With their third collective album since 2008, Doomtree set their sights high for All Hands. Doomtree, the Midwestern rap group, featuring rappers Dessa, Cecil Otter, P.O.S, Sims, Mike Mictlan, and producers Paper Tiger and Lazerbeak, are back with their most focused album yet. For the first time, Doomtree is finally finding some cohesion between themselves and what marks their significance. By incorporating instrumentation from acoustic guitars, to gritty bass-lines, to post-dubstep inspired electronics, All Hands has many different faces and sensations. These different directions, at times, find themselves running in circles, but, at their best, they are finding their voice, sticking to a very specific sound, and taking a victory lap.
Doomtree’s All Hands redefines themselves as a very certain type of group. For the most part, their lyrics, ideas, and themes feel very insider and close to their home, which is what makes them standout, but it is also their biggest downfall. The constant references to their Midwest lifestyles is fresh, but a little muddled and hard to relate or empathize with. It’s also more-or-less a consistent stream of consciousness that finds them living in current moments and feelings versus trying too hard to universalize any of their points of view.
“.38 Airweight” perfectly represents Doomtree’s complexity. It’s wonderfully layered between the pulsating electronics and the reminiscent sound of sirens that would make Enter Shikari jealous. “Final Boss” is also another very solid track that is grittier and bleaker, which calls to mind references to emo pioneers like Fugazi. Another wonderfully particular ideal that Doomtree embodies is their references to many different types of music, particularly within different hardcore rock scenes. In fact, it feels trivial to call them a rap collective, when their style is so deeply rooted in punk rock.
Also, Doomtree has quite a knack for making references to many different obscure figures and uncommon particularities. Throughout All Kings, they reference ceramic sunsets, belladonna, Rorschach tests, Venus de Milo, metacarpus, Konami code, and La Quinta inns. It’s quite overwhelming at times, but it’s also very clear that they don’t care about anyone else’s opinion or way of life; they are only living for themselves and their current situations. On “Cabin Killer”, Sims raps, “Serve a couple tables and I’m off on my Bianchi / I’m outie kemosabe weaving all these zombies by me / Money, money, money all they ever f***ing say / I should’ve left yesterday.” There are a lot of references to their daily lives, their “real” jobs, and basic home life, but they are clearly speaking from their own knowledge, regardless of the media-centric world around them and what other rappers are speaking about.
“My Own Nation” is a perfect song about Doomtree’s independence. The hook, in fact, summarizes the grandest theme of the album, “And we go for broke, no hesitation / What we want, we take it / While they out there waiting / We on our own.” Doomtree is truly in their own realm. “Gray Duck,” may be the greatest and most innovative song Doomtree has ever written. We finally can understand their motives, where they come from, and who they are, both as individuals and as a collective. And, you can’t hate on a song which references Pink Floyd, Nintendo, Magneto, John Candy, Marc Maron, Roger Rabbit, and David Lynch.
Although the majority of All Hands features some of Doomtree’s strongest music, the thirteen-song, almost hour-long album, tends to run out of steam. “Mini Brute” and “Beastface” are lackluster and should’ve been left off, and a few other tracks in the middle feel unfinished, unedited, or simply dry. “Generator” and “Off In the Deep,” near the end of the album, catch the album from falling too far off, and prove that Doomtree can write catchy, witty, and unique rap jams.
For an album as creative and uncontrolled, the quick, crash-out ending on All Hands feels right. “Marathon” is a victory lap that finds Doomtree perfecting everything that makes them unique, and proves as to why they are such a heralded group in the underground indie rap scene. P.O.S’s last verse is incredibly brave and excessively striking. Doomtree is grander than the sum of their parts, and when they culminate to make waves; they don’t just create small whirlpools, they create tsunamis.