It’s been a while, but the experimental musical project Praxis has returned with their newest album, Profanation: Preparation for a Coming Darkness (if that’s not an uplifting title, I don’t know what is). Praxis and its core members, Buckethead (guitars), Bill Laswell (bass), and Brain (drums), have been around since 1992, producing an eccentric variety of albums that dabble in everything from avant garde metal to psychedelic rock and doses of funk, often all in the same sitting. A range of guest stars such as John Zorn, Bernie Worrell, and Grandmixer DXT have also contributed in the past to the mad scientist experiment.
Profanation’s February 8th release marks its debut in the US, having previously been available in Japan since 2008. The US release comes with two live bonus tracks not found on the Japanese version and is one of the last recordings to feature the gothic futurist Rammellzee, a multi-talented visual/performance artist and underground hip-hop icon who died in 2010.
Joining Rammellzee and the Praxis trio is another round of talented musicians including Iggy Pop, System Of A Down’s Serj Tankian, Mike Patton, Doctor Israel, Wu-Tang protégé Killah Priest, and Jamaica-born Hawk.
Like the various talent on the album, Profanation dips in and out of a whole smorgasbord of genres. There are futuristic, electronic songs like “Caution” featuring the robotic voice of Rammellzee over apocalyptic metal chaos and the furious licks of Buckethead’s blistering guitar, and the synthetic, caffeinated sounds of “Larynx” with an underused Mike Patton doing his best manic scatting.
There’s the funk angle, represented by Hawk who brings an interesting reggae twist to the driving “Worship” (one of catchiest songs on the album), and Rammellzee, who raps over the slinky “Revelations 2”.
Metal, dub, and space jams round out the rest thanks to “Sulfur and Cheese” featuring the powerful Serj Tankian, “Babylon Blackout”, and the gorgeous, Mark Knopfler-esque “Endtime”, respectively.
Unfortunately, not all the songs work, and the mixed tracklist can be jarring. Songs like “Furies”, with Iggy Pop’s distinctive vocals and hypnotic throbs, and Killah Priest’s grooving, hip hop tune “Galaxies” are wonderful standouts, but the sloppy “Ancient World” and unremarkable “Garbage Gods“ leave a lot to be desired. Luckily, there is a lot more good than bad in this Profanation.
As varied as the album is, the songs are all loosely tied together by an apocalyptic theme and Buckethead’s transcendent guitar work. He makes sure his presence is known on each track, his riffs and licks igniting the score and pushing the boundaries. In the 48 minutes it takes for this journey to run its course, Buckethead is relentless, and his guitar will leave you breathless.
The ride from start to finish is a bumpy one at times, and Profanation won’t appeal to everyone, but there’s enough mad talent and furious compositions here to be rewarding for the more adventurous listener.