Minneapolis indie hip hop collective Doomtree have carved out a comfy niche in their genre. Consisting of emcees Cecil Otter, Sims, P.O.S, Mike Mictlan, Dessa, and producers Paper Tiger and Lazerbeak, this crew brings a refreshing energy and eloquence to the scene. Between the Doomtree Blowout, their decade-spanning Minneapolis concert series, their print retrospective Every Single Day, and the full-length documentary Team The Best Team, these guys/gal can certainly be considered industry veterans. Now, with the release of their third official album All Hands, Doomtree have reminded us of their epic lyrical ability, with slightly banal production.
Musically, All Hands sounds like a post-apocalyptic space opera. Rife with ominous LFO's, droning synth leads, distant echoes, and indie trap drum patterns, it's a far cry from their first eponymous album. Doomtree sounded decidedly more old-school and drum breaky, a sign of the times. Structurally, most of the 13 songs employ the same formula: a few members spit bars one after the other, break for harmonized chorus, repeat. It's solid on the tracks "Final Boss" and "My Own Nation," but you yearn for variety rather quickly. The drums incorporate the same plodding, heavy handed rhythm on the overwhelming majority of the songs. "Cabin Killer," with its Lorde-esque kick/snare, and the entirely drumless "Marathon" provide some much needed respite from the monotony.
On the positive side, Doomtree certainly know how to play to their strengths. Dessa's presence in and of itself is a gift, manifesting itself in unique verses and important contributions to choruses. They're mechanically gifted; each member is capable of spitting a dizzying flurry of perfectly pronounced lyrics. They're intelligent; they incorporate unique thematic elements and clever references to everything from video games to the bible. In "Final Boss" Dessa rips, "Simon says Miranda's right, but William tells it different/Says Gideon bought a rifle, was looking for a fight/The housewives of Gomora all boarded up from here to the border," and ".38 Airweight" rattles "the children of the corn syrup, got 'em by the ears" touché Doomtree, touché.
Nautical references and nerd sensibility aside, All Hands contains all of the bravado and aggression that you might expect from a contemporary hip hop album. While technically impressive and polished, it's difficult to discern a cohesive theme aside from the aforementioned braggadocio. This is a good album to bump on your tricked out car stereo. It's an impressive lyrical showcase with some standout moments, but its lack of variety and stale production keep it marooned in its voyage for true greatness.