Hail Mary Mallon's 'Bestiary' Album: Our Review

It seems the consensus on Hail Mary Mallon's (the hip-hop supergroup made up of Aesop Rock, Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz) debut album, Are You Going to Eat That?

, was that it was pretty good, but awfully short, inconsistent and unfocused; a criticism that isn't uncommon with regards to the collaborative hip-hop album.

Trading artistic vision and/or coherency for fun isn't really a problem within the genre...unless you're Aesop Rock, who's nearly universally recognized as one of hip hop's most virtuosic (and consequently, most dense) wordsmiths.

Both the bar Aesop Rock set and the type of fanbase he attracts constituted major problems from Hail Mary Mallon, a project that garnered far less hype than his solo albums or Uncluded, his project with Moldy Peaches frontwoman Kimya Dawson.

The lukewarm Pitchfork review of Are You Going to Eat That? hit the nail on the head when it charged that its songs were "probably more fun to record than to listen to."

With Bestiary, Hail Mary Mallon address this problem head on. There's no throwaway tracks - like "Breakdance Beach" or "Grubsteak" from the debut - but there are no songs that reach the heights of "Church Pants" or "Smock" either.

That being said, if you've never heard the debut, then Bestiary is probably a better starting point.

DJ Big Wiz seems to have been thrust into a more prominent role; his expert turntable skills breaking up Aesop Rock's and Rob Sonic's sometimes-too-heady flows.

If you're anything like me, and have a hard time getting through Aesop Rock's "Catacomb Kids" (from 2007's None Shall Pass) without rewinding that "knock em' out the box, Aes" scratching, this is a welcome addition and makes for a less exhausting listening experience.

The lyricism is - as expected - top-notch. What's surprising here is that the protege appears to have surpassed the master.

Rob Sonic's verses aren't leaps and bounds better than Aesop Rock's, but he seems to "feel" the beats more and has more memorable witticisms and one-liners (for example, "Police are under/the bridge demanding/ that I at least turn back into Rick Moranis" from "Krill").

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Additional scratching aside, the production is much improved this time around.

"Hang Ten," with its amorphous bass line, Middle Eastern feel and U2-styled guitar loops, is probably the coolest beat we've heard Aesop Rock or Rob Sonic spit over in awhile.

"Jonathan" sports bass that's so all-encompassing that it's claustrophobic and also eerily reminiscent of Kanye West's "Monster."?

Bestiary isn't without its flaws, but is indicative of forward momentum for the group and thus far proves that every time these guys work on Hail Mary Mallon project, they improve it.

Like anything that Aesop Rock or Rob Sonic have been involved with in the past, it's certainly worth a listen (actually, multiple listens).