Earlier this week I was moseying about Whole Foods surveying overpriced produce when my eyes fell upon the packaged peculiarity that is buffalo shrimp. Buffalo shrimp struck me as such an oddity not because it wouldn't conceivably be good, but because it requires that a consumer possess two distinct and simultaneous tastes: penchants for small, delicate crustaceans and smoky, spicy poultry. Australian horrorcore strikes me in much the same way—done right, I suppose it could be good, but it combines two subgenres with such restricted audiences in their own rights that marketing it could only be difficult. From where I'm standing, Australian rap in general is a tough sell already, mostly because it tends to be performed by Caucasians with the same accent as Steve Irwin, and the same can be said for horrorcore, the bastard stepchild of gangsta rap and slasher films. Regardless of whatever audience may or may not exist for such a product, Melbourne's Tornts makes no concessions in his hardcore style on 2010's "Deadbrain Diaries."
The beats throughout "Deadbrain Diaries" are okay but never outstanding. The rough, apocalyptic sound created by the use of eerie pianos, violins, hard rock guitars, and heavy percussion is at times reminiscent of a horror score but fails to provide the chills and thrills one would hope for in a record of this caliber—while decent structurally, they're rarely exciting and are at times simplistic. Tornts has no shortage of energy—he yells all the time—but he too lacks the poignancy and shock value crucial to this style. Rather than provide the listener with the sort of creepy imagery and references to create a consistent mood, his verses supply endless onslaughts of threats and braggadocio. Tornts' delivery grows extremely tiresome, the hooks are poorly conceived, and, as is often the case, when the beats fail to carry him the results are underwhelming. The two best songs arrive in the final third: "Wish I Was Dead" uses a clever Pharaohe Monch sample but oddly only clocks in at 1:31, and the pulsating synths of "Reapers My Chauffeur" move at a tempo ideal for Tornts' rapid flow.
In my experience horrorcore is best when performed with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor—see Hung, Brotha Lynch; Gravediggaz, The; and Bill, Bushwick—or if not then when the rapper has some sort of gimmick to use as a crutch. "Deadbrain Diaries" is not particularly good, not particularly bad, but utterly forgettable to the point that hardly a single track bears remembrance once it's done playing. I hate to sound as if I never reneged from my first impressions, but sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. Australian horrorcore, love it or leave it.
Music Vibes: 4.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 5 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 4.5 of 10
Originally posted: February 8th, 2011