Review

Song Review: EPEX – Lock Down

EPEX - Lock Down
Less that two years since the debut of CIX, C9 Entertainment have thrust another boy group onto the K-pop scene. I’m a bit surprised to see them emerge so early, but I guess the current idol landscape moves faster than ever. EPEX have already stirred up some controversy due to their album concept, which is themed around mental illness. It does seem like a rather crass approach, but I’m willing to give anyone the benefit of the doubt at least once.

Unfortunately, EPEX’s music hasn’t yet endeared me to the group. I’m starting to wonder if C9’s A&R team is diametrically opposed to my own music taste, since I haven’t cared for any of CIX’s songs much either (apart from this year’s wonderful Cinema). Judging from this track, EPEX seem to be vying for the role of “hip-hop truthtellers.” FNC’s P1Harmony have opted for a similar vibe, pulling it off with more flair – at least so far.

Lock Down is K-pop’s latest pandemic-themed track. And, you know… fair enough! Artists and songwriters will obviously take influence from events happening around them. This may not be subject matter I’m interested in exploring at the moment, but I can’t begrudge them for being topical. Unfortunately, the actual song is quite underwhelming. The rap verses show potential, but are undercut by a shouty chorus that sacrifices all momentum from the pre-chorus. It’s quite an unpleasant hook, repetitive and monotone. This kind of shout-along chorus can work, but requires a galvanizing instrumental and dynamic delivery. EPEX don’t manage either, leaving a hole right in the heart of the song.

 Hooks 6
 Production 7
 Longevity 7
 Bias 6
 RATING 6.5

46 thoughts on “Song Review: EPEX – Lock Down

  1. this is the sort of song that you can tell exactly how it will unfold from the start of verse 1. was distinctly unimpressed and unmoved by this debut.

    not for me … to the person who it’s for, there are much better choices from the last 5 years of the genre…

    Liked by 4 people

  2. First of all, the boys here hit every mark asked of them.

    But really, why do companies put out material like this. Its so workaday. Basic. Cliche. What kind of market traction do they expect to get from releasing the nth version of small company tries the SM-NCT-SuperM style sound on a much smaller budget with far less charismatic performers? There is a voice that sounds like Ten towards the end; it is not Ten.

    Finally, I agree that CIX “Cinema” from February of this year is an underrated gem.

    Side note: For those outside the US, the phrase “Lock Down” has up until recently meant kids schools going into lock down when there is an active shooter or threat of an active shooter. The past year, in the US, “quarantine” has been used arguably more often than “lock down”. In the UK, they use “lock down” routinely, such as in this fine adaption of “Total Eclipse of the Heart”.
    ‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYmSAMcwXA8

    Liked by 6 people

  3. Way off topic, assuming this review will be a slow post.

    Speaking of things that sound like trap (what’s with all the hi hats? ‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EkIT6CApgqQ): Cicadas.

    Cicadas Brood X, dun dun dunnnnn. Brood X is the largest of the 17 year cycle cicadas that have just emerged in parts of the northeast and midwest of the US. I am too far south for this brood, but a friend from up north writes this:

    “Cicadas are in full force now when the sun is out. Using an app I have, I measured up to 80 db at the side of our house. In 2004, with a proper sound meter, I measured almost 100 db behind my old elementary school. There are two distinct sounds. In the morning you hear a steady roar that sounds a bit like an original Star Trek phaser. The second sound is a hiss with sharp modulations in it. Put together, it reminds me of the sounds of the Martian ships floating around in the 1953 version of “War of the Worlds”. Sometimes there is also sort of a screaming sound mixed in too.”

    I can’t wait for screaming Martian ship phaser sample to show up in kpop. (… yes, I can wait.)

    Another video that shows them everywhere.
    ‘https://www.cbsnews.com/video/brood-x-cicadas-swarm-across-several-eastern-states/

    Liked by 1 person

    • We aren’t supposed to get these cicadas in the metro Atlanta area, so I’m just going to avoid road trips to the northern counties until this is over. Ugh. Our annual cicadas make enough noise as it is.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Fully hit by brood X up here in Mich!

      It’s quite hard to describe the sound, but the best I can come up with right now is a very low, constant buzzing sound. Very sci-fi alien planet like. They don’t sound around the clock (thank goodness), but we do hear them at least a couple hours each day.

      I am very fortunate to not mind the sound, and sometimes I actually quite enjoy it. It’s like a little echo of nature everywhere you go. My mother, however, is driven absolutely crazy from it… yeah, I don’t envy her.

      Also, as bugs go, they are… slightly disturbing to look at. Large, black and orange, with huge wings. Kinda freaky. My four month old puppy on the other hand, fully enjoys them. Mmm, a tasty protein snack! I’ve given up on trying to pull them out of her mouth. Like, dude, they’re everywhere. No escape!

      Like

      • I had a road trip this past week, and drove through the edge of Brood X. More than a few hit the windshield which is now a mess. And a bunch failed at Darwin as they thought they were climbing trees in a nice meadow, instead their carcasses were scattered and schmushed around the base of the gas pumps, except for one guy who just soundlessly stared at me bug-eyed from near the keypad.

        Like

  4. Yeah, I’m not about the concept. Lockdown has been lifted here and things are looking up, so bad timing for a song about it. Lyrics like ‘Jealousy and hatred spreading like covid’ also do not help.

    Now for the song itself. The rap delivery actually isn’t bad. I really like those dramatic drums in the prechorus. Unfortunately, the chorus is indeed awful. It slows all momentum. The chant is really grating, and that’s coming from me, a fan of chant-choruses.

    The bridge is quite nice again,I like the..strings?.. but it’s just too slow to really build up excitement for the finale. The ending chant is not just lethargic but pitchy, something I always hate whether it’s intentional or not.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. B.I took his mental health crisis and turned it into heart-felt, moving art. C9 gave some songs vaguely connected somehow to mental health to boys fresh from training and told them to sing them, creating an ultimately empty experience. Where do they go from here with “mental health” as a concept? Are they going to perform the DSM-5? Actually it’s pretty clear that C9 has not consulted anyone actually familiar with mental health or they would never have titled their album Bipolar. And the mv –one of them is dressed up in a suicide vest, so um, yeah, interesting visual there. As for the song, I don’t hate it even if it isn’t something I feel like putting in my playlist. If their fans feel seen or comforted in some way, then good. I hope they do well. Also, C9 are jerks – they filmed a nasty little prank they played on the boys. One of them was reduced to tears. So much for mental health.

    Liked by 8 people

    • Wow, this makes me dislike the concept so much more. Mental health is not some sort of badass or tragic aesthetic and I hate that this freshly debuted group is made to take on a concept like this. That prank sounds awful too.

      I feel bad for how these boys are treated by their company.

      Liked by 6 people

    • seeing your comment made me wonder if they were trying to take a page out of stray kid’s book: hellevator hinted at themes of depression (not sure where I heard this from, but I think it was pretty much agreed on by everyone), you have side effects, voices, insomnia, phobia, etc. though I felt like skz did more research on these topics

      Like

      • I think stray kids write and produce their own songs and pulled those themes from their own lives and experiences, and goodness knows the songwriting is better. The Epex song sounds formulaic and the boys are too inexperienced to transform it throuch charisma or performance. The rest of the songs on the album are just as dour.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Goodness, this is all quite disturbing. I take mental health extremely seriously, and this is Not It.

      Stray Kids have a much more, reserved, tasteful, and appropriate approach. I also believe their messaging is sincerely genuine, and I know that’s extremely valuable and impactful to their fans.

      This, on the other hand, nothing genuine about it. I don’t think I even have the heart to listen to the album. This almost makes me wonder if this was all just a stunt to get buzz about the group because otherwise very few people would check out the group.

      But at the end of the day, all of my frustration is towards the company. I don’t think any of this is the boy’s fault, and I hope they can recover from this misstep into a bright future.

      Like

  6. Bad chorus. Ironically, there was a brief 5 to 7 second instrumental section with whispery adlibs that probably would’ve been a better chorus than the chanting.

    Great rapping though. Not all of it, but the majority of it I could hear the rhymes very clearly and the delivery of any line was fantastic. Shame the producers decided they’d just go with the chanting chorus.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. It’s so strange. This type of song is rarely something I’m into but there’s something in this for me. I’ll even agree with a few of the negative points but… I don’t dislike it. I like the fact the chant in the chorus isn’t too messy, essentially just a clear vocal line with little bombast and the breakdown 3 minutes in is a nice twist. Probably a high 7 for me but I can see myself forgetting about it despite its potential, there’s been some songs out in the past month or so that I’ve really enjoyed and I don’t think hangs with the likes after a few listens.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. They could’ve at least gone with go big as the title. Atleast that had a chorus and I was waiting for a post chorus with a faint hope and…. guess what?? they did have one!!

    Anyways, the rapping was great, and clear. Too bad they feel like a mix of p1harmony and boy in luv era BTS plus blitzers (I know I said blitzers itself felt like ateez+p1harmony).

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I really liked CIX’ debut with Movie Star, and I’ve actually quite liked their discography as a whole (from what I know, some of their producers have worked with groups like EXO in the past as well and I quite like their general sound, though I’d agree Cinema was a much-needed breath of fresh air). I was surprised to see Keum Donghyun finally debuting in this group after all he’s been through with the Produce reveals over the last year. So that should have added up to a stunning debut from this group that blew me away… I’m sad it hasn’t.

    Nothing about this grabbed my attention, though I do agree that the rap itself wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t polished or assured enough to help me overlook the beat, which just isn’t for me. This song was very predictable in a way that unfortunately wasn’t very interesting. And the whole concept around their album has me uncomfortable from the start – the lyrics here in particular (haven’t been interested enough to want to listen to the album) aren’t quite as bad as I feared, but it also comes across as very… trite in a way. Overall I don’t think this was bad, just that it wasn’t the mind-blowing debut I hoped for. I hope the best for their future though.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree with most of what you said. CIX has one of my most favorite debuts in K-pop, and this is a dumpster fire in comparison. The song wasn’t very memorable, and the way they presented mental health in the album is something I won’t forgive for a long time. I think I’ll stick to my GG rookies this year instead!

      Like

  10. mirae, epex, justB, ghost9, bae173, ciipher, t1419, wei, blitzers, omega x….. who else is feeling a little overwhelmed right now? how are these groups supposed to even survive 3 years with this much competition? not to mention, mcnd, dkb, cravity, drippin’, enhypen, p1h, and to1 aren’t even two years old yet. this is gonna be a blood bath…

    oh yeah, don’t even get me started on the girls side of things. “let the hunger games begin”

    Liked by 1 person

    • not gonna lie, from this list…only a few of these groups have left any sort of impact or large impression on me ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      a few of them (Mirae, Drippin and, cuz they’re real fun, MCND) I’m already super excited about what’s to come. Sure it’ll be sad to watch some flop, but I think there is some greatness abound.

      Liked by 5 people

    • It’s the Hunger Games for sure. I genuinely enjoy the current BG style, but that means I can be picky. I expect several of those groups will disband after their first comeback, which is too bad for them and whatever fans they’ve picked up along the way – I’m still bummed about 1TEAM because Ullaeli Kkollaeli was one of my favorite songs of last year. But that’s the game, and now we’ve got OMEGA X debuting at the end of the month with two former 1TEAM members so maybe there’s a chance for some of these guys after disbandment after all.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh boy, this list leaves me so overwhelmed. I can’t really let myself listen to any of these groups too much… heartbreak city is headed my way!

      The only groups I’ll stand by to make it through the rookie season are Cravity and Enhypen—I like both group’s music, and I know they will both do just fine in the coming year. MCND is my other favorite, Ice Age is a phenomenal debut (fight me), and I sincerely think their talent and music are good enough to help them survive. Everyone else… I’ve barely given a second listen. I love K-pop, and boy groups, but do these companies really think??? Their groups will make it?? With music like that????

      Like do y’all not realize that’s how Ateez is still blowing it up: they having amazing performance talent but really (and most importantly) their music freaking slaps.

      Rookie GG world is no less vicious, but it’s a lot better than BG world. STAYC, Weeekly, TRI.BE, the music is just so much better than these wannabe BGs. (Maybe even Purple Kiss too—their music is not very good but I like it anyway, so they get a pass ig?)

      Like

      • Lol, in terms of musical taste we agree on MCND and disagree on pretty much everything else – Purple Kiss is the only gg rookie I’ve liked in the last few months. Musically, I think Ghost9 and P1Harmony are also a step above the rest and seem to have a pretty good shot at making it longer term. MIRAE hasn’t had a first cb yet so too soon to say but I loved their debut EP so have high hopes. I guess I should add Drippin’ to that list – they aren’t my style but seem to be doing well. Enhypen are totally in the clear with that sweet, sweet BH $$ behind them.

        Like

  11. In addition to the music not being my style, two bigger picture things were distracting to me. One was the mental health concept mentioned above.
    The second was the general vibe of rebelliousness that struck me in an odd way when combined with the covid theme. It may be less of an issue in SK where they’ve only had a few anti lockdown protests. I’m in the US, where rhetoric comparing public health measures to big brother or to brainwashing is fairly common. You could make a short drinking game out this song. One sip for every lyric that could also be a Facebook post from your anti-vax aunt. Everyone obeyyyyyy

    Liked by 7 people

    • “You could make a short drinking game out this song. One sip for every lyric that could also be a Facebook post from your anti-vax aunt.”

      I ABSOLUTELY CACKLED—THE SAVAGERY.

      Ur also spitting facts, so. I cannot get behind the song for both reasons you mentioned above. Sorry, C9, I will decidedly Not be sticking around.

      Like

  12. I wrote a comment on Hallyu Reviews (by Una and Lina) summing up my thoughts. I am going to mildly edit it and post it here, to make my issue clear.

    I am not the type to go on long aggressive rants, but it is needed here. This whole concept is wrong. Mental Illnesses need to be talked about in music, but in a respectful and analytical way. It feels like C9 is trying to take advantage of teen depression. If you want to talk about personal struggles, don’t outsource everything commercially. Go the Sunmi route, write about yourself, and handle the issues maturely.

    At the same time, the album’s title “Prelude to Anxiety”, really really is so dark, so sad, so wrong, twisted and frustrating. I won’t deny as someone who has suffered from anxiety, I got a mild chuckle of dark humor from it. But no C9, you are literally titling an album ‘Prelude to Anxiety’, CAN YOU GUYS SLEEP AT NIGHT?!

    Liked by 7 people

  13. Good tings first! I’m pretty sure I’ve listened to the debut release of every boy group for the last year or two, and this is the first time since MCND that I was particularly impressed by the quality of one or more of the rappers right off the bat. Also, I love that a majority of groups are debuting with EPs rather than singles now – I didn’t love Ghost9’s Think of Dawn right away, but it improves a lot when taken as part of a strong EP.

    That’s it for the good part though. I shouldn’t feel like a 3:28 second song is too long, but here we are. Mental health isn’t a concept so bleep right the bleep off with that. SKZ’s Hellevator is a cheesy song with a goofy title, but it also clearly sounds like it was written and performed by a group of angsty teenagers, and that makes it reasonably effective, especially knowing how quickly they’d build on that start. Lock Down is a misfire and unless there’s something appealing about these guys that I’m missing, they’re not going to make it past their first comeback.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, SKZ does this idea better. I’m not really a fan of Hellevator, but Side Effects resonated with me a lot in my more anxious moments. Both the lyrics and the production work together to create a convincing and relatable feeling.

      Liked by 2 people

  14. I was curious about C9 and it turns out that, in addition to CIX, they also have a band (Jacoby Planet) that has only released one EP and three digital singles since 2015 (and nothing since 2018), and a girl group (cignature) who debuted in 2020, haven’t released anything in nine months and just lost 2 members for undisclosed reasons. WTF? Fast is one thing, but that just sounds like a trash fire spending their rent money on lottery tickets.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. I literally didnt expect C9 to debut new group, its been only 2 years since CIX debuted, idk whether it is good idea, so they like very hip hop influenced group, i do like hip hop influenced groups, but whats with this influx of hip hop influenced groups? p1harmony, mcnd now epex etc? Anyways i don’t like the song that much nor i find any member impressive to expect something from them next

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I understand where everyone is coming from with these comments but at the same time I don’t. These are literal children, ages ranging from 16-19, and we are berating them on their music. Yes, they could’ve gone with a better concept, however not all groups start out with a big song. Take Bts for example they didn’t get recognition until until 2 years after they debuted, and didn’t become worldwide until 4 years after. What I’m saying is give these kids a chance, maybe they’ll surprise you in their next comeback. That’s all I have to say.

    Like

    • I am going to push back on this and say that your comment does not show that you understood where the previous comments were coming from. Absolutely no one was berating the members – almost all of the comments specifically called out their agency (C9) as the one deserving criticism. Several comments stated that the boys deserved better, or called out what elements they did well (especially the rap). The fact that the performers are mostly minors does not mean that their agency should not be criticized for its decisions. If anything, I think agencies should be held more accountable when managing younger artists who presumably don’t have as much experience in the music industry as the people managing them.

      I genuinely have no idea where your comparison to BTS is coming from – this isn’t about them not starting with a big song, but about them starting with a bad song, a worse concept, and an agency that hasn’t shown it can support its established artists let alone a brand new group. None of this is the boys’ fault – it’s entirely on C9.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Re-reading the comments, it appears that I was one of the few who neglected to specifically call out C9, so I will make it clear now that my criticisms are meant for the agency, not the members. My last sentence was also unnecessarily snarky, so I apologize for that. There is nothing at all wrong with a rookie group not having any stand-out members right out of the gate, but it could certainly help keep a group going if their agency isn’t doing their job, which is what I meant.

      Liked by 1 person

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