The Black Angels | Death Song
“How can I stay with no hope, with no chance/ As I’m travelling upside down into a world of the unknown?” laments Alex Maas on ‘Life Song’, the astral-travelling finale of The Black Angels’ bleakest album yet.
Largely written and recorded during the most divisive, brutal, and ugly US election campaign in recent memory, these are meditations on survival, violence, love, greed, hate, devotion, anxiety, and capitalism. Desperate songs for desperate times.
But there’s real anger and outrage here too. The rumbling ‘Currency’ opens the Austin quintet’s fifth LP with a riff as cutting as the lyrics (“there’s no trust in who we trust”). ‘I’d Kill For Her’ is a thunderstorm of rolling drums and searing guitars, cut through by a lightning solo that’s in complete contrast to the airy vocals.
Those vocals really come to the fore on ‘Half Believing’, a slow-burning mediation on loyalty that has Maas pleading “Why are you so dangerous?”, and the punchy ‘Hunt Me Down’, which finds the band at their most precise and direct.
Elsewhere, the Austin band and Fleet Foxes producer Phil Ek explore their more hallucinatory side, with ‘Grab (As Much As You Can)’ and ‘I Dreamt‘ in particular echoing the psychedelia – and paranoia – of pre-’Dark Side’ Pink Floyd. Drenched in strummed acoustics and slow-march drumming ‘Estimate’ has Maas, Stephanie Bailey,
Christian Bland, Kyle Hunt, and Jake Garcia continues the late ‘60s acid trip, but this time through the eyes of Crosby Stills Nash and Young, with lines such as “They’re killing our children” contrasted by glimmers of hope like “Never gonna lose you darling” and “All we have is us and you and me”.
The fuzzy, ferocious ‘Medicine’ and nightmare acid trip ‘Death March’ crank up the space rock intensity, but ultimately it’s ‘Life Song’ that best captures the swirl of emotions duking it out on The Black Angels’ finest album yet.
- The Black Angels play Record Store Day at Rough Trade East on 22 April. They’re back in London, at The Forum, on 22 September. Tickets are available here.