It’s always been fairly difficult to predict what direction Eminem’s likely to go in. Sobriety has done nothing to affect this trend – 2009’s Relapse being the strangest of his career to date with 2010’s Recovery perhaps being the tamest and the closest to the mainstream.

The singles released in preparation for The Marshall Mathers LP 2‘s release were very difficult to picture being from the same body of work: ‘Berzerk’ is completely off-the-wall and harks back to The Slim Shady LP, ‘Survival’ has a big chorus with a heavy beat which puts it in the same category as tracks from Recovery, ‘Rap God’ features some incredibly fast passages and is six minutes long – this track sounds almost nothing like anything Eminem has ever done (but closest to the Bad Meets Evil EP) and finally, ‘The Monster’ is an almost clichéd Rihanna duet.

The decision to release the album as a sequel to one of the most infamous rap albums of all times was a brave/cynical one depending on your point of view. The artwork is a direct reference to the original, depicting a dilapidated version of the house Eminem grew up in.

I’m sure plenty of fans were scared to get too excited in case it was simply a marketing exercise. However, on the whole, this album is by far the best album Eminem’s released since his comeback and, whilst it doesn’t completely recapture the vibe of his earlier releases, the technical prowess on display at least equals them (particularly ‘Rap God’, which showcases some of Eminem’s finest lyrical acrobatics).

The beats on the album have been created by a variety of producers, overseen by Dr. Dre and Rick Rubin – the latter probably responsible for the return of beat stopping and scratching, which doesn’t occur as often in modern hip-hop as it used to.

Like all Eminem releases, there are some slightly odd moments, particularly the song ‘Love Game’ which features Kendrick Lamar. Lamar has been gaining lots of praise and momentum recently, so I’m sure fans were expecting an amazing, intense track, not a country-influenced beat with lyrics about previous lovers.

Perhaps the biggest surprise on the album though is penultimate track ‘Headlights’, in which Eminem apologises to his mother for all of the tracks he’s written which paint her in a bad light. It’s a rare moment of true sincerity on an album that is eclectic to say the least.

The Marshall Mathers LP 2, has plenty of tracks that will appease fans who want Eminem to return to his roots, yet also enough tracks which have moved away from that style to show his growth. He hasn’t tried to blatantly re-make The Marshall Mathers LP.

[rating:4]

The Marshall Mathers LP 2 is available now on iTunes in standard and deluxe editions.