Just a year on since her breathtaking breakthrough record God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It captivated all who heard it and won her the Polaris Music Prize, Zambian-Canadian rapper Backxwash has returned with another profound, seething album fuelled by both rage and suffering. Whilst God Has Nothing… saw an almost complete reinvention of her sound, bolstering intimate lyrics with bass-heavy industrial beats and metallic guitars, I Lie Here Buried… continues in the same vein but with some refinement that makes things even more potent and cathartic.
The album’s opening sample asserts that “a little bit of pain is a good thing,” which at once echoes both the Christian notion of original sin and the existentialist notion of struggle. Backxwash deals heavily in pain. Her songs are as raw and unflinching as they come, exposing her wounds for all to see. After the sample comes opener proper ‘WAIL OF THE BANSHEE’ with its talk of drink and drugs as self-medication, whilst ‘TERROR PACKETS’ expresses the plight of being trans in a transphobic world and ‘666 IN LUXAXA’ addresses the ongoing implementation of white supremacy. The title-track seems to be the ultimate desperate expulsion (an exorcism?) of demons both internal and external, pointing at misogyny, racism and the pain of alienation from a faith she grew up with in the wake of a god who doesn’t care. The harrowing screams of the chorus, from Black Dresses’ Ada Rook (who also mastered the record), drive home the agony: “My demons have populations”.
It is this visceral mix of heavy music and candid lyrics, delivered often with anger but also with a remarkably smooth hip-hop flow, that makes the music so intense. At just over half an hour the record feels like exactly what it is – a cathartic burst of genuine emotion. And whether it’s ‘IN THY HOLY NAME’ descending into a chaotic wall of harsh noise, the spooky clamour of ‘NINE HELLS’ or even the infectious flow of ‘SONG OF SINNERS’, the music itself always serves to reinforce the message delivered by the vocals. Closer ‘BURN TO ASHES’ is perhaps Backxwash’s most epic song yet, utilising the swirling guitars of Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s ‘World Police And Friendly Fire’ as the backdrop for the most forthright track here, exploring suicide as an almost defiant act of autonomy.
This album makes no pretence and hides from nothing, and it offers no hopeful conclusion nor does it point to an improved mental state for Backxwash since her last album – “I feel like hiding from the world, I know it’s hard and I feel the pandemic is making it worse” she sings on ‘BURN TO ASHES’ – but you can feel the catharsis in a truly profound sense. I Lie Here Buried… is a monument to pain, and contrary to what the opening sample might say, pain is not a good thing, but this record’s existence is testament that Backxwash is still fighting. Ironically, in her most excruciating release to date, Backxwash may have just created her most life-affirming.
I Lie Here Buried With My Rings And My Dresses is out now via UglyHag Records and can be ordered here.
Words: George Parr