DVSR is a four-piece rap metal band from Sydney, Australia. The Therapy EP from November 20 is their second overall release, following their self-titled debut album from 2015.
Rap metal is older than many It Djents readers might think. Anthrax, Aerosmith, and Public Enemy combined hard rock or metal with rap music in the 80s, long before the latter was rechristened ‘hip-hop’; back when both rap and metal were the true alternative music (i.e. being able to sell well in spite of having no radio airplay). Too many others to list here followed suit before rapping and other aspects of hip-hop combined with a dumb-simple metallic sound to make ‘nu metal’ in the late 90s. The two styles are natural partners.
As always, when a style is that well-established, it ceases to be a novelty and the question turns to execution and writing. DVSR offer very little to distinguish themselves on Therapy. Matthew Youkhana sounds little different from the rappers in Hacktivist, at least to North American ears, because when someone raps, the differences between an Aussie accent and a British one can hardly be detected.
As for the metal, DVSR play a less punchy, less djenty, less aggressive version of Hacktivist. They have a lazier and ‘swishier’ sound, somewhat like what Suicide Silence released this past February, though not nearly as bad. They have grooves. They have some interesting rhythms and the guitars lock in with them just fine. They are not playing amazing riffs, however, more like chord progressions. This is a characteristic that makes DVSR’s music more properly called ‘rap metalcore’. Melody comes in the form of wiggly sounds that float above the grooves.
The EP’s opening track “Endless” shows one of the problems rap metal has in general. By being identified with the very poppy musical idiom that rap is (or rather, has become since the 90s ended), the songs cannot afford to be very long. Conventional logic says short songs need to be fast and aggressive, but speed is at a premium when one employs hip-hop beats and rapping. Thus, “Endless” tries to be a scorcher near the middle with some breakdown-like riffs, but these had to be played at the same medium tempo as the rest of the song so as not to wreck M.C. Youkhana’s flow.
“Detox” is ruled by the squiggly melody and some distinctive bass playing. The chorus uses clean vocals layered under the guitars in a way that spells ‘weak singer’. An instrumental passage adds some welcome percussiveness, but the return of the chorus just kills it.
One would expect a song called “Slave to the Beat” to have some funk to it. It in fact has the most conventionally metallic groove on all of Therapy. “First Degree”, on the other hand, is the least metallic song. This might have made it the EP’s best song, however. Things focus on the rapping and the melody, without any perceived need for the guitars to ‘drop’ in at all during the its 2m17s length.
“The Devil in 95s” has a directly epic feel at the start, but it morphs into the more familiar guitarless sound found in previous songs. The rising epic passage from the song’s beginning returns as something like a chorus.
Title track “Therapy” is the closest DVSR come to nu metal and emulating Rage Against the Machine. It has the same ultra-simple riffing, spoiled by DVSR’s now tiresome wiggle-melody loop.
The EP’s closer, “Ready for War” follows the example of “First Degree” in trying to be less metal and more rap. The synthesizer (sounding like not really an electric piano) loops over the drum, synth bass, and rapping. “Ready for War” is where Youkhana’s flow fails, however. The song has a slow and simple beat, but he raps as if the drums played something three times faster and ten times more intricate. Instead of sounding ‘ready for war’, he sounds frightened that someone suggested the concept to begin with.
Overall, DVSR did not create anything amazing when they wrote and recorded Therapy. The problems mentioned about various songs here were structural in nature; creative missteps taken rather than genuinely bad ideas that make one cringe through entire songs.
Anything involving rap should thrive on its message (even if the message involves one’s love for large posteriors and one’s consequential inability to lie about said love). Perhaps DVSR’s philosophical ramblings might resonate with some, making this a worthy listen. They definitely do a better job than Volumes did on Different Animals simply by not trying to mis-match styles and by not blending them in an awkward way. But this is no Hacktivist, either.
Notable Tracks: “Slave to the Beat”; “First Degree”
FFO: Hacktivist, Volumes, RATM