Following on from Rates’ personal tales of struggle as told on his debut album Destroy and Rebuild, his second album Untold paints a somewhat different picture. Rather than opting for a general hip-hop sound, the album explores something a little more cinematic and undoubtedly more foreboding; the overall tone of the album is much more serious, which initially feels like a good direction to move in. Inevitably, however, the album does succumb to its own strict concept.
To achieve the distinctly darker sound, hip-hop beats are fused with instruments such as sweeping strings, eerie pianos and natural drums and guitar used in heavily rock-influenced arrangements to create a solid conceptual sound. Its most extreme moment in terms of discomforting moods and instrumentation is in the opener The Enemy, which focuses solely on layers of fragile piano riffs and light percussion as Rates raps about different global issues, from politics to the general loss of freedom experienced in the world; the following track End of Discussion expands on the sound, adding drums and guitars to act as a direct continuation and enhance the concept.
Beyond this point, however, things never tend to change much; Berserk is notable for its switch to a complete rock sound rather than fusing elements, and Upside Down World mixes a light breakbeat and dance beats to the production to give it a different feel, but aside from these the instrumentation leans much closer to End of Discussion, which in turn leaves the album feeling static and unexciting, which isn’t helped when the album refuses to let up its angst-ridden front in terms of rapping and lyrics; fitting for the overarching concept, but a little bit too much in practice.
There’s a lot of thought put into Untold and its concept, and there are a few moments that shine through the mix and truly stand out. Largely, however, it’s an album so set on its concept that it didn’t try to take it further or enhance the base that it was built from in order to give it more power. While the lack of variation in the mood and lyrics of the album makes sense given its subject matter, there wasn’t enough experimenting or exploring done in terms of sound to truly sell the material. Untold is a valiant effort that didn’t quite meet its mark.