Twin Perils :: Dark Alliance :: Holographic Pagoda Recordings
as reviewed by Susan 'susiQ' Kim

"If you can grasp the concept of long lost brothers inadvertently reuniting you will understand the legacy of the Twin Perils." An alliance that has only grown since 2005, Twin Perils boasts a brotherhood like no other. Meeting by chance on the streets of New York, June Marx and Lone Ninja learned of each other's passion for rhyming and quickly formed the group Twin Perils named after the Greek mythology story of monsters Scylla and Charybdis. With almost twenty years of rhyming experience combined, Twin Perils' union instantaneously grew as their music seemed to flourish. Constantly trading beats and rhymes, they both knew they were definitely onto something. Unfortunately, Twin Perils ran into a difficult situation in 2005 with June Marx being call to Iraq as a U.S. Marine, but still managed to persevere through it all as he would write rhymes to Lone Ninja via e-mail. As June Marx returned from Iraq in 2007, the group was finally able to complete their debut album, "Dark Alliance" with sole production from the two.

I had high hopes for the 39 minutes of "Dark Alliance" as it began with the gritty, ominous track of "Unauthorized" with a sound reminiscent to my all time favorite group, Cannibal Ox. With its hardcore beat I was excited and expecting some stellar rhymes to follow, but was quickly disappointed. As Lone Ninja starts off the rhyming session, I was all of a sudden lost. His monotonous, low voice and incomprehensible rhymes had me confused from the get go. June Marx slowly makes his way in for the second half of the track as the verses start to make a little more sense. As Twin Perils visualize the militaristic infiltration of unauthorized areas through their rhymes, I soon understood that this was in fact the recurring theme throughout "Dark Alliance." Although I understood that June Marx hailed from a military background, the warlike themes from one track to the next had little variation and were quite exhausting as each song ended up as merely a battle rap. Where was the substance, the story, the meaning behind each track?

"Dark Alliance" continues with "Crossfire" which again, follows the same militaristic theme and ultimately calls out to other emcees who are caught in this so-called "crossfire." This is the problem that I have with this album because the same message is heard in the next and the one after that. June Marx begins "Waterfalls of Blood" with some intrigue, but is slowly shot down as soon as Lone Ninja joins in. The lack of enthusiasm and character in his voice makes for a rather unsettling track as it is difficult for audience to become engaged. While June Marx has some definite lyrical skills and cadence, Lone Ninja trails behind and makes for a unnatural partnership. Rather than feeding off each other's lyrical energy, it is almost halted as soon as Lone Ninja steps onto the mic.

Amidst the mediocrity, a couple tracks such as "Surgical Strike" and "Birth of Assassins" maintain a strong beat with harmonious string sounds and manage to catch my attention. Although "Birth of Assassins" follows yet again the same theme, this time around, the track provides insight into personal struggle and revelation as June Marx says:

"As a kid
I felt vulnerable to life's bear traps
So I kept a razor tip inside my Air Max
Knowledge elevates like alien air crafts
Welcome to insanity
The mirror stares back
Clear facts
Four corners of the Earth detached"

I'm not quite sure what Twin Perils was aiming for, but in the end, "Dark Alliance" ended up as a mixtape, if anything. The choppy, unfinished sixteen tracks with each only spanning a length of about two minutes had me constantly wondering where the end of each track was. The abrupt ending to each track made for a somewhat crude album that lacked in cohesiveness and execution. Each track was so predictable in its battle rap, combative content, as the emcees' delivery was lacking. In a majority of the tracks, even the order to which each emcee rhymed was expected. In most instances, June Marx began each track, while Lone Ninja followed, concluding each track all of sudden. The martial theme throughout "Dark Alliance" threw me off on many occasions as their metaphorical rhymes had me perplexed. Listening to each track over and over again, I was still unable to gauge their underlying messages.

In all honesty, I am quite done with battle raps. I envision albums to have substance, fluidity with each track, and a message or story within each song. For the most part, Twin Perils' attempt was a valiant one, but they have some work to do. Instead of the sixteen, one to two minute tracks that end abruptly, I would like to see lengthier tracks with more verses from each emcee that don't include metaphor upon metaphor. All in all, less tracks with more substance and length is something Twin Perils is more than capable of. With some structure, variation, and patience, Twin Perils will be well on their way to constructing innovative and conscientious rap music.

Music Vibes: 6 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 5.5 of 10

Originally posted: December 2, 2008