GRAVEDIGGAZ The Pick, the Sickle and the Shovel GEE STREET GEE 1000562

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There are several changes on this second album from the inventors of that least successful sub-genre, "horrorcore" rap. For one thing, Gravediggaz have dumped the out-and-out emphasis on gothic horror, claiming now that their zombie fixation is actually a metaphor for "raising the mentally dead" rather than just cheap comic-book thrills. For another, they've effectively become a trio, the contribution of De La Soul producer Prince Paul having diminished to merely helping out on one of the 15 tracks, leaving rappers Poetic, Frukwan (from rap pioneers Stetsasonic) and The Rza (from The Wu-Tang Clan) to carry the album virtually without him.

Into the gap left by Prince Paul have leapt several of The Rza's production accomplices from The Wu-Tang Clan serving to make The Pick, the Sickle and the Shovel sound all the more like the second cousin of the Clan's mighty Forever Wu-Tang, full of dark, static loops, spooky strings and organ noodling. Into this bleak musical landscape sweep torrents of deadpan wordplay, the three rappers, by turns nonchalantly witty ("I'm the Adam and the Eve of Destruction") and aggressively articulate ("I'll turn this metropolis into a necropolis").

There's nothing too innovative about the subject-matter, which cleaves closely to the rap staples of elaborate self-aggrandisement, scary fables, violent metaphors and scathing political analysis, but there's no denying the sheer panache with which they effect their critiques. Ultimately, all that stops The Pick, the Sickle and the Shovel from being a great album is its lack of humour or some similarly liberating spark of wildness.