Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Album Review: The Black Angels - Death Song

The Black Angels
Death Song
**** out of *****
The Black Angels have always been an Austin, TX based version of The Velvet Underground come to life in the new millennium, so now they fully dig into that comparison with the title of their fifth studio album Death Song. While recalling VU’s “The Black Angel Death Song” in title, the group expands their sound on the record from its patented droning doom rock to now wrangling pop and deep groove sections, producing one the strongest efforts of their career.

The band hasn’t abandoned its dark art rocking way, but mixing with that late night doom and gloom with a eye towards wider reception (helped along by producer Phil Ek). “Hunt Me Down” is a perfect example of this with distortion, swirling organs and pedal effects blending effortlessly with a dance-rock groove that is infectious. “I Dreamt” and “Medicine” both contain drone dance beats as well while “Comanche Moon” opens with massive rolling fuzz bass rhythms before dipping into psychedelic pop for the verses propelling things powerfully ahead.

While the band has always used feedback and effects to highlight their tunes it is really the drum work of Stephanie Bailey that elevates the magnificence throughout Death Song.

Written in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election the album can feel very topical, especially on anti-capitalist art-rockin' opener “Currency”. The track is the perfect late night bug out soundtrack for the Zuccotti Park occupiers while “Grab As Much (as you can)” balances greed with a booming bottom and eastern tinged passages before a soaring close reminding of The Doors.

The Black Angels retro sound and late night freak-out is still intact, most notably on the burning and bumping “I’d Kill For Her” which resembles some of the groups best earlier work while they dip into more ballad levels with lyrical relationships for “Estimate” and the pretty “Half Believing”.

Ending with the two sides to the same coin “Death March” and “Life Song” the album closes strong. “Death March” pulses with creepy stalker energy and echoing lyrics filling in the sonic voids while “Life Song” brings to mind David Bowie's “Space Oddity” in lyrics and style. The expansive last track manages to be personal/universal, depressing/optimistic all at once.

The Black Angels aren’t reinventing their style; they are honing it. Retro-loving through and through Death Song touches on new vistas and dark landscapes resulting in their best effort since 2006’s Passover.
Support the artist, buy the record and peep some video below:

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