Hostyle Gospel “Immortal Combat”
Reviewed by: Neil Christian
Rating: 4.7 (Out of 10)
If you were asked, “what is the most famous American photo of all time?” Which one would it be? That photograph would have to embody the spirit, ideals and values of the nation. Which one is it? Glad you asked. It’s the picture of the 6 soldiers hoisting the US flag at Iwo Jima, during WWII. The photo was taken during one of the bloodiest battles of WWII after the capture of Mt. Suribachi. The picture, and the memorial built depicting the event, symbolizes the ideals of strength, hope, patriotism and valor, in the face of extreme danger. Why the history lesson? Simple, just take a good long look at the picture on the left. Notice the similarities?
Artwork has the ability to make or break the expectancy and fervor of the audience. A good artwork will create high expectancy in the listener. They will associate the themes and issues, discussed in the album to the artwork. Often, the listener will remember the artwork upon mention of the project rather than individual songs. If the artwork happens to be exceptional, then the muses of the society are often epitomized in the album cover itself. Just take a look at Criminal Minded. That cover represents its time and the social/political upheavals that were taking place over the injustice against the African Americans. Another example was the Low End Theory. That iconic imagery would continue to pop up throughout Tribe’s career, making the painted lady hip-hop’s most recognizable mascot.
Why am I dwelling so much on this? Well, because what Hostyle Gospel has done, is create an album cover that personifies the album’s theme. You already know what the message is without hearing a single bar of the album. The image of four guys, dressed in khakis, hoisting the cross with heavy exertion on their faces, immediately coveys the idea that we are in a war. We are in a war against the world and the secular music industry that is promoting sin heavily. We are in a war against sin and against our flesh. That is the message. They are not just saying it. Hostyle Gospel is screaming that reality and calling out the listeners to wake up. “Pick up the cross young man, let’s move. Faith without works is dead, let’s move. People ain’t heard the name yet, let’s move, choose Christ it’s guaranteed we will not lose.”
What better way to wake the slumbered than to hit them with “War Zone.” With heavy synth and sharp drums, the rappers go hard as they spit, “Jesus created a map for us to reconcile back like, 2 nails in his hands, 1 life to give up, 3 days in the grave, 1 son lift up, he carried the cross, fell to his knees, he followed commands, we have to believe.” The song really crescendos at the chorus with a war like chant, “It’s a war zone…choose Christ, wake up!”
From exhorting the believers to wake up on “Get Yo Bibles Out,” to battling Satan on “Tell Satan it’s On,” Every song is tailored towards that aim. That is the message of the project. That rigid theme is the backbone that’s holds the body together despite the great variance of beats present. Not that it is a bad thing.
From a musical standpoint, the production on this album is fresh. There is the jazzy “Thanks For Coming Out,” reminiscent of old school Kanye and Just blaze production. Then on the other spectrum we have “Calling out to You” with a fantastic bouncing beat coupled with an equally bouncing bass line to match. And the hypnotic keys are the icing on the cake! I don’t know who the producer is but good job sir. I tip my hat.
But sadly things don’t continue in this fashion. In fact I walked away from the album very confused. The confusion in fact began with the opening song, titled “Welcome to the Show.” The song begins with the rapper repeating the title over a deceptively mellow beat. But suddenly all that ends and you are hit by somebody screaming and then these words, “This is not a show”. Oh, ok. Then what is it? Because according to their biography, “Hostyle Gospel ministers to today’s generation in a way that is both relevant and entertaining.” Confused? This is just the beginning.
The rappers in themselves sound quite confusing. Sometimes the rapper flowing on the beat is fantastic as he dodges and weaves like a boxer and hits his punch line right on that crash. Other times the same rapper seems like a blind man flaying his arms wildly hoping to do some damage, but merely hurting himself. The flow on some songs is just plain atrocious. One rapper even sounds like Shawty Lo. And no, that’s not a good thing. Do I sound confused? Yes I am.
However, the worst is yet to come. The project has not been professionally mixed or mastered. The opening song vocals are too loud, the melody on the song too soft and the singers are off note and off key. This sordid state of mixing (or lack of) continues with the rest of the album, as at times the vocal tracks are painfully loud and the beautiful instrumentals are not allowed to shine. This is the deal breaker of this album. This is amateur work. With such great production, it is such a pity that mixing and mastering, instead of enhancing the project, is an encumbrance.
In conclusion, is it a good album? Yes. Is it a terrible album? Yes. Am I confused? Yes. However, the most consistent thing is their ability to stick to the theme of the project. This project will wake you from your slumber and shake you into action and awaken you to the fact that we are in a war. And we are soldiers in the Lord’s army. And that the end of the day, that’s what matters. Don’t get it confused.
1. Music – 7
2. Flow – 5
3. Creativity / Originality – 5
4. Relevancy – 3
5. Content & Character – 3
6. Credibility & Confidence – 7
7. Personality – 5
8. Presentation Quality – 6
9. Overall Production Quality – 2
10. Potential Impact – 4