An abandoned cathedral sits on a dimly lit city street. Blacklight shines from a cracked door, leading into a dark club where Joy Division and Nine Inch Nails are at home. In the graveyard behind the church, a tattooed hand shoots out of a grave and the BLKHRTS shamble their way to the stage, ready to let loose a flow from the afterlife on the unsuspecting goth kids of Denver.
Combining the disparate worlds of gothic music and hip hop, BLKHRTS exemplify the creativity that the Colorado music scene generates. Denver rappers King F.O.E., Yonnas Abraham, and Karma the Voice have produced an album of fast and unflinching lyrics layered over droning and reverberating synth lines.
The lyrics present an interesting twist on the stereotypical rap style. BLKHRTS explore the dark side of the hip-hop lifestyle. Violence, money, sex, death and drugs are all a path to destruction here, along with destructive relationships and a desperate struggle to get ahead taking the forefront. Brutal and clever metaphor blends into horrifying storytelling with ease (like the verse in “Pack a Day,” where a young girl finds love in the streets and ends up gagged and bound, fighting for her life) leaving listeners disturbed in the best way.
As easy as it would be to get campy and dress up like zombies, BLKHRTS keep to their hip-hop roots and leave behind the pretension of much of the Gothic scene. Instead, they make smart acknowledgement of their punk and goth roots with selected samples, like a line from The Stooges “I Wanna Be Your Dog” in BRK T ME. However, in a recent interview, Yonnas has said this album marks a shift away from relying heavily on samples and instead tearing their own path through dark forests. This is definitely evident in the tracks that aren’t found on their earlier releases, with clearer production and a sound that stands out from other sample-heavy rappers.
Death, Romance, and the Color BLK isn’t perfect. Occasionally the backing music will overshadow the words, and the album would have benefited from a few more tempo breaks like with “At Least I Can Say.” However, complaining that this album is to unrelenting is almost no complaint at all. This is a sound you are not going to hear anywhere else, and remarkably, this album is really only a milestone while BLKHRTS are hard at work on their first full-length album with ORG Music. It’s going to be titled JZBLJNKNS, who makes an appearance on a track from Death, Romance, and the Color BLK.
There is just nothing else like this being made, but a few comparisons have been attempted: M.O.P. meets Morrisey and Wu Tang Clan teamed up with Trent Reznor. None of these are wholly accurate. This mixtape is free on BLKHRTS Bandcamp page, and I highly recommend you look into it. Who knows, you might end up locked in. Or is that the rigor mortis setting in?