Back in 2006, underground heavyweights Ill Bill and Vinnie Paz joined forces on the explosive Jedi Mind Tricks track “Heavy Metal Kings.” Although it wasn’t the first time the two emcees’ paths had crossed, the record established Bill and Paz as a dynamic duo of hardcore Hip Hop, comparable to Ghostface Killah and Raekwon. Now, five years later, the two have turned their collaboration into a full length LP with Enemy Soil’s latest release Heavy Metal Kings.
Unfortunately, what could have been a stellar collaborative project from two of the underground’s top emcees falls short on arrival as the two heavyweights retread the same formula to which they been adhering for the better part of their respective careers.
Paz and Bill are by no means subpar spitters. On the contrary, the two emcees have established themselves as the foremost underground lyricists of the past decade, artfully blending street-hardened bravado with flashes of political discourse and introspection. On Heavy Metal Kings, however, the duo sticks to the formula of interweaving conspiracy theories with gutter talk, making much of the album sound one-note. Of course, Bill and Vinnie have their moments of pure lyrical brilliance. Paz in particular matches up quite well against his tongue twister Canarsie partner, with his verse of “Children of God” providing some of the best wordplay on the entire album. Ultimately, the Heavy Metal Kings simply don’t do enough as lyricists to distinguish this latest project from their pervious work with Jedi Mind Tricks and Non Phixion.
Heavy Metal Kings works best when Bill and Paz reach outside of their comfort zones, both with regards to production and lyricism. Tracks like the Reggae-inflected “Eye is King,” “Age of Quarrel,” “Blood Meridian” and DJ Muggs' dark “Leviathan (The Spell of Kingu)” find them at their best, balancing their stylistic flairs with expertly crafted and adventurous production. Paz and Bill also bring their AOTP/Non Phixion and La Coka Nostra brethren into the mix on bangers like “The Vice of Killing” with Reef the Lost Cauze and Sabac Red, “Devil’s Rebels” with Crypt the Warchild and “Metal in Your Mouth” with Q-Unique and Slaine. Yet perhaps the album’s most surprising moments are when Bill steps behind the boards with tracks like the previously mentioned “Children of God” and the RZA-esque “King Diamond.”
With that being said, much of the album’s 16 tracks tend to blend together. Bill and Paz rely too heavily on Army of the Pharoahs' standard fare to pad out the project. Songs like “Terror Network” and “Impaled Nazarene” mesh together amid the booming drums, Stoupe-derived grooves and paranoid angry raps, while cuts like “Keeper of the Seven Keys,” “Splatterfest” and “The Vice of Killing” employ the tired mix of murder raps and orchestral production. Other tracks, including “The Final Call” and “Oath of the Goat” simply fail to elicit excitement and do little more than buffer out the tracklist.
Ultimately, Bill and Paz shy away from their forceful and often left field personalities far too often on Heavy Metal Kings, instead settling for a subpar sound. While there’s worthwhile music to be heard on the album, fans must suffer through an interminable amount of filler to find it.