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It's very difficult to find words to describe this album. It's an epic science fiction space opera, a unique, unearthly soundscape that makes me ache with pleasure to hear it. If the Gods listened to hip hop in Valhalla or on Mount Olympus, they would be listening to this. It sounds futuristic, yet old as the dawn of the Universe. It is the sound of science. It is the sound of quarks colliding. It sounds disjointed, distorted, warped, but seems simultaneously to fit together perfectly, elements of beats and rhymes meshing together to create unimaginable new musical compounds. It is dirty yet pure. It is beautiful yet ugly. It must be heard.
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on 10 March 2007
Too often I've read over-zealous reviews on here and have been disappointed after buying and playing the cd a few times. I agree with the person above: the same thing happened to me a couple of years ago when I originally picked up 'The Cold Vein' - I foolishly left the cd languishing at the bottom of my pile after first listening 'cos I couldn't get my head around the production/beats or even the rhymes. It pains me now to think how long it took me to give Can Ox another spin.

Put simply, this is without a doubt one of the best albums I own, certainly the best hip-hop album. It's worth buying for 'Iron Galaxy' alone - surely the best intro to any hip-hop album ever?

Calling it a genius, monumental, genre-redefining piece of art is no exaggeration; the drony, inspired production by El-P is futuristic and yet, sounds so deep and earth-shattering as if it's been around forever, waiting for you to catch on; the beats are really tastefully chopped up and rearranged; Vaudel and Vast's rhymes and subject matter are based on their real experiences of living in NYC, but are expansive and intelligent and thought-provoking enough for anyone to get into..and their different styles do indeed perfectly compliment each other.

"Put a mic in front of me, and I'm gonna bless it,

hummingbird style, seventy times in one second."

All great art is hard to put into words so I'll shut up now and just say: "BUY THIS NOW!".
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on 14 October 2004
I don't even know where to begin reviewing this album because words are not enough. Suffice to say that if you want proof that not all rap artists are gun obsessed misogynists than this is the album for you.
Ok. Lyrically, this thing is up there with the best. In fact its beyond that - this thing is lyrically 10 levels (at least) above the best rap album you've ever listened to - believe me. If Shakespear or Wordsworth rapped, they'd produce lyrical poetry like this. Examples:
"Birds of the same feather flock together/conjested on a majestic street corner/thats a short time goal for most of em cos most of em would rather flap they wings and hover over greater things" - Pigeon
"Im not made of organics/not even wires/and to the common fowl the phoenix is sire/most highest of all things to ever have wings" - Scream Phoenix
"Im not greedy but to hold your heart I gotta put my hand in.....this is more than just a song/and when he's treating you wrong im more than just a shoulder to cry on" - The F Word
Production? El-P - the greatest producer in hip-hop today BAR NONE. Forget avarage beats here: strings, electro, funk, piano, Beatles samples ('Strawberry Fields' meets acid beats!) - this album rocks.
Buy this album now. Its flawless. 'The F-Word' is enough to make anyone cry if they've ever been unlucky in love. 'Pigeon' and 'Scream Phoenix' can lift even the most depressed heart out of darkness. 'B-boys Alpha' and 'Ridiculoid' just stomp effortlessly.
Albums like this come along once a lifetime if you're lucky. Capture it now. Its albums like this that defy genres, make you passionate about music again and make me wish that Amazon would allow me to give marks out of a hundred - but it still wouldnt be enough.
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on 12 March 2003
The cycle of music causes such things to happen. Those who once were the trailblazers become the establishment. So, while Public Enemy, De La Soul, Wu Tang Clan have all joined hip hops upper echelons, consequently their work has become less important. This transition allows for a new breed of hungry underground artists to come to the fore. Many will cite Eminem and even 50 Cent as the hottest prospects. They are not. Most of them appear to coming out of the ashes of the Rawkus label, but the brightest sparks of all are emerging from the red-hot Def Jux label. Take two of the most intelligent and gifted MCs to emerge for a long time and combine them with the hip hop world's most innovative producer and you end up with not only a remarkable hip hop album but, in this writer's opinion, the best LP ever made.
Vast Aire and Vordul Megalah introduce a New York that the listener may have forgotten existed after so many bourgeois releases by the likes of The Strokes. As early as three minutes into the first track, Vast Aire gives the listener an idea of the exactly how dire their situation is, "Boy meets world? Of course his Pop's is gone, what you figure? / that chalky outline on the ground is a father-figure." It is the grim position that Cannibal Ox find themselves in that dominates the album, on 'Stress Rap' they admit, "You love New York / But New York don't love you." A sample is played mid-way through the opening track reminding the listener that, "You are one of the few predator species that preys even on itself."
However, this isn't a cynical attempt at proving they are from some rough streets in an endeavour to add some B Boy posturing. Cannibal Ox describe themselves, and others in their position as 'pigeons', feeding off scraps of pizza crust. The metaphor is a fitting one for individuals in such a hopeless position. Despite the squalor surrounding them, Cannibal Ox find time for a little humour. Vast jokes that he "blows heads like that dead clothes designer." There's even room for some humorous self-criticism as Vast Aire admits, "oh s**t I said a word twice" and then starts his verse again on 'Raspberry Fields'. It's this kind of verbal dexterity that makes this the most breathtaking collective of rapping ever released.
Essentially this is an album about living in New York's underbelly, but scratch the surface and you'll find many more twists in the album. In fact, all but the most robust individuals will enjoy the let up in intensity. 'Ox Out Of The Cage' is perhaps the most traditional rap track on the album with it's "Ladies and gentlemen" opening. But if you think Ox will dumb it down, you're mistaken. Vast Aire spits, "I grab the mic like Are You Experienced / but I don't play the guitar / I play my cadence." Vast then delivers a sermon on modern day relationships on 'The F Word', "Don't take it personal, I like you a lot but I don't wanna lose what we got / but what we got now is friction / she tellin' me intimacy and friendship she ain't mixing." Elsewhere 'A B-Boy's Alpha' combines Freudian theories with street fighting over a beat reminiscent of a mangled carnival. While all the credit in the world should go to Vast Aire and Vordul for their amazing lyrics, EL-Ps sonic landscape is equally worthy of praise. From the siren that begins 'Iron Galaxy' through the outrageous stuttering beat that furnishes 'Vein' to the majestic guitar that soars as 'Pigeon' takes the album to its conclusion there is not a single misplaced beat or mediocre melody on the LP.
While the album proper ends with the wicked message of hopelessness that is 'Pigeon', the hidden track 'Scream Phoenix' points to a more fruitful future for the impoverished New Yorkers, "Famine, disease and senseless dying is done / pigeon bird got a breath left / heart beat no more / phoenix bird morph and we live off the G-force." Seventy-three minutes after the journey began, it comes to a fitting end. 'Scream Phoenix' is a message of hope for not only the listener but for Cannibal Ox themselves as the mindless and hopeless pigeons have transformed into noble phoenixes.
As New York regains its status as the home of music, this album is the perfect accompaniment to Ryan Adams, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and The Strokes. This is the real underbelly of New York, and 'The Cold Vein' is the best album to ever come out of the city. But it is more than that, it deserves to join the realm of 'Pet Sounds', 'Revolver' and 'Nevermind's, as an LP that is regarded to be not only sonically phenomenal, but also culturally important. It never will of course. But one can dream.... Sometimes five-stars doesn't do an album justice.
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on 25 August 2001
Yeah, tight. As the other reviewer says takes it from where co-flow left off. Superb mystical electronic El-p production, typical of the man, make this LP what it is. The MCing is hot though but it is the beats which give the piece it's character, and what a character! If you enjoyed funcrusherplus this is for you, I was disputing whether to buy this for some time as the group cannibal ox to me was something totally new, but my faith in the el producto paid off. Superlative tracks include 'Iron Galaxy' 'Straight of the D.I.C.' 'The F word'and 'Stress raps' although the whole album is so good this is very subjective. This is the sort of record which takes you away from the world, with it's other worldly sounds and qualities, almost a-kin to the blade runner soundtrack. Buy this, it's some of the most mature yet innovative and cutting edge hip hop you'll hear this year.
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on 28 October 2006
Initially I found the unorthodox layered beats on The Cold Vein too much to take in. However, when I sat down one afternoon and listened to the whole album properly I realised that I had never heard a work of such uncompromising brilliance, it struck me like a blow to the face.

Vastaire and Vordul demonstrate what a great duet are able to achieve over a set of beats which are in my opinion completely unmatched in 21st century hip-hop. This is the evolution of a genre from materialistic showmanship to hard-edged metaphorically-expressed reality. Vastaire spits insightful and creative lines in his own unique and impetuous style e.g. "The samples the flesh and the beat's the skeleton/ you got beef but there's worms in your Wellington/ I'll put a hole in your skull and extract the gelatine." Vordul spit's a semi-metaphorical dose of street talk with less hard hitting lines but a nicer flow which fits with Vast perfectly.

Such is the strength of tracks that my favourite tends to be whichever is currently playing, there are no weak ones and that surely is the definition of a classic. Produced by the standout (I should say genius) producer El-P (of Company Flow fame), Cold Vein takes the listener on a relentless journey through a reality expressed in other-worldly fashion. The range of samples used is another outstanding feature of this album.

To say it's my favourite album of all time is an understatement, it's a total no-brainer. No hip-hop album I have ever heard comes anywhere near to being as good as this one. When I listen to this album I imagine myself floating through space. It is from another world, another time and another place. It is also a work of contemporary genius. How this is possible I don't know but it's the truth.

All this might sound a bit far-fetched but it truly is difficult to put into words just how good this album is. If you do one thing after reading this review, buy the album and take the time to listen to it. IT IS AMAZING.
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on 15 July 2001
Fans of Company flow may have been left a little disapointed when the group announced their split but Cannibal Ox's debut album picks up where Co Flow left off. The album is entirely produced by El P and it showcases some of his sickest beats yet. The beats are hard hitting with dark melodies and samples laid on very heavily these compliment two lyricists perfectly. Vast Air's lyrics are deep and thought provoking especially on tracks like "the F word" and "Iron Galaxy". All in all this is'nt a hip hop album for the fans of people like Ja Rule and DMX but if your looking for something a little more intelligent, creative and original then this should be to your tastes especially if your a fan of El P production style.
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on 25 June 2004
I bought this album alongside MF Doom's operation doomsday, and i listened to them both quicky through and at first i liked them both, on a par, maybe i liked doom a bit better. Then i listened to this properly, thought; hmm this is pretty damn good. Then again, thought; hey this album is wicked! Then again, said out loud; I LOVE THIS F*%$IN' ALBUM!!!! Now i can't stop listening! It is an inspiration, each track really does take you on a journey not on this plane of reality.
Buy this album, then really LISTEN, its the best advice i can give.
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on 24 February 2002
The journey begins with the cover art of the Cold Vein, with two future warriors (and their cannibal ox) armed to the teeth ready to take on the ghetto.
On this atmospheric album MCs Vast Aire and Vordul Megala lay down both sharp battle rhymes and thoughtful insight into life on the street. El-P delivers some of the best production on a hip hop record in recent memory. Teeth-chattering beats, divine choirs and even a sample from the Transformers movie, this is something else.
Recommended to anyone with an open mind
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on 3 April 2003
my favourite album of all time's a big thing to say, but every time I listen to 'Cold Vein' my thoughts are confirmed. Vast Aire and Vordul are both lyrical geniuses, but Vast Aire's gotta take the gold for some of the most intelligent, thought-provoking and coldly relevent lyrics I've heard, delivered as smooth as silk. Their take on Harlem life is bleak and harsh, yet enlightening and deep, with an uplifting feeling of hope for the future. And then theres the simply awe-inspiring production of El-P, in my humble opinion the best producer in hip hop today. His production ranges from electronica (vein, atom) to funked up beats (painkillers) to beautiful soundscapes (pigeon, scream phoenix), always keeping it original, interesting and melodic, with Vasts and Vorguls lyrics fitting perfectly with the sound of each track. All the tunes range from very good to classics, but my faves gotta be 'The F-Word', since I, and most people, can relate to its take on certain relationships. A masterpiece- everyone should own this
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