Blood and Ashes

Artist: OuterspaceTitle: Blood and AshesRating: 3 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Matt Barone

When Vinnie Paz, the violent-minded front man of Jedi Mind Tricks, executive produces a project, odds are in favor of an unabashedly hardcore listening experience. On the Philly-based duo Outerspace’s debut, Blood and Ashes (Babygrande), that’s exactly what is delivered. Group members Planetary and Crypt follow in the same rhyme vein as fellow Army Of The Pharaohs’ Vinnie Paz, Celph Titled, and Esoteric; delivering abrasive verses touched with occasional introspection. Blood and Ashes keeps the mood dark throughout, catering more to underground heads who crave their music raw, and Planetary and Crypt possess sufficient enough lyrical skill to prove worthy of the tight production bestowed upon them.

Underrated beat-maker 7L arranges hypnotic violins and piano keys on the scorching “Fire and Ice,” where Planetary warns opposing rappers, “You can’t escape, everything I spit is six-feet, and I bet you ain’t think that I could get this deep.” 7L’s eerie backdrop inspires the duo to let the world know “It Is What It Is,” while Panik brings a Rza-esque soundtrack on the angry “Raw Deal.” “Whatever It Takes” allows Crypt to reveal his true reasons for MCing, spitting, “The belly of the beast, a feast is unreachable, gotta get this cheddar now, the young’ns, they believe in you.”

Guest appearances are used to Outerspace’s advantage on Blood and Ashes, inviting their usual associates to match the duo’s verbal intensity. Cinematic strings power “The Revolution,” as Celph Titled fires off his always disturbed punch lines, such as, “When it comes to machine guns, we fire Tommy’s like Sony.” Sadat X checks in on the trumpet-heavy “Top Shelf,” while the intimidating abilities of Immortal Technique tear through “Angels Of Death.” Esoteric gets mic time as well, joining Planetary and Crypt over 7L’s avant-garde flutes on “Far Greater.”

With no truly weak selections to be heard, Blood and Ashes is a solid introduction for Outerspace. While an up-tempo number would have been welcome, the album’s overall gritty nature stays true to the legacy their predecessors have sparked. With other underground acts like Chief Kamachi and the aforementioned Jedi Mind Tricks serving quality product, Outerspace furthers the strong presence of Philadelphia’s subterranean hip-hop scene.