Last year Backxwash left a heavy impact with her breakout debut God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It, swirling together heavy metal samples and industrial beats with a grippingly vicious flow. That project was an exploration of forgiveness, even as angry as it was. Now Backxwash trades in vulnerability for venom, mercy for retribution, grace for wrath. Her new album overflows with rage and malevolence, directed as much inward against her own demons as it is wielded against her enemies. There are intense descriptions of suicidal ideation and self harm in nearly every song. A pervasive sense of despair prevails throughout this project, and any hope comes from living simply to spite a world intent on her suffering.
Just like her first full length, I Lie Here Buried With My Rings and My Dresses is stacked with local collaborators. Ada Rook of Black Dresses does guitar and vocal work, as well as mastering the album, and clipping. come in to produce one chilling track. While the themes pivot, Backxwash doubles down entirely on her blend of industrial hip-hop and gothic metal. These pulse-pounding beats are huge, arena ready even, with wailing sirens suited as much for a big stage light show as they are for a haunting midnight headphone session.
The characteristically concise opener “Wail of the Banshee” establishes the themes right away: Backwash raps with a razor edge of rage about self-harm, inner demons, and wrathful desperation. The two-minute song feels like part of the prologue, an introduction to the title track. “I Lie Here Buried with My Rings and My Dresses,” echoes the prior beat, now featuring Ada Rook’s spastic guitar and harsh vocals, sharpening everything and throwing it in your face. Rook’s chorus repeats in a balanced back and forth with Backxwash’s increasingly caustic verses. Her voice reaches higher and higher, breaking just before the final chorus explodes with extra bass. The album only gets more intense from there.
Backxwash’s music is deeply tied to her specific experience in so-called Canada, rapping about her unshakeable government deadname and the racist prime minister, poignantly released amidst a spate of horrific and unsurprising uncoverings of mass graves at residential schools. This is the same colonial force that has made her homeland inhospitable, as she raps about being unable to return to a now intensely conservative Christian Zambia. Then by invoking Angela Davis, and condemning Obama and Biden and the Queen, Backxwash breaks down the borders and outlines the same struggle across the world.
The closing track, “Burn to Ashes,” is Backxwash’s finest work to date. An impossibly ascendant Godspeed You! Black Emperor guitar line soars overhead, both elevating and lightening the intensity. At the midpoint of the song the guitars suddenly give way to stark piano, totally transforming the booming beat. Here, only at the end, Backxwash finally allows a little compassion into the picture, rapping about her loved ones and something to live for. After an onslaught of anguish, this moment rips your heart out. There is no reprieve, but she seems to find some kind of peace in the fire: “If I do go in silence, let it be known that I tried all I can / Fuck all my enemies hard as I can / Fuck all these papers who call me a man / When the time comes, it fades to black, I know where I’m at / I just light the fumes, boom, and spark it as I burn to ash.”
The graceful redemption of this project is simply its existence, particularly as a collaborative work. The increasing dynamism between Backxwash and Ada Rook; features from underground trans and queer artists like Censored Dialogue and Lauren Bousfield; inspired samples and collaborative producers. The world this album depicts is a bleak one, but there is a defiant sort of beauty to even stand together in the face of it.