In extreme periods of loss, how does one recover? For many of us, we may escape to the things that we love, but what do we do when the person who we are mourning so hard over was the key to that way out? For Injury Reserve, their newest album, By The Time I Get to Phoenix, poses these exact questions as members Ritchie with a T and Parker Corey attempt to deal with the loss of fellow member and dear friend Stepa J. Groggs. Taking on such a daring task, the two put together one of the most important and darkest musical experiences of all time. The synth-heavy production intoxicates listeners throughout its 41 minutes run time, and with MC Ritchie’s pain-ridden and mournful writing steering this album further into the pit of despair and aimlessness, each of the 11 tracks embed us in a world we can’t escape out of. From the unsettling confusion, due to not knowing the actual cause behind Groggs’ sudden passing to the eeriness of Ritchie testifying that he can still feel his presence and see his shadows on the heart-shattering “Top Picks for You,” the ideas of grief and morbidity are expressed in a manner that explains so much yet so little. Contributing to the purgatory-like atmosphere conveyed through the gloomy score and hopeless messaging, the series of posthumous vocals and verses from Groggs himself personify Ritchie’s ideas regarding his presence surrounding him.
When it comes to each conspiring moment, the ideas portrayed in each verse don’t always directly build onto one another but instead solidify the concept of being trapped within a forever continuous cycle of chaos due to a triggering event such as the one behind this LP. Facing such a tough grievance, we see the downward spiral it can bestow upon an individual through a series of pessimistic views and practical fears. Through Ritchie stating how the government is ready to kill us on “Footwork in a Forest Fire” to the albums lone featured artist Zelooperz revealing, he’s scared to bring a kid into this world on “SS San Francisco,” while not always directly addressing the loss of their dear friend, we see how the effects of an event like this dampers the mind and tarnishes the soul. Just as Ritchie’s bars personify these views, Parker Coreys score compartmentalizes this pain into the chaotic sound, which simply adds a dynamic to this project that many other albums simply cannot offer.
Looking at the title of this LP, we can assume the group is referring to the word Phoenix in a symbolic way, specifically as a figure of rebirth and the continuation of life in flames of change. When digesting this in-depth, intricate experience, we can see that the group has come nowhere close to reaching the point of Phoenix. While albums holding similar meanings tend to end with a positive conclusion of some sort, Injury Reserve concludes the record the same way it began. Even with the understanding that we must continue to live and go about our daily actions, it doesn’t take away from the pain and suffering they are facing, and if anything, compiling these bitter grievances into a mere piece of music made it all the worse for their spirits. As humans, we will almost always be faced with death in our lives, and accepting the reality of it isn’t a simple process that occurs in a week, month, year, or even a decade. For Ritchie and Corey Parker, they masterfully showcase that “theres only so much two arms can truly hold,” but even with feeling literally dead on the inside, the two understand that no matter what, “the show must go on”.
Top 5 Songs:
- Top Picks For You
- Bye Storm
- SS San Francisco
Written By: Mr. Fantastic
This review is dedicated to the memory of Stepa J. Groggs, may he rest in peace