If there were one record to encapsulate my current taste in music, it’d be “Hold Person” by Schaffer, Riley, and the Double Ice Backfire. Released on November 13th, 2017, the record is a collaborative project between nerdcore emcee Schaffer the Darklord (STD) and rock/chiptune duo Shael Riley and the Double Ice Backfire (comprised of Shael Riley and Ty Guenley). The result of this amalgamation is a seamless combination of rap, punk, chiptune, and rock sounds, creating a unique and polished sonic palette filled with exciting rhythms and soaring melodies.
Schaffer is one of my favorite emcees right now, and definitely one of the most exhilarating entertainers in nerdcore. Having found the record through his bandcamp, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that he was just the fantastically edgy icing to the majestic musical cake that was the (heretofore-unfamiliar-to-me) Double Ice Backfire. The opening track, “10,000 Cigarettes”, instantly turned me onto Shael Riley’s melodic hooks and songwriting skills, as well as Ty Guenley’s crisply bold instrumental production. (It should be noted that I liked this track so much that I listened to it 5 times in a row and immediately bought the whole thing on bandcamp. It’s still probably my favorite one.) The whole thing deserves a music video or at least a decent Steins;Gate AMV.
Schaffer rapping as Jesus in “My Personal Relationship…” is the best thing I never knew I needed. I’m more partial to the remix of this one towards the end of the album, but it’s a bop both ways.
I think “To the Ground” is about wrestling? I know there’s a lot of intersections between pro wrestling and nerdcore hip hop. I don’t know why, but it’s a cool song topic nonetheless, and around 0:33 where the vocals are layered – is that Schaffer singing with Riley? That vocal doubling is perfect.
“The Other Devil” is the other breakout track here. The nasty, bassy industrial production makes this the darkest song among the more lightly/brightly colored tunes in the rest of the album. Schaffer’s increasingly gritty and punk delivery and maturity as a vocalist shines through as he trades bars with Riley in delightfully unpredictable ways (“For truly I’m a faithful fan / and you are / Popeye the Sailor Man”). Also, I clearly haven’t been an STD fan for long enough as I had no clue that this was a remix of an older song of his. The entire track has obviously been drastically improved with the addition of SR&tDIB. Whatever the case, I get an inevitable stank face every time the chorus hits. UNGH.
Radio Kill Switch has a beautiful chorus and a thumping electronic pulse to move it forward. As far as I can tell, this is a more story-driven song, with Schaffer as the narrator and Riley as the lone radio announcement on the lifeboat of the two survivors. I’d have to read the lyrics more carefully to really understand it.
I think Surrender is the most poppy one on the album – I can’t place the era of pop as I am hopelessly unfamiliar with older music, but it has a danceable throwback feel and another very catchy hook. I do miss the rap vocals in here, but I think it was the right choice for this song.
Summary: I grew up with nu-metal, rap, punk, rock, and pop music, cycling through those genres over time. All those influences, combined with my recent ventures into listening to chiptune and creating nerdcore hip-hop, are why I love this record so much. The triple threat of gritty rap vocals, bright melodic vocals, and exquisite production/composition make this a jewel of an album.
Support Shael Riley and the Double Ice Backfire’s band, The Grammar Club, on their Patreon.