by Thomas Bedward July 03, 2021
To fully understand the work of any artist, you have to know their story. For London rapper Ultra_eko, that story is far more complex and extravagant than anything we could have anticipated. Seamlessly and lavishly blending realism and fantasy, the origins of Ultra_eko are inextricably linked with the ill-fated ‘Croydon Space Exploration’ program and Subsequel, the space-age AI that made it all possible. Today though, we’re ready to dive into a new chapter in the Ultra_eko story, one that is sure to add new levels to his cosmic story arc.
After teasing new of the new album earlier this month with the release of new single ‘Phoenix Rising’, we were gifted with a sneak peek into the inner workings of ‘Revelation’, and as is typical with most of Ultra_eko’s work, it was far beyond anything we could have imagined. Completed in just eight weeks, and with Subsequel at the helm, producing and engineering each mix, ‘Revelation’ emerges as a true lockdown release, one that confronts dark themes with sharp wit, heavy flow, and some of the most captivating narratives ever put to music.
A sprawling, nineteen-track epic that centres itself on themes such as religion, war, consumerism, free will and advertising, to name just a few, ‘Revelation’ is a pivotal release for Ultra_eko, one that sees him blurring the lines between his old, rawer style and the expansive, eclectic styling of his remix album. Fittingly, it’s an album of multiple sides, tones, and characters, one that picks at different genres, styles and eras, stitching them together with a keen ear and plenty of rap prowess.
Opening with ‘Dust to Dust’, the album begins with a trickle of staggered piano keys and vintage audio clipped from a burial service and the Book of Common Prayer. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, the opening cut builds around a strong, preacher aesthetic, with Ultra_eko adopting a new character for the opening bars. Filled with twisted production and plenty of gravitas, it’s a titanic rap anthem that hits with melodic beats and dark, dynamic flow. As the album continues, second cut ‘Rapture’ hits with a drawn-out siren, cutting through the mystique with a slew of biblical references, autobiographical quips, and raw energy. From the mix of ‘Rapture’, ‘Phoenix Rising’ arrives, offering a sharp flashback to the cut that started it all. Lyrically, the single is one of Ultra_eko’s best, lashing out against perceived injustices, while holding firm to the age-old metaphor for transformation and new beginnings.
On ‘Intruder’ and ‘Red Alert’, Ultra_eko carves out stark, semi-industrial sounds, echoing with expressive refrains, blending trap sounds with a new age anthemics to create a brilliant split. Elsewhere on ‘Be Like Me’, Ultra_eko hits hard with plenty of bravado, delivering a classic track that blends grime with hardcore overtones to create an album straight from his early works. Sixth cut ‘Fade to Black’ delivers one of the album’s early highlights, channelling Plan B’s transformation period, while also offering some deft creative choices like twisted brass, timeless soul, and dramatic cinematic sound.
Taking on the dirty deeds that lie behind modern consumerism, Ultra_eko pulls no punches on ‘Nikes’, while ‘Twisted Fate’ finds its feet among deep, ominous tones, solitary beats, and some dark insights into Ultra_eko’s own upbringing. Another of the many highlights of the album, ‘Bad Egg’ carries on the introspective nature of ‘Twisted Fate’, layering quickfire bars and unstoppable energy, while ‘Brain ain’t Your Own’ transcends a brief opening skit, to deliver a sharp critique on advertising, television and the ensuing loss of originality. Blending the explosive sounds of his early work with the creativity shown in his previous remix album, it’s easily our favourite track off the album.
In the final chapter of the album, Ultra_eko delivers in droves, transitioning between expressive, deeply melancholic sounds and dizzying, almost euphoric highs. Two prime examples of the former, ‘Pretty Girl’ and ‘Weathered Hands’ journey into the heart and soul of Ultra_eko, delivering prime examples of his more melodic and reflective side, while ‘Rain on You’, ‘Medicine’, ‘Messy Thoughts’ and ‘Thirty-Three Sisters’ go hard on the more experimental overtones, kicking things off with a shifting flow of electronic overtones, quick-stepping beats, explosive verse, and a fine medley of RnB, soul, and timeless funk influences.
In the end, all eyes fall to the closing two tracks of ‘The Arc’ and ‘Book of Revelation’, an astounding pair of tracks that deliver modulated bible verse, flickering experimental sounds, and plenty of personal moments. Bringing everything full circle, the closing moments of the album perfectly echo the opening bars, giving you the feeling of an epic journey finally reaching its end.
Like Virgil leading Dante through the nine circles of Hell, Ultra_eko guides you through ‘Revelation’ with an unflinching confidence and a true sense of higher purpose. Throughout the nineteen tracks, there is so much on display and so many different styles, but he brings it all together with a constant delivery, standout lyrics, and perfectly balanced beats that provide a perfect stage for his lessons and revelations. Ambitious, but perfectly done, it’s Ultra_eko at his most present, potent, and pervasive.
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