New Jersey’s hip-hop/punk/industrial bastard offspring Ho99o9 have been hacking out a niche for close to a decade now, and have scrapped and glitched their way to “final boss” status in this admittedly sparse field. Since their debut album United States Of Horror in 2017, the group, comprising rappers theOGM and Eaddy, has bombarded the mass music-consuming consciousness with aurally challenging mixtapes, collaborations and videos to ensure their digital Doc Marten bootprint fades not from memory. To whip the weird central point of this twisted Venn diagram into a weed-and-speed induced frenzy over their upcoming reported difficult second album, the group has released the first video from the project, “Battery Not Included.” The track was produced by none other than Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker, which is a glorious tale of redemption in itself. To see an artist go from providing the soundtrack to every dick drawn on a face in the early 2000s to railing against injustice through a barrage of sonic shrapnel is a journey we can all get behind.
Ho99o9 know what their fans are looking for in a sophomore album and they provide it in abundance on “Battery Not Included.” The track starts with a sample from punk stalwart and battered leather man Iggy Pop, in which he, in true antiquarian style, questions the authenticity of electronic music: “I will fight you ‘till I die, you techno dogs/ Fucking pushing buttons on your drum machines/It’s fake/Fake!” Ho99o9 give us the opportunity to laugh at this punk dinosaur and his hopelessly outdated views before launching into a techno-dog barrage of pummelling drums (from a machine!) and buzzsaw bass. It is precisely at this moment that Iggy Pop realises no one wants him to be their dog.
The track proceeds into familiar industrial punk riot territory, harsh, distorted vocals slamming for attention in the pit with bit-crunched guitar riffs straight out of the Alec Empire handbook. The first lyric of the song is “Is this your God?,” instantly lighting the path for weary travellers. As the track thrashes away, hitting you from multiple angles, the video operates under much the same remit, flashing a series of inherently unsettling images at the viewer intended to fry the synapses. A narrative is interspersed in which theOGM and Eaddy are given tabs of an experimental drug under laboratory conditions, with predictably psychedelic results. What is not so predictable is the screeching left turn into R&B terrain halfway through, showing that doom-laden cyberpunk can still have a sense of humour while being suitably apocalyptic. When the chugging riff returns us to the regular broadcast, it is with renewed vigour and a taste for blood. In this last sludge-encrusted stretch, Ho99o9 are electrocuted and immolated, surrounded by dark symbolism, suggesting that they have been sacrificed for some greater evil to rise, which would surely be a mercy at this point.
The Ho9909, through a mix of punishing tracks, consistent branding and shit-kicking live shows, have built up their self-proclaimed ‘Death Kult’ to the point where some kind of coup might actually be achievable. “Battery Not Included” will appease the Kult for now, and the promotional run-up to the album release in spring will undoubtedly serve as garnish on the Kool-Aid, a salted rim if you will. As the membership grows, it will surely reach the point where Iggy Pop is turned away from the Death Kult compound, bringing punk full circle with the devouring of the parents by the children. We love to see it.