Reviews Are Coming In i will post as they come
Empty Rifles Full Canteens is a real gem. Maximus de Mantis and Menes the Pharaoh construct a rarity in hip-hop; The concept album. Empty Rifles Full Canteens delivers track for track consistent creative lyrics over warm and fresh beats. Individually each track from Empty Rifles Full Canteens is perfect. What holds the album back is the overall flow of the album track for track. Instead of telling the story of a Vietnam veteran it meanders from topic to topic blocking the listener from really digging deep into the theme.
From deep reflections of pain, to glorified violence, Empty Rifles Full Canteens covers it all. From start to finish the album stays fresh and keeps well away from being groove locked. There are several “Battle Songs” that excite. “Let Em Konq” is one example really capturing both the excitement and testosterone of combat. The truth is no matter how horrific war is running around with a rifle, kicking in doors, blowing shit up…. It’s cool, but it’s not cool, but it’s cool…. That duality is an important part of the overall experience and is prominently represented. The album really shines on tracks that are reflective. Menes enters a near trance on the track “The Standpoint” channeling a lost tormented spirit to remind us that it’s more than just stories forcing the listener to think about the real costs of war. His words are hard to shake climaxing with anger: Fuck Uncle Sam/ he the one who made your gun jam/ and took kids from their mothers hands/brought to early deaths/ rolled in shallow graves/ I still consider it money in exchange for slaves.
The musical background of Empty Rifles Full Canteens pleases. The beats are not only extremely well constructed but warm and sound amazing piped through a good system with deep bass. So many albums feel off. Technically right but almost too correct. Even though the release is .mp3 it’s texture is reminiscent of vinyl at times. With over half a dozen producers you would expect at least one track to seem out of place. All beats follow a dark grimy groove that keep them well meshed even though the styles are noticeably different. Listening to Empty Rifles Full Canteens makes me long for an instrumental version.
Concept albums can either tell a story or be based around a more general theme. Opening with the 21st Century Fox Theme seems to make the promise of an epic movie like experience. Tragically Empty Rifles Full Canteens follows a more general approach to theme causing a meandering clump of tracks pieced together seemingly at random. A good example of a general theme concept album is MF DOOM’s Mm...Food or Handsome Boy Modeling School’s White People; both albums have abstract concepts and work well with a loose arrangement of tracks. Empty Rifles Full Canteens should have followed a more structured path closer to Prince Paul’s A Prince Among Thieves. A Prince Among Thieves has clear character development and timeline. Empty Rifles Full Canteens didn’t need to follow a protagonist as strictly as Prince Paul’s effort but clearly showing before/during/after Vietnam would have added much more depth to the concept and shown development adding interest to the entire album. One example is the last track of Empty Rifles Full Canteens about an escape from a POW camp even though it’s eluded that many tracks before are reflective on experiences after the war. These glaring inconstancies detract from the experience as a whole and diminish what could have been a truly remarkable work.
Empty Rifles Full Canteens is a fitting tribute to those who served in Vietnam. Even if those who served don’t appreciate or understand the effort is still strong and from the heart. Vietnam changed America in many ways. Anyone close to a veteran that is still haunted by their past would agree. Many Vietnam veterans are fading from our lives and now is the time for a new generation to pay respect in their own way. Recently I lost my father in law to pancreatic cancer. We are still trying to prove exposure to Agent Orange was, at least, a contributing factor. I still remember him telling me about being spit on coming back from Vietnam while getting off a plane. It was hard to watch the pain and anger, the deep disconnect in his eyes. Empty Rifles Full Canteens is equally hard to face which will turn off many listeners but not everyone can deal with hard truths. If you are willing to face the horrors Empty Rifles Full Canteens will leave you enriched and somber.
- as a album competing against todays market 8.8/10