It’s telling that the very first words out of Hilltop Hoods’ mouths on their seventh album are “We’re still here”. Walking Under Stars sees them staring down mortality – not only in terms of the group’s expiry date (‘I’m A Ghost’, ‘The Thirst, Pt. 5’), but through personal turmoil and triumph.
MC Pressure (AKA Daniel Smith) openly discusses his nine-year-old son’s battle with leukaemia on several tracks, most notably the emotive solo ballad ‘Through The Dark’, which stands as one of the most resonant and powerful moments the Hoods have ever recorded. Elsewhere, Brother Ali and Dan Sultan certifiably nail their guest spots on ‘Live And Let Go’ and ‘Rumble, Young Man, Rumble’ respectively, but never overshadow the Hoods themselves.
Pressure, Suffa and DJ Debris perform – collectively and individually – as vitally and boldly as ever, delivering outstanding flows over snappy, atmosphere-driven beats. Don’t call it a comeback – the Hoods have, indeed, been here for years. What you can call it, however, is one of the year’s finest hip hop releases, regardless of nationality.
2014 marks 20 years since Hilltop Hoods formed, and releases as consistent and enthralling as this indicate they are far from done.
Walking Under Stars is out now through Golden Era.