Loud/Sony Music – 2002 - 59 minutes

"Sit down Mr Bush, we're in charge of the war," bellows Ghost Face Killer on 'Rules', the second track on the new album from New York's premier hip-hop crew. The Wu Tang vs the Taliban would be a dream episode of Celebrity Deathmatch, with ODB (Ole Dirty Bastard) vs OBL (Osama Bin Laden) as a highlight.

The Wu have seen their star rise and fall since their mind-blowing debut. Follow-up solo albums veered from the seminal ('Only Built For Cuban Linx' and 'Liquid Swords') to the risible ('Nigga Please') and 'Wu-Tang Forever', their second album as a group, was a sprawling mess. Last year's 'The W' was a lot tighter, and the Wu-Tang renaissance continues with 'Iron Flag', one of the band's best ever releases.

As before, the RZA handles production duties, but it is interesting that Trackmasters and Nick Loftin each contribute a track, albeit sticking strictly to the staccato Wu-Tang template as laid down by the Clan's musical mastermind. The mix is less downtempo and obscure than before, with tracks like the single 'Uzi (Pinky Ring)' and the slick West Coast pastiche 'Chrome Wheels' positively bouncing along. Tracks like 'Babies', 'One Of These Days' and 'Iron Flag' are classic Wu-Tang, all minor-key riffing, female vocal snatches and the claustrophobic consonants of Shaolin's leading MCs.

The band make two nods to Public Enemy, their predecessors on New York's hip-hop throne – 'Radioactive' sounds like an out-take from 'Fear of a Black Planet', and Flavour Flav pops up as well. Flav's track, 'Soul Power', the album's weakest cut, is the only thing that prevents Iron Flag getting five stars. They haven't gone away, you know...

Luke McManus

Tracklisting: In the Hood - Rules - Chrome Wheels - Soul Power (Black Jungle) - Uzi (Pinky Ring) - One of These Days - Ya'll Been Warned - Babies - Radioactive (Four Assasins) - Back in the Game - Iron Flag - Dashing (Reasons) - The W