Credit: Alexis Gross
by M.G. Mailloux Ledger Line Music

Ho99o9 — Skin

April 23, 2022

Skin offers a refinement on Ho99o9’s particular style, but doesn’t move beyond that mode of genre synthesis to anything more substantial.

Committed to the bit for a whole decade at this point, though really only publicly known for seven or eight of those years, Ho99o9 make a short-awaited return with their second studio album Skin, the punk/horrorcore trio having last released mixtape Turf Talk Vol. 1 in June of last year. And before that there was another mixtape and 2 EPs, cranked out in between 2018 and 2021, with previous album United States of Horror bookending this prodigious run. An abundant output characteristic of the genre perhaps, but this unrelenting release pace hasn’t done the group many favors, with each project sort of bleeding into the next, not particularly distinctive from one another. Devoted to an enticing aesthetic that sits somewhere at the intersection of hardcore and rap, and occasionally veering into straight-up nu metal/rap-rock, Ho99o9’s genre synthesis is mostly slick but not particularly deep, closer in concept to a revivalist act than anything else, their music translating nicely to a hyped live show that’s earned them opening slots with borderline legacy acts like Prophets of Rage and Alice in Chains.

In line with all this, Skin finds Ho99o9 comfortable, back in their lane with their most high-profile album yet. A streamlined effort in contrast to the unwieldy, 17-track United States of Horror, Skin reads as a more conscious bid for broader credibility, a logical play in a moment where a number of the group’s aesthetic touchstones have been worked by other artists to winning effect (JPEGMAFIA, Sematary, etc.) Recruiting a faux-eclectic guest roster that includes Slipknot’s Corey Taylor and Underground King Bun B, much of the album feels consciously designed in this manner, an elevator pitch on behalf of Ho99o9 outlining their influences and skill set. That’s not to say that these songs are inauthentic or lacking in energy or enthusiasm, but that their pleasures are surface level and fleeting — Skin, as has been the case with previous releases, is an album without too many ideas outside genre synthesis. At their best (something like mid-album cut “PROTECT MY BITCH PT. 2”), Ho99o9 can coast off the simple pleasures of blown-out bass and rudimentary drum machine rhythm, making effective enough Big Black homage, but even a slight veer away (the Saul Williams-featuring, spoken-word-centric “SKINHEAD”) tends to throw off Skin’s pacing. A fun enough project, Skin is also, unfortunately, exemplary of Ho99o9’s inability to think bigger, mostly working as a refinement of the stylings they’ve indulged in for some time now without pushing further forward.

Published as part of Album Roundup — March 2022 | Part 2.