D.Ni.L. is a 34 year old hip hop artist, musician, producer and Emcee hailing from Yorkshire. Having played with bands growing up in York, he developed the ability to compose in his head and play by ear. He has battled alcohol and drug addiction since the age of twelve, and spent four years living in hostels and sleeping rough.
These tough life experiences give his music an edge and intensity, and his record label Musication specifically uses music as a tool for recovery for people who face issues like homelessness and addiction. This has led to collaborations with Buttercream 87 and Wasabi Fire Alarm, as part of the band. As a solo artist he released two albums in 2017, This In’t A Party and the more guitar-influenced Suicide In Sips.
He regards Deftones and early Manic Street Preachers as his inspirations, and these rock influences are apparent on the compelling opening track Glue which blends heavy rock riffage and rock drums with hip hop beats. D.Ni.L has a fiercely arresting vocal delivery and this gets the album off to an incendiary start.
Summer Fool is where his music starts to get seriously clever, employing a Deftones-style 14/8 compound time signature which, put simply, means it’s hard to dance to. This music isn’t for the dancefloor, however, but for the moshpit. A pulverising, intense low-end guitar riff and crisp, punchy drums drive the momentum of this track. Lyrically, it’s a masterclass in barely restrained fury, about a beef with someone he has issues with: “You’ve got another thing coming if you think I’m taking this lying down, you might be a step ahead, but I’m not in the ring…”.
Gutted is another good example of how he fuses different styles of rock together, combining punchy, aggressive riffage with sections containing memorably melodic and anthemic vocal lines. There’s more rhythmic inventiveness and you can hear the influence of American metal/hard rock along with British rock groups like Muse and the Manics.
Indeed, the excellent Safe To Say, is driven along by a superb Muse-esque distorted guitar riff. This one is slightly mellower than the previous tense trifecta, but still packs plenty of punch with D.Ni.L. delivering a memorable vocal refrain that will be sung back at him by the thousands one day, if there’s any justice: “Safe to say, I won’t be back here anymore…”. It’s inspiring how he takes negative emotions and turns them into something cathartic and somehow uplifting, this song about a relationship gone sour being the perfect example.
As the album progresses, it becomes increasingly apparent that D.Ni.L. has an almost uncanny mastery of dynamics and contrast. He cleverly juxtaposes the angular and dissonant with the melodic and gentle, and has an understanding of rhythm and complex time signatures that’s on the level of a progressive/math rock band like Tool. It takes quite a talent and musical vision to successfully converge such disparate elements in a seamless and uncontrived fashion.
The following Without You is an unexpected change of pace. Starting with just a melancholic jazzy chord progression on guitar and a gentle, languid vocal melody, it then bursts into his signature sound of barbed wire guitars and blistering rapping. The dynamic contrast is startling and highly effective. It’s a genuinely remarkable gift to be able to switch from a sweet R&B style croon to a ferocious rap style, and Plan B managed that in the past, but D.Ni.L. takes these contrasts to the next level.
Onions racks up the tension once again, with a brooding, twitchy verse composed of off-kilter rhythms and very smart use of syncopation. Over this sophisticated, ever evolving musical backdrop, D.Ni.L. expresses brutal honesty, asking a question that all those who have suffered from inequality ask: “How come you got apples and I got onions….”. A very relevant song for the times.
Eager Eyes is one of the more sombre tracks here, with an almost hazy, drugged out vibe. His vocals on this are almost angelic, then you realize he’s singing, “I wouldn’t mind if you laced my tea with cyanide...”. You don’t really hear lines like that in the Top 40 too often….a haunting, beautiful but very troubled song.
Next comes the title track, entering with a series of brooding, edgy guitar riffs and it’s another brutally honest expression of deep pain caused by someone in the past: “All the things that you told me were hurt and to scold me…. master manipulator, ego masturbator, I’m sayin’ see ya later with you…”. It’s the crux of the album emotionally, reflecting the struggle of his life and the problems he’s had to overcome. Gripping stuff.
The momentum continues into August, which shows once more his Manic Street Preachers influence with a very James Dean Bradfield-style falsetto vocal melody. Musically, it is harder to define with some fiendishly complex sections featuring rapidly changing time signatures. In Jars continues the rhythmic sophistication, with some addictive instrumental passages based around a sinewy, swirling guitar riff and intricate drum patterns. While sometimes the vocal melodies are reminiscent of the Manic’s Gold Against The Soul era, this track is more similar to the wiry, apocalyptic intensity of their classic album The Holy Bible.
The final track Gone Away is the album’s epic and a suitably ambitious way to finish at over seven minutes long. It somehow manages to balance raw metal guitar with soaring vocal refrains sung at the top of his impressive range. It’s one of the most memorable and straightforward choruses on the album, one to sing along to while getting crushed in the moshpit. The last three minutes of the track then develop into a blazing instrumental section which acts as a fittingly cinematic coda for the album as it fades out to silence.
Overall, D.Ni.L can lay claim to have made one of the best British rock fusion albums in recent years. The combination of raw, edgy emotional lyrical expression with precise control and understanding of his chosen forms of music make for a potent meld. And when you add his talent as an Emcee into the mix you realize this is a versatile and highly gifted artist bringing rock/metal and hip hop into the 21st century. He has the potential to appeal to rock and hip hop fans across the board, and this album is recommended to anyone looking for new music that’s both real and original.
VERDICT = 9.3 out of 10
Listen to 3 tracks here:
Listen to the whole album HERE