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Skull & Bones ()

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Despite the best efforts of DJ Muggs, Cypress Hill ran out of gas fairly quickly, entering a tailspin as soon as their third album. Back at full strength with the return of Sen Dog, Cypress Hill devised a full-scale comeback with their fifth album, Skull & Bones. The idea behind the album was to divide it into two -- a hip-hop disc ("Skull") and a rock disc ("Bones"). This would guarantee some publicity, at the very least, and, hopefully, it would win over the new generation of adolescents who flipped for rap-metal acts like Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit. On paper, it's a sound theory, but there was a slight flaw -- the group is kind of lame when they rock. Their band is competent enough, and B Real's voice does sound good with overdriven guitars, but their rock songs utterly fall apart, since they have no hooks, no catchy riffs, and no character. If rap-metal was all there was to Skull & Bones, it would be a bit of an embarrassment. Fortunately, the "Skulls" disc is their finest effort since Black Sunday. Muggs is in prime form, creating funky, ominous, evocative soundscapes, which B Real makes the most of with fluid rhymes. At times, B Real does descend into tastelessness ("Stank Ass Hoe"), and neither he nor Sen Dog really find any new lyrical ground, but sonically, "Skulls" is a blast; B Real's whine and Sen Dog's gruff, blunt style are the perfect match for Muggs' darkly cinematic soundscapes, and, on a purely sonic level, it's quite intoxicating. At their best, Cypress Hill are a hip-hop experience unlike any other, and, ignoring the "Bones" disc, this is the best they've been in a long, long time. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi Hide synopsis

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