining the lineups for the Soundwave Festival and Warped Tour in 2012, and more. This Friday, June 29, Fenton will take the next step in building his name and reputation when he releases his sophomore album Flagged Channel. The 12-song, 41-minute record is sure to accomplish those goals, too. That is proven in part through the album’s musical arrangements, which will be discussed later. Its lyrical content is certain to play into those goals being attained, too. They will be discussed later. The record’s overall sequencing works hand-in-hand with its songs and their lyrical themes to prove once more that the record is certain to achieve its goals. Each element is important in its own way, and that will be proven here. All things considered, the noted elements make Flagged Channel a record that is certain to be flagged by rock and metal fans, but only for the best reasons.
Hyro The Hero’s sophomore album Flagged Channel is a strong new effort from the up-and-coming rap/rock artist. It is a work that is certain to build even more on the reputation and name that he has already built for himself since the release of his debut album Birth, School, Work, Death back in 2011. That is proven in part through the album’s musical arrangements. At times, more than living up to the old adage about imitation and flattery and at others, establishing his own musical identity, the album’s musical arrangements build a strong foundation for its presentation. The adage about imitation and flattery comes into play a number of times throughout the album including early on in the blatantly Rage Against The Machine-esque song ‘We Ain’t Afraid.’ More specifically, it bears a very striking similarity to that band’s hit song ‘Bombtrack.’ That is obvious from the song’s beats to its guitar riffs and even Hero’s own vocal delivery style. While Hero’s (a.k.a Hyron Fenton) arrangement here is not a mirror image of RATM’s song, the similarities are so close that the comparison can’t be denied. It’s not the only song included in this album that can be likened to songs from RATM. ‘Let The Snake Show,’ the album’s closer can easily be compared to another huge RATM him in the form of ‘Freedom,’ Again, the comparison is not precise, but it is close enough that one cannot deny the closeness of the songs’ arrangements. Is this good or is it bad? That’s left for listeners to determine, though it must be said the comparisons are so close that Hero definitely walks a fine legal line in these two arrangements. ‘Sick Of It All’ could easily be compared, stylistically, to early works from the likes of Biohazard, more recent works from Body Count and other similar acts. The comparisons are a little looser here, but still just enough to make the comparison obvious. ‘Do Or Die,’ which comes late in the album’s run, can easily be compared to compositions from Flipsyde, Linkin Park and Fort Minor. ‘Closed Casket’ is another of the album’s entries that can be compared to works from Rage Against The Machine while the agro-rock of ‘Killas Are Coming’ boasts influences of Hed Pe and Body Count as well as RATM. Considering all of these comparisons, it can be said in short that Hyro The Hero’s influences in this record are varied. That diversity of influences in itself shows why the album’s musical arrangements help to make this album a work that will help develop Fenton’s name and reputation. They are, collectively, not the only element that serves that purpose. Its lyrical themes also serve to show why this album is another positive effort from Fenton.
The lyrical themes presented throughout the course of Flagged Channel are familiar territory not only for Fenton (and his fellow musicians) but also for rock and metal fans. That is proven right from the album’s outset in its opener/lead single ‘Bullet.’ This song comes across lyrically as a statement about the rather tense relationship between law enforcement and the African-American community in recent years. This is inferred as Fenton makes not of a judge’s decision contradicting what was “the truth” and that decision leading to protests. It is inferred just as much in the song’s lead verse, in which he notes, “They keep f****** with the innocent/Treat us different even though we citizens/Fight back now/They trynna call us militant when we just voice our opinion/Time to set fire to the flame they ignited/Either we get justice or you get a riot/We tried to be peaceful but all you know is violence/Any way it goes, we won’t be silent.” He goes on later to offer up a call to action saying, “Wake up my people/Against the forces of evil/The collapse of the eagle.” The eagle, one must assume is representative of America. As noted, this is not unfamiliar territory for Fenton or for most rock and metal fans. The fact that he doesn’t beat around the bush, but rather just outs it right out there is nice, too. It leaves little to no room for misinterpretation. This social commentary is not the only commentary included in this album. He also addresses the obsession with social media by today’s generation in his new, latest single, ‘Live Your F****** Life.’ He addresses here, the problem that exists through this generation’s obsession with social media, and the consequences therein. He writes in the song’s lead verse, “The whole generation needin’ instant gratification/Dopamine fiends addicted to the sensation/Short attention span/Needin’ addies for concentration/Overly dramatic and f*****’ impatient/Wastin’ our time postin’ highlights of our lives/Imperfections we constantly put on disguise/We lie to ourselves/This s*** ain’t good for our health/Chasin’ half the world to show everyone else we want and then bought it for ourselves/Live your f*****’ life!” He goes on to write in the song’s second verse, “Addicted/Head down, stuck in that position/Alternate reality/They livin’ through a screen/Reckless/Zombie-like/No sense of direction/Duck and hide/Run for protection/They comin’ by the millions/Some are even children/That have been turned into dopamine fiends/Lookin’ for the next victim/They dangerous/Sound the alarm for the invasion of the zombie generation/Live your f*****’ Life!” Again, there’s no doubt as to the commentary here. He then encourages those who haven’t been turned into the proverbial “zombie” to “RUN” – in other words, don’t let yourself become one of them. It’s a powerful and much-needed statement especially in this day and age. To that end, Fenton deserves his fair share of applause here. It is an issue that needed to be addressed and needs to continue to be addressed with the current generation of tech addiction, self-centered people. While Fenton address very powerfully plenty of hot button issues throughout this record – as has been evidenced in the noted songs – he also offers listeners some personal motivation through the powerhouse single ‘Never Back Down.’ Rather than going after the establishment or addressing social issues, he instead uses this song to tell listeners to stay the path so to speak and be proud of themselves. He writes here, “Confessions of a loose canon/Feel the flame from this giant a** dragon/Got a couple screws lose that’s danglin’/I’m just tryin’ to keep my head from hangin’/’Cause I gotta keep my head up…I will never ever let up…Never compromise/Can’t give up, give up.” He adds in the chorus, “Never back down/Never back down/’Cause one thing, I’ve never been afraid.” He goes on to write in the song’s second verse, “Okay/I’m reloaded/I want the whole world to take notice/I want everyone to stay focused/And hear the words that’s spoken/I’ve never been the one to be afraid to stir it up/Took my enemies and put ‘em in the dust/Tickin’ time bomb, and I’ve been ready to erupt/And I’m lookin’ for a reason to show ‘em what I’m made of.” That equally strong statement is complimented again by a reprise of the song’s chorus, stressing again, “Never back down…I’ve never been afraid.” On the surface, this song seems like it’s more about Fenton than anything else, but in reality, it’s a song that uses his own feelings to show listeners that they can be just as strong, emotionally and psychologically. With that in mind, it becomes another welcome addition to this album and yet more proof of the importance of the album’s lyrical content to its overall presentation. It most definitely is not the last example of that importance, either. ‘We Ain’t Afraid’ takes a familiar lyrical path as it addresses all of the problems caused by the powers that be, telling those groups that the masses “ain’t afraid” when “they come together with their fists raised.” Those same corrupt leaders are addressed in ‘Killas Are Coming’ as Fenton says of them, “Better beware ‘cause the killers are coming…blood on they hands from the greed and corruption/Your life is worthless to them/It means nothing.” ‘Get The F*** Up’ ‘Do Or Die’ is another powerful entry, serving as a vessel for Fenton to express some deep personal thoughts and feelings about himself and how he feels about the world’s situation. It is really one of the album’s most surprisingly moving moments that shows once again the importance of the album’s lyrical content. When all of this is considered alongside the album’s musical content, both elements go a long way toward making the album well worth hearing. They are still not its only key elements. The album’s overall sequencing rounds out its most important elements.
From the album’s start to its finale the sequencing does just as much as the music and lyrics to keep listeners engaged and entertained. That is evident in the fiery energy exhibited throughout the record both in its music and lyrics. Even with their quick brooding entrances, the album’s first four entries waste little time getting in motion. That energy is carried right through to the album’s midpoint right to that more moving entry that is ‘Do Or Die.’ What’s really interesting here is that while ‘Do Or Die’ may not be the full-throttle work that its counterparts are, it still boasts its own power through Fenton’s lyrics about his personal battle with himself. That power is accented through an arrangement that certainly will move listeners in its own surprising fashion. Of course, the reservation brought through ‘Do Or Die’ doesn’t last long, as the album’s energy comes right back in ‘Closed Casket,’ which seems to address the problem of gun violence in America. That energy carries on right to the album’s RATM-esque finale that is ‘Let The Snake Show,’ which again addresses all of the social and political problems plaguing America. When it’s all said and done, the record’s sequencing shows that it indeed keeps the album’s 41-minute run time move by with ease. That constant energy and movement joins with the record’s musical and lyrical content to make the album in whole a record that listeners will agree has plenty to offer audiences. In turn, it gives plenty of reason to be “flagged” for all the right reasons in this year’s crop of new rock and metal albums.
Hyro The Hero’s sophomore album Flagged Channel is a record that, when compared to all of its counterparts out there this year, is certain to be “flagged” for all of the right reasons. From musical arrangements and lyrical content that is certain to keep listeners engaged and entertained to sequencing that does just as much to maintain that engagement, it offers plenty of positives. To that end, it is a successful second effort from a rap/rock artist who definitely deserves to be heard. It will be available this Friday, June 29 via Century Media. More information on Flagged Channel is available online now along with all of Hyro The Hero’s latest news and more at:
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