Sound — 7
Spurring up in the midst of the rap metal/nu metal trend at the turn of the millennium, Crazy Town's fortune of being in the right place at the right time resulted in their debut album, "The Gift of Game," being a runaway success, as well as bringing forth the ubiquitous radio single "Butterfly." But as fortunate as it was to skyrocket to massive success right out of the gate, the group would burn out fast. Whether it was because the fad of rap metal was drying up, or because the band tried out a quasi-Linkin Park style in their next album to critical panning, Crazy Town's follow-up, 2002's "Darkhorse," would be a massive flop, more or less inciting the band's breakup months later.
After plenty of solo albums and other side-project efforts that the disbanded Crazy Town members embarked upon during their hiatus (most notably, co-founding rapper Shifty Shellshock's successful club single with Paul Oakenfold, "Starry Eyed Surprise"), Crazy Town reformed in 2007 and began to work towards a returning album. But with more adversity hitting the group (from Shellshock continuing to go in and out of rehab, to their original DJ, the reputable DJ AM, passing away in 2009), momentum would never build properly for this reunion, and only a few singles were released years later. Crazy Town took another beat before resurfacing and announcing a new album again, but this time, things would follow through.
Being over a decade since their last album, Crazy Town's third album, "The Brimstone Sluggers," symbolically indicates a return to the group's beginnings. With the album title co-opting the collaborative name Shellshock and co-founding rapper Epic Mazur used to work under, as well as the album cover using the same Little Lolita character that was on the cover of "The Gift of Game," one would expect at this face value for this to sound like "The Gift of Game, Pt. II." But instead, the primary sound of "The Brimstone Sluggers" centers on gritty modular beats that are stark alternative hip-hop (see the grimy "Light the Way" and "The Keys"), an element that was always eclipsed by the overbearing elementary metal aspects of the group's earlier material. Only a handful of songs incorporate rock instruments in their arrangement, and whereas the brash rap metal guitar power heard in "Megatron" and "Lemonface" are pretty basic, more shrewd instrumental efforts are heard as well, like the funky bassline in "West Coast," or the wistful guitar parts in "Ashes" and "Backpack."
This bigger focus on a reserved and somber melodic style in "The Brimstone Sluggers" is a long-awaited clearing of a hurdle that Crazy Town had originally tripped over in "Darkhorse." Also incorporating more singing vocals into their songs, Mazur and Shellshock have nearly learned to let other people do the singing for a more successful result (keyword "nearly": Shellshock still brings forth retch-worthy autotuned singing performances in "Come Inside," "Born to Raise Hell" and "My Place"). Crazy Town's recruitment of female vocalists to deliver the chorus toplines works better for injecting emotion into their songs, as heard in "Backpack," "Baby You Don't Know," and "A Little More Time" (the last of which earns emotional bonus points for its nifty juxtaposition of a muddy synth bassline and a delicate piano melody in the verses).
Lyrics — 5
Making use of their extended time out of commission, the numerous references of finally returning to the scene are expected in "The Brimstone Sluggers" (being the focal point of the phoenixian "Ashes," as well as calling it a resurrection in "Megatron"), but the more personal bouts of lyrics in the album resonate better in terms of displaying why Mazur and Shellshock felt it necessary to reignite Crazy Town. With "Backpack" being another song focusing on the tough environment Mazur and Shellshock grew up in (the featured rapper Bishop Lamont steals the spotlight in this track, however, with his witty and positive line "Had all this hatred and this pain inside / Could've went Columbine, but had a column full of rhymes"), "A Little More Time" highlights the ongoing everyday struggles of Mazur and Shellshock ("Every peak is like a moment of bliss / And then I'm left with just a desperate wish"), and "Baby You Don't Know" continues this theme, while also showing that it's the sanctuary of making music that the duo take solace in during rough times ("And this music's all I know, I can feel it in my bones / I get lost and it walks me home, wind me up and watch me go").
"Born to Raise Hell" also tries to harness the worn and weathered card, but the duo's tactic for conjuring a tragic vibe via name-dropping deceased celebrities (Amy Winehouse, Heath Ledger and Robin Williams) comes off as heavy-handed at the least and tasteless at the most. Mazur and Shellshock's handful of jocular songs of womanizing (in "Come Inside" and "My Place") and gritty street living (in "Light the Way," "Megatron," "The Keys" and "West Coast") also end up being an overall liability to the album, not only clashing with the pensive vibe established by the more reflective songs - the same lyrical issue that "Darkhorse" suffered from - but also feeling like a hollow filling of a quota for more raucous Crazy Town cuts.
Overall Impression — 7
Despite only consisting of three albums, there's an interesting arc to be found in Crazy Town's discography. "The Gift of Game" succeeded primarily because of the time of which it was conceived, "Darkhorse" failed for the same reason, and "The Brimstone Sluggers" makes the best of its low-key situation. Neither shamelessly digging up the grave of nu metal or burying itself in current rap rock trends (unlike the current EDM-clamoring likes of Hollywood Undead), "The Brimstone Sluggers" simply pushes the sound of Crazy Town into a new phase that works for the group. It still has its share of setbacks, but with its initiative to move forward instead of living in the past, "The Brimstone Sluggers" makes a decent case for Crazy Town's return.