The Black Angels are no rookies to the psych rock scene – Death Song marking their fifth studio album in their thirteenth active year as a group. Amusingly, it’s taken them thirteen years to fully incorporate the influence behind their name, which is of course, taken from The Velvet Underground’s 1967 track ‘The Black Angel’s Death Song’. Four years since their last full-length studio output, The Black Angels have had ample time to perhaps push some reinvigoration and innovation within their outfit.
For the most part, Death Song stays largely within the realms the band have been pushing since their 2006 debut ‘Passover’. ‘Currency’ heads off the record, immediately re-communicating the band’s unmistaken sonic aura of foreboding basslines and stinted guitar licks. Alex Maas’ proclamation that “one day it’ll all be over/all be gone” hints towards a potential collapse of society with the current (some could say ‘toxic’) political landscape.
‘I’d Kill for Her’ elicits vibes of something that The Wytches’ put on their latest record; with its corridors of reverb and swirling instrumentation being the driving force of the cut. ‘Comanche Moon’ plays around with soft/hard dynamics, creating some trance-inducing moments, followed by ‘Hunt Me Down’, chugging along with its thumping groove.
Throughout the 49-minute runtime, it becomes evident that Death Song marks a step towards a more mainstream rock sound, with some pop sensibilities weaved in to shed light onto the dark source material. The breezy aura of ‘Estimate’, as well as the peppy breakbeat of ‘I Dreamt’ do well to refresh the mid-tracklist dynamic.
The antithetic ‘Life Song’ closes the album, seemingly taking notable influence from last years’ Thee Oh Sees two-album output, as well early Pink Floyd material. The Black Angels channel some rarely-seen progressive soul into this cut, culminating in a dominating and euphoric apex – for sure making it one of the record’s highlights.
At this point, The Black Angels have conjured up a stout back catalogue and hardcore fans will surely be pleased with Death Song as it does offer some worthy additions to the band’s sonic résumé. Yet, for more casual listeners, the record could lack overall impact and staying power after initial listens.
Essential tracks: Currency // I’d Kill for Her // Life Song