Single Review: Highly Suspects – Tokyo Ghoul

Highly Suspects venture into the realms of Hip-Hop on their ghoulish new single ‘Tokyo Ghoul’.

When a band or an artist drastically diverts from their established sound, it has huge potential for good. Straying from their own status quo allows their certified skillset to be moulded and utilised in ways not done before and show the world just how talented and adaptable the said band is. Highly Suspect is not one such band; their new single Tokyo Ghoul is simply not good.

Frontman Johnny Stevens has always carried the face-value image of a modern-day rap star. With the combo of face tattoos, baggy vintage designer outfits, he’s only one edgy stage name (although he already goes by Terrible Johnny on this track) away from being Post Malone’s heir to the scruffy white dude rapper throne.

Consequently, it came as no real shock to see Highly Suspects’ social media make the grand unveiling of their new collaboration with Atlanta rapper, Young Thug. I took a rather large breath and gouged my mind as open as I could before forcing my cursor over that damnable play button; clicking it turned out to be a pretty bad decision.

As if Pandoras’ box had been opened, all the wrongs of the world spilled into my ears as this half-baked, awkwardly delivered and frankly predictable – even for a band that has no experience within hip-hop – track unleashed all its misery upon me. Johnny Stevens is a fantastic singer, his voice a gorgeous combination of sombre and soul-like tones that can snap into outrage in an instant, on Tokyo Ghoul this articulation is wasted as his hip-hop ego ‘Terrible Johnny’ raps just as badly as his namesake suggests.

As his awkward flow stumbles and trips as precariously as a giraffe on ice skates, the instrumental beneath provides just as much joy as a deflated balloon at a kids birthday party. Gone are any ripping basslines or crunching riffs and instead the generic artificial drum beats and fuzzy synthesisers take the limelight and achieve little in doing so; the beat has no force, no urgency and leaves Johnny’s stagnated delivery out to dry.

Fortunately, Terrible Johnny opts to sing through the chorus elevating the song beyond the realms of  the unbearable yet his vocals remain unfulfilled when layered on top of the hip-hop backing track as it does nothing to reinforce the raw emotion that he attempts to emanate; go back and listen to any other Highly Suspect song to see what I mean.

The quiet beauty of the chorus is then shattered by a ham-fisted bundle of dissonance that goes by the name of Young Thug. Thugger fans might enjoy the sound of an electrocuted fax machine but it’s not exactly my cup of tea, his nasally and disinterested performance grinding what little flow there was to a halt.

Lyrically, Tokyo Ghoul treads a very familiar path. We’re diving back into similar stories of Johnny dealing with fame-hood and people not placing their beliefs in him; yes they’re real feelings but we’ve heard about them a lot. Strangely, too, the high-quality (albeit pretty edgy) song-writing that we’ve come to expect from Highly Suspect is absent but instead we’re treated to dreadful lines like “I’ve been around don’t f**k around, You f**k around and get real killed”; good god.

Only time will tell how the full release MCID – set to drop this November – will play out. Tokyo Ghoul may’ve been a flop but recent interviews with Stevens have promised further collaborations with names like tech death outfit Gojira and English alt-rock band Nothing But Thieves; so unless they’re planning on releasing a rap-infused death metal album I think we can put this small mistake behind us.

Words: Alex Mace

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