Written by Chris Osifchin
“There is ice and there is fire. Hate and love. Bitter and sweet. Male and female. Pain and pleasure. Winter and summer. Evil and good. Death and life.” – Melisandre, A Storm of Swords
As HBO prepares to premiere season five of the hit show, it should come as no surprise that the company followed up last year’s Catch the Throne with a second volume. A catchall theme of fire and ice was incorporated into this year’s mixtape, but it’s really more of a description of the blend of genres included on the album than anything else. While Volume One was hip-hop focused, Volume Two includes tracks from metal bands Killswitch Engage, Mastodon and Anthrax, presumably “fire,” in addition to hip-hop stalwarts like Method Man, Snoop Dogg and Ty Dolla $ign, presumably “ice.” Also included on the mixtape are a reggaeton song, and a few songs with more of a pop-edge.
There are some great moments on this mixtape, especially as a fan of the show, but there are some lowlights as well. Let’s break it down.
Each song starts with an audio clip from Season Four of Game of Thrones that serves to set the scene. The curators used some fantastic clips from the show. The opening track, “The Oath,” by Method Man, starts with the Night’s Watch oath in a delightfully spaced out sequence. Killswitch Engage begins “Loyalty” with audio from the scene in which Oberyn Martell pledges to be Tyrion’s champion in trial by combat. Cersei’s declaration that tears aren’t a woman’s only weapon on “Soror Irrumator” by Anthrax. Stannis Baratheon’s panicky desperation thinking that he won’t remain relevant on Stalley’s “All Mine.”
From there, it’s up to the artist to take us to Westeros. In the game of thrones mixtape, you win or you die.
The best track on the album is Snoop Dogg’s “Lannister Anthem.” Considering Snoop recently changed his name to Snoop Lion (and then changed it back), it’s fitting that he’s singing about the Lannisters who use a gold Lion as their sigil. Tyrion Lannister’s characteristic quip, “A Lannister always pays his debts,” opens the song and Snoop proceeds to welcome us to the house of the Lannisters. “We’ve got the power, seven kingdoms strong,” repeats throughout the track, as Snoop narrates Tyrion’s trial. At one point, Joffrey joins the fracas yelling “Kneel. Kneel before your king. Kneel!” It’s as if Snoop himself is saying, “I’m the king here and everybody knows it!”
Another track that deserves mention is Mushroomhead’s “Among the Crows,” the album’s closing note. A mania of metal, the song opens appropriately with Maester Aemon of the Night’s Watch giving a eulogy for their dead brothers after the battle at the wall in the season four finale. I can almost see Jon Snow walking away from the funeral pyre as the churning guitars come in. The song basically takes the Night’s Watch credo and turns it into song with riff after chunky riff behind it. It’s a really fun take on “taking the black.”
Despite some golden moments, the mixtape suffers from some subpar performances. In particular Ty Dolla $ign’s song, “Never Back Down,” makes me think he hasn’t even watched the show, or didn’t care enough to put some thought behind his lyrics. It’s four minutes of Dolla $ign’s reverb-inflated voice making general statements about The Red Viper and repeating “yeah yeah yeah” and “never back down” over and over. Not one of the album’s shining moments.
“Marcando Territorio,” or “Marking Territory,” by Yandel is not a bad tune; it just throws off the vibe of the entire mixtape. After Snoop Dogg’s inspired song, this song doesn’t even start with an actual soundbite other than a quick hit of swords coming together and a corny whispered “game of thrones.” The next song is Anthrax’s excellent “Soror Irrumator,” hard driving metal. I am not well versed in Spanish, but it’s easy enough to figure out that this song has to do with Stannis Baratheon when Davos speaks at the end saying, “You’re speaking to the one true king.” (If you’re going to click on any link in this post, please click on this one. It had me cracking up.) I couldn’t find lyrics anywhere online, but it really threw me off to hear this song in between Snoop’s smooth flow and Anthrax’s loud metal. Song flow is important on a mixtape.
It’s obvious that Catch the Throne was not put together with the critics in mind, and that’s OK. There are some stellar instances where the two mediums collide, and a few not so stellar moments.
The bottom line: if you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, you’ll get a kick out of Catch the Throne. You can listen to the mixtape in full here.
And now our watch has ended.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Catch the Throne: The Mixtape, Volume 2 is available on iTunes.