Terror Danjah Terror DanjahDark Crawler
A gremlin laughs maniacally into the night. No, this isn’t a reboot of a popular 80s Hollywood franchise, rather the telltale sign that you’re listening to a Terror Danjah release. As far as sonic branding in modern dance music goes, Terror Danjah’s trademark laughter is one of the least annoying and most recognisable, and its use throughout the producer’s second album, “Dark Crawler”, is just about perfect.
Stripped-down, raw and gritty, Terror Danjah’s riddims have always captured grime’s most essential qualities, as exemplified by the 12”s he’s released on Hyperdub and elsewhere in the last few years. “Dark Crawler”, however, isn’t a grime album per se, reflecting instead a wider sonic and tempo palette. Make no mistakes though: the best moments are those when the producer indulges in what he does best.
The album starts somewhat cinematically, with the intro coming across like Terror’s version of a James Bond theme, complete with sweeping strings and horns. This then leads into “Mirror’s Edge”, the intro of which is equally mood-setting, recalling a horror movie. Only it’s not fright that’ll make you jump out of your seat, but the drop.
The first stand-out moment comes from the eponymous cut, featuring Riko Dan. The London city warlord goes in relentlessly with the usual mix of braggadocio, quick-fire spitting and patois meets London slang, leaving the listener feeling bruised and battered, or perhaps more accurately, burnt from the laser eyes (you’ll need to check the video if that reference makes no sense). The riddim is just as huge as Riko’s microphone personality, pounding kick drums coupled with samples and melodic elements that fly in and out of earshot just as quickly as Riko’s spitting those bars. It’s a lot, and a reminder that when done right, grime still is one of the most powerful music styles around.
“Full Hundred” makes clever use of an instantly recognisable drum break to showcase Terror’s comfort outside of his often-treaded grounds. Call it the album’s hip hop jam or whatever you want, the way he weaves the bass melody around that drum break is funky like James Brown’s drummer.
“The Dark Crawler” riddim makes a comeback a few songs later, and again another two songs after that, appearing a total of three times on the album. The second time round, Mayhem, Deadly and Saf One are on mic duties. They hold their own pretty well, but unfortunately, being sandwiched between Riko and Trim (who appears in the third instance alongside Kozzie) means theirs is also the least memorable of the three versions. Trim just about edges up to Riko by contradicting the riddim’s energy with his nonchalant flow and ‘did he just say that?’ lyrical twists, proving once more why he is one of grime’s best MCs.
In between, and after the second and third “Dark Crawler” versions, we’re treated to what could perhaps be construed as Terror’s softer side. “You Make Me Feel” with Meleka is a production with dreamy qualities and more than a hint of R&B sweetness, while “Delicately” with Ruby Lee Rider is equally sweet thanks to the vocals, though with a touch more dirt, especially in the bassline, and a faster tempo that takes us into drum’n’bass territory. However, in both cases there’s something not quite right about the contrast between these two tracks and the rest of the album’s grittier feel. The sickly-sweet female vocals just don’t seem to gel with the productions as well as on the Crawler riddim, say.
The album closes with “ Moschino” on which Terror manages to blend grime and drum’n’bass aesthetics without it sounding like a complete mess. It’s testament to what appears to be a desire to experiment on this album beyond the style he’s known for, and as such it’s a fitting way to close the album –it’s technically not the closer, as there’s an outro which blends the James Bond vibes of the intro with elements of the “Dark Crawler” riddim, but you get what I’m trying to say.
It’s ultimately this desire for experimentation, and the various roads it leads down, that make “Dark Crawler” a strong effort from Terror Danjah, one you should make time for if only for the surprises it will throw up.