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Doom’s New Album Suprisingly Great

Nick Anderson | Monday, March 30, 2009

So it’s DOOM now. Throughout his career, Daniel Dumile has adopted a plethora of identities. Starting with Zev Love X, he’s also been known as Viktor Vaughn, King Geedorah, Metal Fingers, Supervillain, and MF DOOM. But it’s DOOM now, and his name may be the easiest part of his art to understand. In 1991, DOOM showed huge potential as a member of the group KMD. Soon after their first album was released, DOOM’s younger brother died in a car accident. After three years of near homelessness, DOOM reemerged. Since then, he’s worn a chrome gladiator mask at near every show, interview or public appearance without explanation. His brother’s death and his mask have provided much of the focus for his career. DOOM started his brief flirtation with commercial success in 2004. A collaboration with Madlib found a wide audience and a short but sold out tour. Three solo albums, a release with Danger Mouse and a scene-stealing spot on a Gorillaz track put DOOM on the verge of breaking into the main stream. Instead of capitalizing on this momentum, DOOM spent five years creating “Born Like This.”For the unfamiliar, it would be easy to give up on this album. After one listen, it would be easy to accuse critics of praising something that is merely confusing instead of good. DOOM tends to shun club beats and typical song structures while embracing short, chorus-less songs, often framed by samples taken from comedians, movies or poets. On successive listens, a certain brilliance can be found in the confusion, and as stated in the first track, “DOOM’s got a plan that’s gonna shake the heavens.”The most accessible song on the album is “Angelz” featuring Ghostface Killah, appropriately going by Tony Starks. While originally slated to be released on a full album of Ghostface and DOOM songs, it finds its place on “Born Like This.” Both Ghostface and DOOM manage to hold on to their signature styles without interfering with one another. The opening verse is carried by Ghostface. As expected, Ghostface is a testosterone-fueled tour de force for the MC. DOOM’s verse counters the first with his slow-and-steady flow that slows the track down without losing interest. Across the album, DOOM provides much of the production, allowing the songs to feel consistent without being boring. The beats build song after song, creating a dark environment and allowing the listener to see the world through the eyes of the mask. When DOOM allows others to take a role on a song, they become near perfect. J Dilla’s production on “Gazzillion Ear” catches the listener’s ear like nothing else on the album. Empress Starhh Tha Femcee’s verse on “Still Dope” showcases one of the best female rhymes heard in years. And Jake One’s production on “Rap Ambush” is a high point purely for the aggression it provides. The center piece of the album is easily “Cellz.” Two minutes of Charles Bukowski reciting his poem “Dinosauira, We” acts as the center upon which the album rotates. These opening two minutes push the listener into the apocalypse; Bukowski’s craggy voice is played over weary, bleak beats, punctuated by missiles screaming past. Picking up where Bukowski left off, DOOM welcomes the listener to his own personal end of the world. Bukowski’s poem and DOOM’s verse end in the same way; a small offering of hope. With “Born Like This” DOOM provides a reason to buy albums again. He has presented the audience with something rare; a collection of songs that need to be understood and enjoyed as an album. Even rarer, he has presented an album which makes this effort worth it.