On the heels of his multi-platinum debut, It's Dark and Hell Is Hot, DMX unleashed his dogs again on an album overflowing with raw energy and spiritual catharsis. The irascible Yonkers MC, 27 at the time of this recording, continues the Ruff Ryder legacy on this follow-up release. DMX's canine split personality flow is like none other, not only rhyming over tracks, but barking expression over explosive beats. Production here -- by Swizz Beatz, PK, DJ Shok, Dame Grease -- is mostly stripped-down, pure high-tech drum machine and synthesizer combinations that are sure to inspire emotional and adrenal responses in listeners. Although DMX is no new jack, he is a part of a no-frills new breed of MCs that hold nothing back on the microphone; emphasis is on emotion rather than on word-bending. Standout cuts include "Blackout," with guest appearances from fellow hip-hop heavyweights the LOX and Jay-Z; "Coming From," a duet with the queen of hip-hop/R&B, Mary J. Blige, which stuns the ears with a haunting piano loop; "The Omen," a bout with the devil featuring the demonic Marilyn Manson on the hook; and the opening cut on side two, "Slippin'," an introspective look inside DMX's struggle to stay on top of his art while dealing with the perils of his reality. This is a very spiritual album, a testimony to one artist's struggle with the manifestations of good and evil. The final cut, "Ready to Meet Him," a conversation between DMX and his god, punctuates this realness.