Set down at the bottom of the system
Reviewed by Jean-Paul Nassif
Downset is a mixture of Consolidated (a socialist industrial/rap/thrash band), Pantera, "Rage Against the Machine and Bodycount. Their musical style is hardcore thrash with a mind of its own and a diverse lyrical content.
For a 35-minute album with a mere 10 tracks, it is amazing how powerful and thorough this album really is. The intensity is retained throughout each song, boasting no token ballads.
Since Downset is a hardcore band from LA, it seems very fitting for "Anger!" to be the first track: a song about the Rodney King riot/rebellion. Rey Anthony Oropeza (lead vocalist) tells how his father was murdered by the LA police and how anger at injustice can consume good people and spill over into bloodshed.
"Ritual" is a song about the rape ritual that women in US (Western) society are subjected to on quite a few fronts:
"Say, what have we done to mother, sister, daughter, lover?/ Beat 'em down to submission into that corner of constant fear/ Humanity reduced to a sexual commodity/ objectification, pretty faces, moulded imagery/ ... Propagated misogyny, continual victimising my sister,/ physical rape is psychological murder!"
"Ritual" also criticises the physical, psychological and emotional expectations placed on women in our society.
"Take 'em out" attacks war, the use of murder as a means to reach political ends. For the evil to take place, however, there needs to be compliance with the state.
"Prostitutionalised" elaborates on consumer blindness in the form of smokescreen patriotism.
"Downset" (title of the fifth song) explains being down, set at the bottom of the system — a "downset" is a very poor ghetto area, an economic, mental and racial prison.
"My American prayer" is a satire on patriotism and an exposure of America's traditions of hatred. These sentiments are echoed in "About to blast": "Inner city erosion, political racial explosion/ Mental repression fuels that murder rates explosion ..."
"Dying of thirst" is about the lack of spirituality, while "Breed the killer" carries on the theme of the brutality and dehumanisation of the capitalist system, and how it thrives on racial oppression.
Downset's determination to combat oppression and injustice applies to all areas. Sexism is not looked upon as a secondary issue, as is the case with some hardcore bands. Without being self-righteous, Downset holds the capitalist structure up to scrutiny and finds an establishment that divides by colour, ethnicity, sex, culture, religion and just about anything else.