Review

E-Town Concrete's debut is a more ambitious mixture of hip-hop, hardcore, and metal than normal, if only because lead shouter Anthony Martini can actually rap. That he does so in a gruff half-scream is even more impressive. It's that delivery that guides ETC's music, since the band chooses to play the power surge of hardcore off the rhythms of hip-hop, instead of simply rocking a huge riff over a double bass roll and telling everyone to "jump! jump!" Tracks like "Cycles" and the title cut trudge forward, fuses lit and looking for trouble. They threaten to explode into double-time hardcore step at any moment, but rarely do. Martini's unique vocal style keeps them in an in-between world, grabbing hold of hardcore and metal's aggression, but using real East Coast flow as a delivery system. When he spits "Please excuse my f*cked attitude/But I don't give a f*ck about you" in "Time2Shine"'s chorus, E-Town Concrete start to sound like End of Silence-era Rollins Band with KRS-One on guest vocals. Lyrically, Time2Shine deals out plenty of the chest-thumping bravado that often mars rap-metal records, and down the stretch it leans too much on hip-hop cliché (rhyming "keep it real" with "two mil in U.S. bills" isn't very innovative). Likewise, the album's second half falls into a rut where traditional heavy metal pacing meets 2Pac-style flow in a toughman contest. Nobody wins, because it all begins to sound pretty contrived. Martini and E-Town are more successful when they cross their hip-hop influence and talents with hard-hitting rhythms and refashioned, slag heap hardcore, and rap about the rough Elizabeth, NJ, neighborhood they grew up in, instead of making simplistic threats and empty boasts. ~ Johnny Loftus, Rovi

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