Yaphet Kotto - The Killer Was In The Government Blankets (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Yaphet Kotto

The Killer Was In The Government Blankets (1999)


I'm going to be blunt about this. Yaphet Kotto is absolutely the best band many of you have never heard of. Hailing from Santa Cruz, the emotive hardcore outfit will make you throw most of your old hardcore records out. Many bands claim passionate intensity with intricate musicianship, but The Killer Was In The Government Blankets will actually give some validity to that description. These 9 songs will knock you on your ass, and after it's done you won't even want to get back up.

Where most bands fail and come off sounding calculated and contrived, Yaphet Kotto will deliver like no other. That area? Passion. Every throat-shredding vocal is dripping with conviction, and you believe every word you hear, which really helps in driving home the lyrics, full of political and social awareness unlike anywhere else in the hardcore scene. Not every band is suited to speak of politics or similar things in their music, but when a band is, it has to be believable. For instance, how seriously would you take Mest talking about the Iran Contra affair? But that's not an issue here, as the two vocalists create a frenzied passion that really is unrivaled by any bands around today. From start to finish, the lyrics evoke a real sense of urgency, so with the passion presented in the vocals, you have yourself an amazing package that really drives each and every word home. There are so many examples of just how hard hitting these lyrics are, but a few particular lines from "Suffocate" always really impressed me;

Right boot oppresses me, making it impossible to breathe / One foot placed on my neck, and the others welcoming / Complaints go unheard, a simple task / Not make believe, would make them see / .. / Majority rules, both hands outstretched / With no attempt, and they don't reach / The status quo was planned to make up a place for me / The working class denied, shown for the last time / You took more from me than I gave you.
That's the kind of strong songwriting shown throughout the entire album, with both vocalists really putting their heart into every single word. Just as strong as the lyrics and vocals is the instrumentation laid down here. The transitions between clean and crunching guitars are absolutely flawless, and both guitarists intertwine to create some real moments of insanity. They might slow down at points, but the intensity doesn't even waver for a split second.

After some feedback, the album's opener "First Meetings Agreement" breaks the door right down. You can tell right from the outset that this is going to be one hell of a song. The song breaks towards the middle for some slowly intensifying drum fills, and then lulls back down to a dull roar, and slowly fades into the next track, and definitely one of the album's strongest, "Torn Pictures." The vocals here are nothing short of incredible, and the guitar work just makes the song that much better. The album's strongest track comes with "B And C," which leads in with some cool bass lines, then proceeds to punch you in the face, repeatedly. The vocals sound so urgent and the guitars accentuate that to a tee. This is Yaphet Kotto at their absolute best.

Things keep going at a good pace throughout the rest of the album, having its spastic vocal freakouts, and slower, more driving moments, but there's absolutely no filler here. Every aspect is just as strong as the last. The vocals and lyrics are top notch, the musicianship is incredible, and for the most part, the production is on point as well. There are one or two sporadic moments where the backing vocals are kind of lost in things, but it's definitely not enough to detract from any of the songs.

I really can't praise this album enough. I've owned it for about 3 years now, and it's still in constant play, if not in my stereo, then on my computer. This album is everything hardcore, in essence, is meant to be. Passionate, urgent, aware, and damn is it loud. The two albums recorded after this, and We Bury Our Dead Alive are just as stellar as this, but right here's where it all began, in all its chaotic and spastic glory. No review will truly do justice to anything this band records, but I really urge all of you, fans of hardcore or not, to give this band a try. Somewhere along the line bands and labels lost sight of why music is truly made, but Yaphet Kotto and Ebullition have put up one hell of a fight to turn things around.