On its first internationally distributed full-length, Long Island’s Cipher follows in the footsteps of Public Enemy and Rage Against the Machine, bands whose politics were every bit as forceful and progressive as their music. Vocalist Moe Mitchell is an impassioned whistle-blower on Children of God’s Fire, spouting literate polemics against consumerism, sexism, globalization, religious orthodoxy and governmental hypocrisy. The rest of the band supports Mitchell’s clipped bark with a barrage of highly rhythmic, shape-shifting metal riffs. The sludgy mix causes every down-tuned guitar chord to crackle and putrefy, and for this kind of music that’s a good thing.
Cipher owes a pretty heavy debt to Candiria — “Verse vs. the Virus” has that band’s patented off-time chug and hip-hop influence (MF Doom even steps in for a verse) and even cribs the intro from “Signs of Discontent” — but there are enough unexpected blast beats and piano breaks to set Cipher apart. Besides, the message is the thing here, and the band knows better than to obscure it. The music fades out at the end of “Enduring Freedom (Part 1),” leaving Mitchell to spew, a cappella, a powerful indictment of American imperialism: “Panama, Grenada, Lebanon: A scripted pretext for Babylon to recess the poor, take resources or re-source them for SUVs, special needs, baby boomers who need more. And you wonder what they hated us for?” It’s but one great moment on an album full of them.