Live Show = Laptop




by Princess Palmudeen Al Shababwa


LABEL: Shitty Whistle

REVIEWED: December 16, 2022

The FMLs' fourth album offers a chaotic rap metal experience with moments of raw energy, eccentric band members, and an ambitious but ultimately disjointed sonic concoction.
In the wild and unpredictable world of rap metal, where genre-blending experimentation often leads to divisive outcomes, the FMLs emerge with their fourth studio album, "live show = laptop." While this release showcases moments of raw energy and a unique sonic concoction, it ultimately falls short of leaving a lasting impression. Sailing through a sea of chaotic guitar riffs, aggressive raps, and eclectic samples, the FMLs offer an intriguing, if not entirely cohesive, listening experience that struggles to compete with other landmark records of the late '90s. "live show = laptop" arrives amidst a golden era for rap metal, with boundary-pushing acts like Rage Against the Machine and Korn commanding the scene. The FMLs, however, veer off the beaten path with their bizarre amalgamation of influences. From the opening track, "Binary Breakdown," it becomes apparent that this album is not for the faint of heart. The band's relentless energy, coupled with their penchant for outlandish lyrics and confrontational delivery, sets them apart from their peers. Yet, it's this very chaos that both captivates and undermines the record's overall impact. Lead rapper and frontman Mike "Spitfire" Stevenson unleashes his frenetic wordplay, dishing out sharp-tongued social commentary with an abrasive edge. However, his lyrical prowess often gets overshadowed by the sheer intensity of his delivery. On tracks like "Digital Anarchy," his message gets lost amidst a maelstrom of distorted guitars and crashing drums, leaving listeners grasping for coherence. It's in moments of restraint, such as on the introspective "Screens of Solitude," that Spitfire's vulnerability shines through and the album finds a semblance of balance.
Meanwhile, the rest of the FMLs' band members, known for their eccentricities, add an extra layer of intrigue. Guitarist Steve "Circuit Breaker" Thompson churns out thunderous riffs that serve as the album's backbone, while keyboardist Lily "Synth Siren" Wilson and bassist Dave "The Oscillator" Collins bring a futuristic electronic element to the mix. Drummer Max "Beat Machine" Martinez's relentless pounding keeps the energy high throughout, although at times it feels like he's playing catch-up with the frantic pace. While "live show = laptop" presents an audacious blend of rap and metal, it fails to strike a lasting chord due to its lack of cohesion and direction. Moments of brilliance, such as the anthemic "Ctrl-Alt-Delirium," serve as a testament to the FMLs' potential. However, tracks like "Crash & Burnout" suffer from an overwhelming barrage of disjointed ideas. It becomes increasingly apparent that the album's title itself serves as a fitting metaphor for the FMLs' approach: a live show thrown onto a laptop, where ideas are quickly assembled, rearranged, and discarded in a whirlwind of chaos. While "live show = laptop" may resonate with fans of the rap metal genre, its staying power pales in comparison to the likes of "The Battle of Los Angeles" or "Follow the Leader." The FMLs' ambitious vision and off-kilter personalities shine through, but they are ultimately hindered by their inability to find a solid foundation on which to build their chaotic sound. Nevertheless, for those seeking a brief escapade into the bizarre and unpredictable world of rap metal, this album might provide a momentary thrill before fading into obscurity.


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