My first exposure to Montreal’s own witch bitch Backxwash was when Moris Blak remixed her already fiery track “Bad Juju.” The Zambian-born rapper put out a pair of EPs in 2018, coming out as transgender inbetween those releases. Her first album Deviancy was released through Grimalkin Records last year, featuring the aforementioned “Bad Juju,” and now this year, we have not only a new album from Backxwash, but a new EP as well.
In May, she released the intense God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It, with the intention of being “about my version of forgiveness and the things that I need to face in order to reach that version of that.” Add to this the Stigmata EP, with even more religious imagery and an overall hellish sound, the musical output of Backxwash this year has been stellar, and could be the argument needed to help solidify her as a force to be reckoned with in the horror rap game.
The LP begins with the title track, which is positioned around a sample of “Black Sabbath” by Black Sabbath, from the album Black Sabbath. It’s methodical, with a deliberate pace allowing Backxwash’s bars to get the full effect across. “Black Magic” sees a piano and bass intro, before whispers buffer her rapping for an otherworldly effect. This track, better than most in her catalog, shows just how abruptly she can go from zero to 100. Things go into shoegaze and fuller psychedelic territory with “Spells,” which sees guest vocalist Devi McCallion doing their best Chino Moreno impression. “Black Sheep” is remarkably simple in its production and instrumentation, and Backxwash just goes all in on it.
“Hell’s Interlude” sees fatherfake break up the tension with building synths and the faintest of guitars, before said guitars tear their way through the mix on “Into the Void.” The refrain is another exercise in less as more lyrically, before the second verse comes back with a vengeance. “Adolescence” comes in with an aggressive drum beat, but Backxwash’s bars are more restrained, focusing on the message and the metering rather than the force with which they’re dropped. It is a slight departure from what we’ve gotten used to, but that departure does not make things any less effective.
The looping choir sampled on “Amen” is used to a jarring, uncanny effect, as the rage returns to remind us who’s in charge here. “Heaven’s Interlude” sounds like it’s being played like the hide and seek song in Ready or Not, conflagration and all, and that’s only an insult if you don’t know the reference. Closing the album is “Redemption,” which sees more modulation of a sample, ending this contemplative release with a bit of levity, a measure of hope now that the horror and hellishness is behind us.
But we’re not done there. The Stigmata EP, released shortly after God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It, is best taken as a companion piece to the album. The title track of said EP feels like a nu metal revival, as some doom-laden guitars drive along the song. By no means am I implying that every Backxwash song needs metal guitars in the mix, I’m just saying that a remix album featuring as much would be killer. “Demons” is a bit more raw of a track, feeling cacophonous with its underproduced percussion and the ominous guitar in the midst of the mix. Once again, Devi McCallion’s vocals come in clutch, this time making a variation of the beauty and the beast vocal trope to great effect.
“Psalms 23” sounds just as hellish as its predecessor, with a ringing snare and more cries of the damned underneath the beat. Joni Void tags in for the final track, “Interlude of Doom,” in all of its unease and uncertainty. It’s a noise track, a purgatory one is left in upon the EP’s conclusion, leaving the listener wondering if more awaits them while making the prospect, the very idea of hope only nominally attractive. After a while, one may have grown to like it here, and grown to appreciate the tales and scales of Backxwash and her motley crew of guest musicians, as they should. Both of these releases are stellar in their own rights, and taken as one continuous piece, they’re straight fire.
God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It and the Stigmata EP are available now for free via Backxwash’s Bandcamp page.