The southern rapper's third release starts with a dirty and cold hole in the wall. Presenting another showcase of background entertainment. When the host of the event notices Yelawolf in the building and graciously hands over the microphone to the 37-year-old, giving him the opportunity to a formal introduction, in regards to the intro track and for the titular concept of the record in its entirety.
The album becomes more dooming going into "Shadows", a song about growing up with a moral compass that through series of unfortunate events, becomes lopsided, morphing into an uneven bubble of sin surrounding him. While simultaneously fueling up on unapologetic anarchy. Featuring Joshuah Hedley, a relatively fresh face to indie folk and country, Hedley captivates the chorus with a grand and bold vibrato giving a bone-chilling guest spot that equalizes points alongside Yelawolf's inner confessional memoir style. One that creates descriptively terrifying wordplay, but refrains in his subtle and undoubtedly potent storytelling without going for a one-two punch of shock and horror. Even more effective, is Yelawolf eerily calm presence, making the track more delightfully grim. (If your aching to continue a trifecta of dark-toned intense rap, listen to the ending limbs of the record; the frightfully intense, "Sabrina" and the melancholic "Violin")
Thereafter, a solid flashback with "Get Mine" gives a fierce and talented taste of Yelawolf's range as a rapper. Flexing his early love of Beastie Boy-style east coast hip-hop. The track, more or less, jumps out with energy, even though it features a guest spot from Kid Rock that only provides a less than memorable chorus. Giving the type of retro rap exterior, a missed opportunity for Rock to dust off his aggressive flow came and went.
After a lukewarm coming of age without a father figure cut "Son of A Gun", a track that is aesthetically sound, seems to contain a slick and strangely too upbeat vibe sonically for such a serious subject. Alongside it, the emotional ballad dedicated to the people who never doubted his musical climb in "Ride Or Die", does allow Wolf to open up, but the production value and shimmering undertone beat just seems like an EP insert that seeped in a full-length record.
Its an obvious contrast to the roomy live instrumentations breathing life as much as Wolf's charming swag in tracks like "Daylight", a track that grooves, rocks, bangs, and provides a bittersweet meaning of his freedom and knowingly wasted intoxicated lifestyle.
Even if the chorus gets repetitive, "Do For Love" is a better version of "Son of A Gun". Yelawolf gives a harsh reality check on the abandonment of his father and the heartbreaking sacrifice his mother endured, asking the audience and presumingly himself, 'What Would You Do For Love?"
Ultimatly, no other track has Yelawolf, real name Michael Wayne Atha, encapsulating his true complimentary element than "Punk" a swinging hip-hop/southern rock hybrid providing a stronger flare thanks to guest drummer and fellow hip-hop lover Travis Barker. "Punk" oozes vitality and charisma, even when the breakdowns featuring Juicy J gives the listener some time for space to enjoy some brief chill-hop, the Three Six Mafia member's spot is plentiful and neat, but as soon as Barker rounds up and returns the song into the steam train it should be, that is when this fourth and final single from the album really hits all cylinders.
The deeper Trial By Fire dives in the better it gets, tracks like "Row Your Boat" with its fantastic blend of live guitar riffing integrated into a creamy beat creates a cool, calm, and sheer entertaining addition.
Thankfully, more then half of Yelawolf's third major release is not only just palatable, Trial By Fire is one of the most underrated releases of 2017, even though the record is under Shady Records, Yelawolf and Co. will unrightfully stay in the background of the hip-hop zeitgeist. Which seems like a bad thing at first, but will most likely bloom into a cultural and nostalgic, universal appreciation several years from now.
- Great use of under the radar guest appearances by Joshuah Hedley and Bones Owens. As well as unusual guest spots by Country artists Lee Brice and Wynonna Judd who fit well with the overall tone and subject matter.
- Yelawolf's effortless range. From intensity to thoughtfulness, to sincerity to horrifically descriptive.
- Distracting/unneeded guest spots by Kid Rock and Juicy J who offer little to their respected appearances even though the selected tracks are still overall favorable.
- "Son of a Gun" and "Ride Or Die" underproduced sore thumbs inside a mostly live instrumental setting.
PICKS OF THE HERD:
Row Your Boat