D12 Devils Night (Shady/Interscope)

Presenting this year's instalment of the continuing soap opera that is Eminem's career. The story goes that, in their early days back in Detroit, D12, of whom Marshall Mathers is one-sixth, pledged that whoever became famous first would come back for the rest of the crew. Hence D12's debut album is released on Eminem's new Shady imprint, and with the dread hand of his mentor Dr. Dre never far from the controls. And if you've enjoyed previous episodes you'll note that much about "Devils Night" is almost wearily familiar, be it the opening "Another Public Service Announcement", the obligatory "Steve Berman" skit or the textual hyperlinks that send you reeling back to earlier Eminem works.

But "Devils Night" is also a darker, more intense offering than those earlier works. Despite the undoubted success of the band's charming singles ("Shit On You", here presented as a bonus track, and "Purple Pills") D12 are never going to cordon off the pop (as in 'popular') marketplace the way Eminem has; it's presented more as a credibility-enhancing excursion into 'real' rap territory for their helmsman, and on those terms the gas almost works, the poetry being far more fixated and obscenity-strewn than ever before, and the samples and influences trapped in an even broader dragnet (would you believe Pink Floyd and Curtis Mayfield rubbing shoulders on the same album?). And there's even real-life reportage amidst all the obscenely inflated cartunery: "Girls" throws down the gauntlet to Limp Bizkit members Fred Durst and DJ Lethal, recent celebrity entrants to his hitlist.

Unfortunately for D12 it's almost impossible to assess the impact of their debut without referencing the priors of Mr Mathers, and on those terms it must be recognised that "Devils Night" is a markedly different, although not unrelated, beastie to "The Slim Shady LP" and "The Marshall Mathers LP", and ultimately not as entertaining as its illustrious forebears. And it's hard to imagine anybody not swayed by Eminem's miscreant genius being interested in the album in the first place.