The Black Angels

Death Song

Written by: BV on 21/04/2017 11:06:39

If there’s one particular band which could be pinpointed as the spark which reignited psychedelia in a semi-mainstream consciousness, I’d put my money on The Black Angels as a top contender for the title. Although there have been many bands doing the work they were doing both before and after their almost legendary debut album “Passover” was released in 2006, it would seem that a scene developed around the band – leading to the event most have come to see as a sort of modern-day psychedelic pilgrimage in the form of Austin Psych Fest, now called Levitation. Although the event has been less than fortunate these past two years in terms of weather and overall stability, it is then nice to see The Black Angels reappearing in a recording perspective. Since their latest release prior to this, “Clear Lake Forest”, three long years have passed. Some critical voices were begin to wonder if we truly needed another Black Angels album, as they might have peaked way back with “Passover”, “Directions to See A Ghost” and “Phosphene Dream”. With their 2017 album, “Death Song”, I’d like to believe the critics will have changed their mind.

“Currency” opens the album – fitting as it was also the album’s lead single. “Currency” provides a vitality which has been sorely missing from The Black Angels’ recorded output for some time. Whilst both “Clear Lake Forest” and “Indigo Meadow” were good releases, they didn’t quite stand out. However, “Currency” has not only provided a raw, absolutely thrilling soundscape but also a scathing commentary on the current socio-economic and political landscape in a time where many feel like they need just that – something to relate to. The by now familiar fuzz onslaught is beautifully done on “Currency” and Alex Maas’ vocals convey a natural disillusionment and paranoia which is so vital for a track like this to truly work. With “I’d Kill for Her” The Black Angels lighten the mood an ever so slight bit, bringing us more towards an “Indigo Meadow” sort of vibe. This effectively functions as a sweet sounding sense of pop-relief coupled with the stunning, stripped-down “Half Believing” which I personally believe is breaking new ground in terms of The Black Angels’ signature sound. Maas’ vocals are raw, fragile and almost entirely stripped of reverb whilst Stephanie Bailey’s surprisingly soft touch on the drums drives the track forward along with a smooth bass and an ethereal mellotron. – Beautiful, nothing less.

“Hunt Me Down” instills a sense of funky grooves coupled with band’s grim outlook on things, effectively making sure it isn’t a bad trip all the way through the 48 minutes of “Death Song”, whilst “Grab As Much (As You Can)” brings us right back to the outlook of “Currency”, albeit in a milder soundscape fueled by shimmering echo-guitar and a hypnotic, utterly Black Angels sounding drone. “Death March” brings funky beats and desperation together in a soundscape like no other. It would seem that all of the traditional Black Angels are sounds are utilized to the fullest – from the various guitar, bass and synth/organ work of Christian Bland, Kyle Hunt, Jake Garcia and Alex Maas, coupled with the tribal, hypnotic drumming of Stephanie Bailey and, of course, Maas’ instantly recognizable vocals. As “Death March” segues into the album’s final track, “Life Song”, the band seems contemplative – as if “Death Song” has been one long, strange trip of revelation for both them and us. Like “Half Believing”, “Life Song” has a stunning ethereal quality to it to begin with, whilst this is also coupled with a creepy, almost paranoia-inducing undercurrent of oscillations – constantly making you think you’re being pulled right back to the desperate depths of “Currency”.

“Death Song” is quite possibly the finest piece of work to come out of The Black Angels since “Directions To See A Ghost” – almost entirely on par with “Passover”. With “Death Song” the band is not just coming full circle in terms of their Velvet Underground reference (google “The Black Angel’s Death Song” if you’re still not onto this), they also seem to tie up all their previous musical endeavors in a beautiful, haunting album utilizing every single piece of gear in their arsenal. They’re not just back, they're back in top shape.


Download: Currency, Half Believing, Comanche Moon, Life Song
For The Fans Of: Christian Bland and the Revelators, Dead Meadows, The Blue Angel Lounge

Release date 21.04.2017
Partisan Records

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