The Black Angels - Death Song
"One day, it'll all be over, one day it will all be gone, and you will all be gone, one day." So sings Alex Maas in lead track 'Currency', thus setting the tone for the Austin, Texas band's fifth album Death Song. And if you think that's depressing, wait til you hear the rest. The decaying American dream takes the form of a seductive yet deceitful woman, who we'll be seeing a lot of throughout the album. The grim, and at times hopeless lyrics are juxtaposed by the truly magnificent music and Maas' exquisite vocals, swirling and pulsating like kaleidoscope, as on 'I'd Kill For her': "I had a woman, she had me too, she was so dirty, convincing you...I had to follow her black horizon. No I will not kill for her again." We meet her again in the beautiful 'Half Believing' in which the protagonist seems torn between his seductress and his own beliefs; a theme we see repeated: "I will die for things that mean so much to me...so when she came to me I was so in love that I'm half believing, half suspicious."
Whereas previous albums seemed ethereal, Death Song is rooted in a dark reality. The signature psychedelic sound is still here, yet heavier and more focussed, lending a gravitas to the songs' dystopic imagery, as with the deceptively dreamy 'Grab As Much (As You Can)' and 'Estimate', with it's church organ intro and rat-a-tat percussion like a band marching off to war.
The tempo picks up with the trippy 'I Dreamt', and the spectacular 'Medicine', which plows through like a tank: "Ever since I saw her, across the water...I hate this daughter, I hate this slaughter." The album ends with the wonderful Pink Floyd flavoured 'Life Song' (replete with a solo that would have David Gilmour weeping in envy): 'I'm dying to say, I love you anyway, even though you sent me off to die."
It is often the case that bad times make for great music, and indeed The Black Angels have done just that. Death Song is a masterful tour de force that is to die for.