Weapons of Mass Creation

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In the Mix is a monthly column of reviews of albums by musical artists local to the Reno area. To submit an album for review consideration, send a physical copy to Brad Bynum, Reno News & Review, 708 N. Center St., Reno NV 89501 or a digital link to bradb@newsreview.com.

For the last 30 years, innumerable musicians have attempted, with varying degrees of success, to fuse and merge the two best musical genres of the era: rock ’n’ roll and hip-hop. In general, the more successful such experiments have been when hip-hop artists have incorporated rock elements into their beats. It’s because one of the defining qualities of hip-hop is its ability to assimilate the best qualities of other genres, so rock ’u’ roll gets absorbed seamlessly into hip-hop alongside funk, soul and jazz.

It’s been much more difficult for rock bands to successfully incorporate hip-hop without sounding cheesy or dumb. Most of the bands that have made their name performing rap rock or rap metal, like Limp Bizkit or 311, are terrible. One exception is Rage Against the Machine, a band that found common ground between the funky post-punk of Fugazi and the noisy aggressive hip-hop of Public Enemy. And that common ground is political anger.

Reno band Weapons of Mass Creation sounds like Rage Against the Machine. It’s unclear if Rage is a direct influence or if the resemblance is accidental, and one suspects that either way the band members might resent the easy comparison. But it’s there. The music rocks, with a degree of heavy funk in the rhythm section, a versatile guitarist, and a vocalist that spits fire in the hyper-enunciated diction of an angry spoken word poet.

Lead vocalist Pan Pantoja writes politically charged rants and chants, like the “Put your guns down” in “The River,” which sounds like Rage vocalist Zack de la Rocha intoning “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me.”

The musicians have great dynamic range, moving from mellow, dreamy grooves to ferocious rock explosions. Pantoja’s vocal approach is more limited. It’s generally interesting, though it doesn’t offer the same dynamic variation as the music, but guitarist Joe Atack and bassist Aric Shapiro provide more melodic vocal counterpoints.

Atack covers a lot of ground on the record, from lovely acoustic passages to big blazing electric leads. The rhythm section of Shapiro and drummer Abel Press are adept at stop-and-go rhythms. And Pantoja’s verses are delivered with convincing intensity. It’s a rap-rock fusion that works.