Baltimore-based artist Wyzae Crankfield, aka “Zombi Zae,” wears many creative hats, all of them drenched in blood and brains: in addition to his work in hip-hop, Wyzae has also acted in horror films (his latest being the upcoming Death Metal from Gore Whore Productions), released the comic book Allegionz in 2011, and delved into zombie-themed business ventures including the blood-red vodka cocktail “Brain Matter.” Although his official album debut came in the form of self-released CD Nephilim Orchestra: The Anak Prince, Wyzae's new record Momento Mori, released by Unearthed Music Group (a branch of cult movie distributor Unearthed Films), is a more fully-realized work that's worth a serious listen, with a unique approach to horror lyrics and a slick production style.
Wyzae's love of horror and the macabre is clear just from the sheer volume of material laid down on this record, which weighs in at a whopping 19 tracks. While a handful are only a couple of minutes long, there's actually very little filler to be found. While horror albums have made excellent use of purely atmospheric content, incorporating sound effects and/or movie dialog samples as transitions between lyrical material, the tracks here are more self-contained, each one a miniature tale of terror.
For mood alone, the gothic tones on “Oblation” and “Fearstyle” and the mix of demonic whispers & snarls on “CSA” and “Demon Intrinsic” stand among the strongest entries, with vocal multi-tracking also used to excellent effect on “Nutrients of Evil” and “Internecine,” where Wyzae's raps are layered with pitch-shifted voices, including multiple guests (including fellow Unearthed artist Ill Nickell and the awesomely named MC Cumblood), as well as some intense melodic contributions – the sweetest provided by female singer Bri Geigan. The lyrics are most potent in “Anthromorphous” and “Vessel,” the slasher homage “Evil Santa” and the ultra-heavy “Dead Reckoning,” all carried on slow, lurching heavy beats; Wyzae's delivery is also more deliberate, with a calmness and authority that actually makes it more chilling than over-the-top violence of most hardcore horror rap. But rest assured, he doesn't shy away from full-on insanity, as you'll discover in tracks like the bizarre “Axphyxia.”
For an indie project, Momento Mori has remarkably strong production values and a fully cinematic presentation – a welcome thing in horrorcore, where the lyric is king – but it's also a well-written record, with the lyrics capturing a creepy storyteller or horror-host vibe. Through it all, Wyzae's obvious love of the genre comes across, and he never gets too absorbed in hardcore intensity at the expense of a bloody good time.
Speaking of good times, try out this video for “Evil Santa,” a lyrical tribute to Jason, Freddy and Leatherface with a suitably killer beat.