Samuel Claiborne, born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, but now a resident of Rosendale, New York, is a man of many talents who has overcome incredible obstacles to accomplish what he has today. Claiborne, a writer, poet, composer, musician, graphic designer and photographer, is a former quadriplegic whose work is heavily influenced by the time he spent paralyzed and the profound gratitude he has for his recovery. Claiborne’s poetry has been published in Northern Light, Halfmoon Review, Belle Fourche and The Chronogram, among others, and his essays have been published in the New York Times and the Phoenix. His poetry and song lyrics range in subject matter from meditations on nature, erotica, cosmology, and the nature of self, to fervent, deeply-felt political anthems. Claiborne’s nine-track album “Love, Lust and Genocide”, a lyrically-deep and gripping offering, is reviewed today on Entertwine for your reading pleasure.
‘Say Goodbye to America’ opens “Love, Lust and Genocide” with lyrics that are extremely fitting for everything that this country is going through currently. Big, bouncing drums and a moving bass-line in the verses give way to horns and excellently-placed backing vocals in the memorable choruses. These same backing vocals are again present at points throughout the second verse, an intelligent decision from Claiborne, as they fill a lot of space and compliment the lead vocals effortlessly. This is, for all intents and purposes, a fairly basic song; the first change-up takes place at the bridge after the solo, a solo that features a raw, cutting tone and fits within the song well. This bridge is then followed by a section that features group vocals leading to a big ending (the bass is walking all over the place, the drums are playing new fills) with another guitar solo and the re-implementation of horns before closing in a haunting, cliff-hanging manner. The likable ‘Hungering for Strange’ follows with more huge drums that create a feel-good beat. Female panting is present at the beginning of the song and is quickly joined by a heavy guitar riff to open the song. There are horns in the choruses, again a wise choice by Claiborne. The verses and choruses work very well together and this track is produced exceptionally, with the production being very well thought-out ahead of time. Haunting lead guitar parts that are more noise than notes work in this particular instance, accompanied by backing vocals that are again on-point and add an immense amount of value to the recording. Each instrument is played well and the vocal parts sung by Claiborne are exceptional during this particular song. ‘The Lion and the Lamb’ opens with an acoustic guitar, a strings section, and a familiar chord progression. This is a much softer offering than the previous two numbers we’ve heard featured on “Love, Lust and Genocide” so far, this track featuring more introspective observations instead of politically-charged lyrics. The drums and bass complement the foundation laid by the acoustic guitar and strings section instead of driving the song, and the lyrics balance religion and sexuality, Claiborne’s interpretations paired up against the interpretations and beliefs of others. The backing vocals again are fantastic, but the true highlight of this song is the instrumental section after the second chorus which builds and then begins to include emotion-filled lead and backing vocals. The transition from “Your God” at the opening of each chorus to “My God” during the final chorus was notable and showed depth within the storyline of the song, and the nature and feel of the song overall allowed Claiborne to show a lot of versatility here with this particular track.
‘Succulence (Blasphemy)’ opened hauntingly with ambient noise and the inclusion of hand drums. Claiborne soon enters, speaking intensely, not singing, over tempting, sensual lead guitar parts that enter and retreat throughout the first three minutes of the track and seem to be influenced by Middle Eastern music. The words are spiritual in nature and Claiborne’s vocals are strong and metaphorical. Claiborne speaks with conviction and power and shows no fear on this largely instrumental composition, and the production is intelligent and extremely complimentary, making it easy to get lost in time focusing on these distant, otherworldly sounds. ‘Hurt’, a cover of the Trent Reznor-penned, Nine Inch Nails-performed (and later, more famously, Johnny Cash-performed) song follows with huge, echoing drums and a clean, reverb-laden lead guitar part. Further ambience and noise is present throughout the duration of the recording, making it very difficult to hear the individual instruments/parts on their own and unfortunately ultimately having an adverse effect on the presentation of the song. Claiborne’s deep, haunting voice works well here, but the vocals certainly aren’t as emotive as Cash and could’ve been performed better. The choruses also seem almost too big compared to the soft, quiet verses and the production on this particular track is average. I was not a fan of the more distorted guitar tone in the choruses, as they only muddied the song even more, and the drums don’t sound quite as good or authentic here; they are uninspired with very little movement, and the cymbals sound terrible. Make no mistake, this is not a bad cover, but it pales in comparison to Cash’s evocative, heart-wrenching version. ‘Broken’ then opens with brushes on the snare drum overtop a solid beat. The song is acoustic guitar-led before vocals enter beautifully in the first verse. The bass play is stellar here and the overall production and instrument performances are back up to par. The chorus is impressive, the backing vocals again adding a whole lot of production value, and the drum performance is solid throughout the track. What makes this song special, though, is the expertly-performed harmonies in the later choruses.
’21st Century War’ brings forth a more industrial side of Claiborne, with a driving electronic beat to open the song quickly followed by drums. Claiborne creates an awesome vibe right from the get-go and shows a lot of versatility with this number. Lead electric guitar parts enter close to thirty seconds in, as does a cutting synth pad. Claiborne again speaks rather than singing, this time unaltered and unadulterated as he holds nothing back about his views on war in the 21st century, how it is portrayed by the media, and how it is perceived by us as American citizens. Claiborne offers a more realistic insight into the terrible atrocities that occur during war without the sugar-coated lies that we believe to make us feel better about ourselves. Claiborne becomes satirical at two minutes in, almost chiding us as listeners, evoking sarcasm to get his gritty, truthful points across. A new vocalist is featured in the chorus sections and after the second chorus, this vocalist begins scatting and improvising beautifully, letting his raw emotion sink deep into the recording. ‘Unbound’ brings back the heavy electric guitars from the early part of the record and couples them with lots of movement in the bass during the later choruses and the bridge. Without this and the searing guitar solo after the bridge, the song would be forgettable, as the other offerings on this record supersede this particular recording. ‘The Heart is a Bomb’ closes “Love, Lust and Genocide” with groovy drums and a drop-tuned guitar overtop lead guitar parts and ambience. The drop-tuned guitar’s riff is haunting yet ironically appealing; Claiborne does an impressive job here of creating something that contains both of those emotions simultaneously. Claiborne speaks powerfully again, beginning at one minute in, overtop a plethora of ambient background noise. Close to three minutes in an electric guitar re-enters prominently, its tone like a saw. The song closes similarly to how it opened, this time fading out over an extended period of time.
There is a ton of emotion on this record, and understandably so. Claiborne’s record is impressive, especially given what he has been able to overcome in his lifetime. There aren’t any foolish or throwaway lyrics on this record, as Claiborne does an excellent job of saying what he wants to say and saying it intelligently with stellar form. Claiborne speaks directly from experience on this record and offers a no-holds-barred approach to listeners. Overall, there were definitely instances where the vocals could’ve been performed better. Even during the best vocal performances, such as on ‘Broken’, there are still moments throughout the song where the vocals could’ve been more finely-tuned. ‘Unbound’ was the only track, though, where this was apparent throughout (versus interspersed within), as Claiborne’s vocal takes here seemed unrehearsed and lacking confidence. Regardless, “Love, Lust and Genocide” is worthwhile, an honest, heartfelt look into the life and mind of a man who has overcome great tragedy and pain to create and continue to push the boundaries of others’ expectations.