We are going to review one the largest releases in the history of the Juggalo world - period. The Wraith.
So here's some background. This album came out in 2004, and at this point the Juggalos had been around for a long time. This is the second-to-last Joker's Card in the first deck, the last one being Hell's Pit. The idea is that you had The Wraith, which is supposed to represent heaven, and Hell's Pit, which is mean to represent the underworld. There is a lot of history to this album, but what I will say is that this album is supposed to be very uplifting and positive. You can actually feel it when you're listening to the album - the pure good-heartedness that went into this album. Additionally, this was after ICP's fallout with Mike E. Clark, and Mike Puwal was the primary producer for this album. I'll speak more on that when it comes time to talk about the content. While I loved this album, I'll point out that it's been cited as their worst release of all time. Other reviews have been generally crappy as well. I didn't understand it at first, but having listened to the album myself I truly understand.
This is seriously an album for the Juggalos.
I'm not sure if this was always true, but all copies of The Wraith that I've seen come with some bonus material. I will talk more of that later. Anyway, I bring it up because the case is a 2-disc with the music on the front and DVD on the back. Mine is the seminar, and it came in the First Six boxset, so all of the DVDs that came with The Wraith in the boxset are the seminar.
The cover is The Wraith himself, with a crow on his shoulder and arm outstretched longingly. He sprouts from a book, a spectral presence. It will be pictured below. The back has the entire track listing stylized very interestingly. It's in a huge sweeping art, close together and actually a little annoying to read. It's set against clouds just as the front cover is.
The front cover is actually a slip, and on the back is a picture of Jay and Shags in Wraith-era paint. But there's a nice booklet that comes with the album, not attached to the front cover. It holds all of the lyrics for all of the songs, including the ones that are within the same track (Which can get confusing). Along with the lyrics are all the production credits and lots of pictures of Shags and Jay taken for the album specifically. At the back of the album is the Story of the Butterfly, enlightening you to the message of the butterfly if you don't already know. And if you don't know, I ain't gonna tell ya. You can look it up, read the slip, or ask the big J himself if you ever see him.
You gotta think about from different perspectives. For Shags and Jay, this was basically the end of the road. After these next two albums were finished, that was it, the Dark Carnival was done.
For the Juggalos, this was supposed to be the bomb shit they were waiting for. This was going to be something real fucking big in their world, lots of anticipation, especially since it was the second-to-last Joker's Card.
To me, it was just a Joker's Card that came out in 2004. I was fucking eight years old when this shit came out. I didn't grow up around anyone who bumped the wicked shit, and I couldn't tell you what a Juggalo was if you asked me. Now, having listened to it means something very different.
Musically, this is a very fucking nice CD. Since these last two albums were basically the end of the road for them (Or so they thought) they put all of their being into this. Their blood, sweat, tears, and positive energy was all spent right up into this here CD. You can feel their energy when you bump the shit, it's fresh.
This album is different from other shit. There's a lot of positive and free-spirit energy here. A lot of the tracks are very rock-influenced, with a heavy rock vibes coming off a lot of the tracks. It fits the nature of the album and adds to the positive, free-spirit tune the CD carries. In terms of lyrical content, some of the tracks are just pure fun, and some tracks take on a serious uplifting tone. In the past, ICP had done a lot of speaking out in a cynical way. But instead of pointing fingers, it paints a picture that instead says, "Enjoy your life, you are family, and when you're ready, here is the light". That said, if you are not a Juggalo, this CD is not made for you. Which is why it actually made sense why the reviews are so shit. It's hard to grasp the nature of this CD when you have no idea who the fuck these guys are or what they're talking about, and that detracts from the quality of the album.
But even with that aside, musically this CD is really good. They have lots of live instrumentation going on - pianos, guitars and shit that add to the freshness of the CD as a whole. Mike Puwal does a fantastic job standing in Clark's big shoes and running the show. Something that is noticeable is that this CD doesn't have as much of a goofy "Carnival" sound that other ICP albums have, perhaps that was intentional, or maybe it just happened because Clark didn't have a hand in this at all. Features are minimal, and this CD is almost always just ICP save for a few tracks here and there. The features are a welcome edition and all the other tracks do very fine without them. While there are actually few features, this album was very much a group project as evidenced from the production credits.
There is not much more I can say. If you're a Juggalo, you should appreciate everything about this CD. If you aren't, you really don't have a reason to buy this CD. This isn't some Riddlebox or Bang! Pow! Boom! that you can just listen to, it's the second-to-last Joker's Card and it was meant to send a message to all the ninjas with everything ICP had. But hey, this CD is some seriously good shit, so maybe cop it anyway. Even if you aren't a Juggalo, there will be something that you can appreciate about this CD, whether it's the live instrumentation or the contrarian lyricism, you can find something to like about The Wraith. Long story short though, I'd recommend it to any Lo who hasn't heard it yet.
Seminar DVD bonus material:
This is the Insane Clown Posse seminar where the sixth Joker's Card was unveiled to the Juggalos, in 2004. Joe Bruce goes through the whole history up to that point, from Carnival of Carnage to The Wraith: Shangri-La and Hell's Pit. There's plenty of antics inbetween, but the speech itself is very powerful. It's Joe Bruce speaking to the Juggalos, straight up, from the center of his soul. There are times that I wanted to clap and hollar along with the crowd, even though I wasn't there and it happened over ten years ago. Clearly there is something moving about this material if you're actually into their shit. If you aren't a Juggalo, then this bonus DVD probably means nothing to you. It doesn't beat or match the feeling of being around the fam, but this DVD is a nice little addition of freshness for the Juggalos to peep out. I liked it a lot. It's about an hour long and both versions of the Sixth are revealed at the end of it. There's the main menu which has two options: click The Wraith for production credits on the DVD and click the play button to view the seminar. That's about it.
The Wraith: Shangri La recieves a: 4/5!
(Oh heeeellll yeah)
- Mike P fucks it up
- The theme of heaven and positivity do a lot of justice to give this album a hearty weight, and it will definitely have an effect on you if you like Insane Clown Posse
- The rock influences give a heavy energy to this CD and will leave your ears ringing pleasantly
- Shags and J put every once of their being into making this album be the most it could be, which was an embodiment of all their positive emotions, both personally and of the family
There's nothing wrong with this album, so there are no weak points. If you don't like this CD, I don't know what it would be that bugs you. The only thing that pissed people off was that at the end of the CD, they announced the Joker's Cards to be the presence of god, and that god was always the force driving the Joker's Cards forth. I'm not a religious fellow, I'm secular, and I appreciate that they were trying to say something positive even if it is in a way that I can't really relate to.
Oh, and Happy fucking Hatchet Holidays. I hope y'all motherfuckers had a bomb-ass Christmas and new years. I love you motherfuckers, fam. Until next time homies.
|Take my hand, and come to Shangri-La.|