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DTS presents
Insane Clown Posse—The Wraith: Shangri-La (2002)

"Now all the Joker Cards have fallen with spectacular array, so when The Wraith is calling, walk into the light."
- Insane Clown Posse from Into the Light

Review By: Brian Calhoun  
Published: March 16, 2003

Stars: Violent J, Shaggy 2 Dope
Other Stars: Mike "Peezy P" Puwal, Jumpsteady, L'il Pig
Director: N/A

Run Time: 01h:04m:21s
Release Date: April 08, 2003
UPC: 692860109797
Genre: rap


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ BA C

DVD Review

The Wraith: Shangri-La is the sixth and supposedly last "joker's card" from Detroit-based rappers Insane Clown Posse. The joker's cards are a series of albums dedicated to the Dark Carnival, which is an Insane Clown Posse saga comprised of elusive subject matter. For years, ICP has been teasing their fans (or Juggalos) with the mystery of the Dark Carnival. With so much build up, is the reveal at the end of The Wraith really worth the wait? Each Juggalo must answer that question for his or herself. To paraphrase Morpheus in The Matrix, no one can be told what Shangri-La is, you have to experience it for yourself. So, I will refrain from divulging too many details of the album's subject matter.

The music is mostly rooted in rap, with a strong hard rock edge. The combination of scratching, samples, hardcore raps, singing, electric guitars, deep bass, drums, keyboards, and various sound effects form an impressive wall of sound that is very busy but never muddled.

Though their musicianship is apparent, ICP's constant onslaught of harsh language and their insistence upon basing their lyrics around the degradation of women, drugs, and overt violence is somewhat foolish, and quite honestly, counteractive to the final message of Shangri-La. Several of the songs seem to have meaning in the overall joker card scenario and others merely seem like filler. The filler songs, while most of them enjoyable, ultimately do not feel like they belong in the grand scheme of The Wraith: Shangri-La. Nevertheless, while the individual songs are not terribly profound, the entirety of the piece is firm and backed by a strong message.

When I discovered the secret of Shangri-La at the end of the album, I was quite surprised, and a bit taken aback. I did not detect many of the supposed "clues" that were sprinkled throughout, but my lack of awareness will make repeat listening all the more enjoyable. Closing with The Unveiling, one of the most musically intense numbers of the bunch, I found myself truly satisfied with the whole experience of The Wraith: Shangri-La. It is somewhat of a departure for the band, radiating a more mainstream vibe and lacking the humorous skits that many Juggalos are accustomed to, but it is a powerful album and a worthy conclusion to Insane Clown Posse's controversial "joker's card" series. Of course, The Wraith: Shangri-La is merely part one of the joker's card finale, so I will wait with anticipation to discover what secrets are revealed in part two, Hell's Pit.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DTSEnglishno
PCMEnglishno
Advanced ResolutionTypeRemote Access
SurroundEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: While an uncompressed advanced resolution track is typically my preference, this is definitely an instance where the DTS track reigns supreme. Mixed in DTS-ES 6.1, this sound mix is downright angelic at times. The back surround channel is constantly engaged, not merely for ambiance to fill in the rear soundfield, but discretely as an integral part of the mix, the lead vocals often coming from directly behind the listener. This is an incredibly powerful and compelling mix that has been created with intelligent ears. The lead vocals rarely stay in one channel for a lengthy period of time, and while this may seem as if it would sound distracting, never does this method sound unnatural or gimmicky. As to be expected from a rap album, the low end is deep and strong. Tracks like Ain't Yo Bidness and Blaaam!!! feature bass notes so sonically assaulting that they rattled the foundation of my home.

In a careful comparison, I did find the 48k/24-bit DVD-Audio track to sound just the faintest bit cleaner. However, it was very hard for me to discern this difference in sound quality, and the soundstage on the DTS-ES track is vastly superior. Anyone with DTS-ES 6.1 capability by all means needs to take advantage of this thrilling audio option; the back surround channel is absolutely essential to the mix, and the creative team has gone to great lengths to utilize it to the fullest. I could not imagine listening to this album in any other sound format.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Music/Song Access with 17 cues and remote access
Packaging: Super Jewel Box
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Images
  4. Weblink
Extras Review: A modest collection of special features is offered, and while nothing to rejoice over, I find the inclusion of any extras admirable for a DVD-Audio disc.

Most noteworthy is the music video for Juggalo Homies. Presented full-frame with 48k/16-bit PCM sound, this is a visually and audibly pleasing presentation.

The Dedication is an interesting transcript written by Joe Bruce, better known as Violent J of Insane Clown Posse. Aside from the gangsta rap vernacular, this is a well-written composition that offers much to ponder over, in addition to shedding more light on the mysterious sixth joker's card.

Though the lyrics are also offered in the insert, I appreciated the option to read them on my large television. Viewers are given the ability to read at their own leisure without music or follow along with the progression of the vocals. I chose the latter option and found it quite a handy tool.

The images section is merely a brief collection of manually selectable still pictures. These, like most of the special features, can also be found in the liner notes, though anyone with a fairly large screen will appreciate the DVD option rather than gazing at a tiny booklet.

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

A tasteful balance of rap and hard rock, this sixth entry in Insane Clown Posse's "joker's card" series is an intriguing concept done well. Though not a large fan of "gangsta rap," I truly enjoyed The Wraith: Shangri-La and I am now tempted to listen to Insane Clown Posse's previous five joker's cards so I can attempt to put the pieces together. Furthermore, the thrilling DTS-ES 6.1 soundtrack blew me away and will undoubtedly impress audiophiles—even those who do not typically listen to this genre.

 


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