Honorable Mention: As is the case with many of today’s most exciting new artists, Sematary is an Internet cult favorite, a mysterious bandcamp auteur who amassed an intriguing body of work (six mixtapes as of this writing) in a relatively brief span of time (three years). Hailing from North Carolina, the 20-year-old rapper/producer and Haunted Mound label head’s music sits at the very trendy (super 2011) intersection of southern horrorcore, witch house, drill, and black metal, with a rural gothic aesthetic to match (flannel and True Religion and upside down crosses). This year, as has been the case for the last two years, Sematary dropped a pair of mixtapes — Rainbow Bridge 3 and Screaming Forest — each excellent, though the former album stands out as his most accomplished work to date, the latter a worthy victory lap.
Apparently the closing chapter of his Rainbow Bridge trilogy, a tape series conceived to indulge Sematary’s penchant for melding his Sosa-like delivery (an oft-cited influence) with black metal inflected trap production, this final entry inevitably boasts Sematary’s slickest production work to date, perhaps not an essential quality for music this fuzzed out, but the superior mixing quality allows the already eclectic artist to get more dynamic, the vocals occasionally veering into a melodic pop punk groove. Burying his bars underneath plenty of distortion and liberally deployed tags for the ever elusive “DJ Sorrow,” the songs on Rainbow Bridge favor a cumulative vibe over lyrical depth, oscillating between knowingly goofy threats (“Turn your girl to a witch / now she dancin’ ‘round my fire”) and visceral descriptions of horror movie violence (“I’ma pull your teeth out and hang ‘em round my neck”). Rainbow Bridge 3 rides its premise out confidently for the extent of its 53-minute runtime, never stumbling into gimmickry or winking pastiche, Sematary’s instincts as producer and songwriter nearly too in sync with the tastes of the day, but in an ultimately irresistible fashion (a Harmony Korine sample on track 1, a House of 1000 Corpses allusion as title for track 2, etc.) No doubt walking a precarious line between artist and Internet figure, Sematary hasn’t yet faltered, and with Rainbow Bridge 3 he’s achieved his first significant triumph. With this stylistic chapter closing out on its highest note, Sematary exits 2021 an artist poised to blow up sooner than later.