Drawing from seemingly every genre under the sun, from Lil’ Peep-esque emo rap to heavy metal, Liam Petersson’s project IZAZ released newest effort, Candlelights and it is pastiche of styles that manages to largely feel simultaneously overwrought and undercooked.
Take the album’s second and third tracks, “Post-Mortem” and “Mute” for instance. The closest thing to pop singles on the project, they both lean heavily on the bass-boosted, dark sound that has rocketed Billie Eilish to stardom. But where Eilish employs the dark, gothic aesthetic to render her teenage feelings of alienation, frustration, and angst, on Candlelights its use feels anything but authentic. There’s a heavy use of strings on “Post-Mortem” that feels anything but subtle, practically screaming at us: “this isn’t your everyday Soundcloud rap album, folks.”
After these opening tracks, the album takes a more satisfying turn into a laid back, moody rap album. After the short “Untitled” interlude (which at times features a guitar melody that sounds eerily similar to Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours”), album highlight “Poser” manages to weald the heavy atmosphere Petersson is clearly is going for without coming off as simply edgy. Candlelights is at its best when the inflictions of different genres are given room to breath amongst the more traditional 808 hi-hats and bass instrumentals.
Finally, album closer “Flowers” is an oddly placed, poorly calculated dive into rap metal that leaves a bad taste in the mouth even after a relatively inoffensive second half. The instrumental is mixed too low for the track to truly feel ferocious and IZAZ’s vocals are too sluggish and monotonous to be catchy. Those looking for a merging of hip hop and metal are better off sticking with Ho99o9’s brand of hardcore punk-rap or British rapper Scarlxrd’s recent album Dxxm.
This is the problem at the core of Candlelights – although it admirably attempts to blend hip-hop with these darker and gothic sounds, these inflictions feel mostly tacked on self-consciously, covering up weak song writing with “diverse” instrumentation. On his next release, hopefully IZAZ will manage a more back-to-basics approach that will yield more songs like “Poser.”
Written by Alex Ramsay
*edited by Danielle Kenedy