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[Album Review] TomKarp – Rapcore Is Not Dead

TomKarp‘s repertoire has remained relatively straight forward, for the majority of his young career. Initially earning notability for YouTube guitar covers of classic Limp Bizkit tracks, Karp’s immediate impression to any viewer is, at the very least, one of proficiency; the Polish guitarist’s emulation of Wes Borland‘s extremely recognizable style has been acclaimed by his modest audience, and on several occasion adding flairs of his own into the mix while keeping in line with the feel of the original. With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that Karp’s debut 2018 EP, Rapcore Is Not Dead, should be so heavily inspired by those he clearly appreciates.

While the majority of Rapcore Is Not Dead’s roster is compiled of material heavily influenced by the nu-metal rap-rock giants of early 2000s, it’s progression from emulation to inspiration is fantastically executed. Indeed, all influences are unashamedly front and center, even going so far as to sample Limp Bizkit’s recognizable ‘Shotgun’ blast on ‘Rapcore Is Not Dead.’ With Karp’s Borland-esque riffage, piercing harmonics and signature clean delay effectively driving much of the instrumental side of things, the EP also happily employs DJ scratching similar to the likes of Linkin Park’s Meteora-era Joe Hahn, to notably boost ‘Haunted’ and the ‘Rapcore Is Not Dead’ bridge. As for the overall production, the relatively independent EP barely displays any signs at all that this is anything short of a high quality, professional release; the rawness of a solid rock record is clearly established, yet employing the quality of production that would be more expected from many of Karp’s successful peers.

Further to enhance an already clearly enjoyable record, Rapcore Is Not Dead also establishes itself as a testament to collaborations done right; all artists involved are clearly 100% on board with the direction and style of the EP, leading to an assortment of extremely solid performances. The combined efforts of Trix and Grip on ‘Haunted’ leads to an effective Fred Durst inspired flow and vocal performance, with a screamed bridge likely to impress fans of early Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, or Slipknot/Stone Sour’s Corey Taylor. Middle act, ‘Neck Rack’, offers a little more variety on the vocal side of things, Sternblaze’s performance emulating the likes of Rage Against The Machine’s Zach de la Rocha, while Aleksandra Ligeza’s gorgeous vocals on the chorus add a more ethereal element to the track.

Lyrically, much of the quality of Rapcore Is Not Dead remains at a similarly high standard, albeit a little gratuitous at times, but this is nothing surprising for the genre the EP inhabits; most of the EP benefits from enthusiastically inspired lyrical content, such as ‘Haunted’s Trix and Grip frequently switching back and forth between English to Polish vocals, an element that further pushes the track’s dynamic into far more interesting territory. Concluding Rapcore Is Not Dead in particularly stunning fashion, final track ‘Harmonic Silence’ stands as both an explosive representation of all elements included beforehand, and yet also contains the most powerful subject matter addressed lyrically; before tackling the increasingly prominent issues of suicide and depression, ‘Harmonic Silence’s official video introduces the finale as a “dedication to the ones who lost” the “hardest fight you have to face”, the one “with yourself.”

Considering nu-metal and rap rock’s relatively deteriorated appreciation and status within the music community, TomKarp’s debut EP offers a fine testament to being one of the most enjoyable releases to come out of a relatively finished genre, it’s bold proclamation being exactly what it states itself to be; Rapcore Is Not Dead. Sure, the EP displays an impressively competent effort on the behalf of its skilled collaborators, but at the very centre Karp helms the project with an attitude of both confidence, and unwavering appreciation for the influences he embraces. For those still waiting for a Stampede of The Disco Elephants, Rapcore Is Not Dead offers plenty to like to tie you over for a while, and if imitation is “the highest form of flattery”, then TomKarp is going about it in all the right ways.

M. Stoneman

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