The Army of the Pharaohs’ 2006 underground opus, The Torture Papers, is a slept-on classic appreciated by backpackers and thugs alike. Headed by Jedi Mind Tricks front man Vinnie Paz, the AOTP squad has undergone several roster changes since its incarnation. Gone are veterans like Bahamadia and Chief Kamachi, replaced with newcomers like Demoz and King Magnetic. Nevertheless the Demigodz crew of Apathy, Celph Titled, and Esoteric has supported the Army while they’ve utilized beats from up-and-coming and obscure producers to craft their sound. While the quality of lyrics somewhat diminished from the group’s debut on 2007’s Ritual of Battle, the overall body of work was exceptional. After an uninspiring group effort by Jedi Mind Tricks (A History of Violence) and on the verge of releasing his debut solo album, Vinnie once again enlisted the crew for The Unholy Terror.
Being that this is the Army of the Pharaohs’ third release, listeners already know what to expect. While group members like Demoz and Doap Nixon thug it out, Apathy, Reef the Lost Cauze, Celph Titled, and Esoteric stay on their lyrical grind. Predictably, Vinnie Paz permeates the listener’s ears with patently offensive lines like “gay rapper, altar boy you fucking a priest” on the opening posse cut “Agony Fires.” Although Outerspace’s Planetary isn’t known for his command of the English language, he uses some intricate wordplay to rhyme “deep end” with “depend.” Celph Titled also lets listeners know he hasn’t lost a step with punchlines like “explosive botanist, obvious that I plant bombs/I stand out in crowds like I got fluorescent pants on.” Not be outdone, Apathy superbly displays his disdain for the trivial state of Hip Hop (“I take these young rappers and murder their flows and including Weezy’s and Jeezy’s/if I had a genie, I’d make major label rappers Ice Cube’s with Eazy’s“). Celph Titled dumbs it down on “Ripped To Shreds” to kick it into double-time, although he does throw around lines like “your whole parliament/turn butter-soft like tubs of margarine.” Unfortunately this track suffers from a wack chorus courtesy of Demoz. Vinnie Paz remains blasphemous and offensive on this one which is quite entertaining to say the least (“I’m hesitant to meet people/I have a tendency to eat people/my team feed you the priest on the discrete steeple“). Celph Titled himself provides the production on “Bust Em In.” Over a classical sample, Reef The Lost Cauze, Apathy, and Celph hold it down with their typical style of battle rap, although this is far from the album’s high point.
On “Prisoner,” Planetary, Demoz, Doap Nixon, and Vinnie Paz spit thuggish rhymes over a knocking beat from Undefined. Although the aforementioned are not the most prolific lyricists in the Army of the Pharaohs, they certainly hold their own in constructing this jam. When “Godzilla” opens, it becomes clear that Jus Allah has fallen off worse than nearly any rapper in recent history. Once a proverbial juxtaposition due to his laidback flow mixed with aggressively violent similes, Jus has been reduced to littering verses with crippling scream of “I am…” Despite the forgettable Jus Allah verse Apathy kills the track with his robotic flow and his ability to make cliché lines seem original (“even if I kick a free someone’s still gonna pay“). King Magnetic also provides some dope punchlines like, “hop out the wheel like hamsters.” “Suplex” is about as gangsta as it gets. Demoz redeems himself from previous efforts, breaking down the meaning of his name over Vanderslice’s ominous production. Vinnie Paz continues to drop some shockingly laughable punchlines that serve their purpose.
Boston’s DC The Midi Alien produced the praiseworthy “Contra Montra,” which reunites Crypt The Warchild, Esoteric, and Celph Titled from The Torture Papers’ “Listen Up.” Although his verse is far from a lyrical masterpiece, Crypt’s effort is commendable, while Celph as usual provides some smoothly delivered punchlines. However, it’s Esoteric’s verse that boosts the song’s quality. Spitting what is possibly the verse of his long career, Eso voices, “you say you popping bottles/and stunting like Diddy/but your pockets be flatter than a model’s stomach or titties/while you’re fronting like you’re rugged and gritty/why I spit it so hot?/why do I love Big Pun and Big L more than Biggie and Pac?” DC’s skillful scratching of Jay-Z spelling out “AOTP” is another nice addition to a nearly perfect boom bap track. Apathy whose production on last year’s Wanna Snuggle? was remarkable makes his AOTP production debut with “Suicide Girl.” Planetary delivers his finest verse on the release waxing poetic about his ex-girlfriend who committed suicide. One of the least memorable members of the Army, Doap Nixon, proves to be worthwhile when he stays on topic, as he narrates his relationship with a promiscuous drug addict. As expected, Apathy delivers the most impressive verse on the track, spitting about a lover who confesses that she enjoys self-mutilation. “The Ultimatum” benefits from both dope production courtesy of Jedi Mind Tricks’ touring deejay, DJ Kwestion and astonishing lyricism from ten East Coast emcees. Celph Titled hits his mark with punchlines like “I’ll leave your whole face wet/like you got hit with water balloon the size of a propane jet.“
Demoz kicks off his verse calling out rappers like Lil Wayne on “Drenched In Blood.” I personally found this interesting considering that Demoz’s cadence is so comparable to Wayne’s to the point that he doesn’t exactly fit in with the other group members. Unsurprisingly this track is littered with homophobic overtones like Vinnie Paz stating, “f*ggots don’t get robbed, they get killed.” The production on “Spaz Out” falls short due to the use of an overtly epic sample that proves to be anything but. Vanderslice returns to produce “44 Magnum.” Although the production is above average, the same can’t be said about the bars laid down by each emcee. “Hollow Points” suffers from the same disposition, although Vinnie laces the production with a dope verse. “Dead Shall Rise” is another posse cut that is barely noticeable, while Vinnie once again comes correct with lines like “make you lose your faith in Jehovah like Damon Dash.” “Cookin Keys” features outstanding production provided by DJ Kwestion. However the AOTP crew fails to the do the beat justice. It seems like every dope beat on the album goes towards the less lyrical members of the Army, whereas the lackluster beats are given to the doper members of the crew. Either this is coincidental or some form of quality control. AOTP reaches a new low on “Burn You Alive” which features Block McCloud’s Auto-Tune induced crooning. Although the verses are acceptable and the production is dope, the hook renders the track virtually unlistenable and is the antithesis of what AOTP fans are looking for.
The Unholy Terror fails to live up to the standards set by their previous releases. Although tracks like “Contra Mantra” and “Suicide Girls” stand out from others, there are many forgettable tracks, and worse yet, passable tracks on the album. Oddly enough crew leader, Vinnie Paz, stands out from the herd on Unholy Terror while on past releases he’s been overshadowed by the likes of Reef The Lost Cauze and Celph Titled. If you can suspend your conception of ignorance and listen to the album from start to finish, you can easily enjoy the absurdity of Vinnie’s lyrics and intricacies of crew member’s like Apathy. Unfortunately you may have to skip a few songs here and there to suite your taste.