Black Midi Review – Hellfire: Challenging But Worth It |

Hellfire has big shoes to fill: the first of Black Midi, Schlagenheimwas a shining showcase of their promise, and their second, Cavalcade, chilled and crystallized that promise into something more artistically cohesive. So with their third, did Black Midi succeed in successfully chaining two great albums?

In a word: yes. Cavalcade showed that Geordie Greep (guitar and vocals), Cameron Picton (bass) and Morgan Simpson (drums), with the help of quite a few collaborators, could take their foot off the accelerator a little, the extra leeway allowing even more strangeness creep in. Hellfire, on the other hand, offers intensity and quirkiness in equal measure. But the intensity comes less from the acerbic distorted guitars, and more from the number of musical ideas thrown at you at Mach 2.

And Black Midi revels in the tension between all these ideas. A beautiful string arrangement sweeps under loud, throbbing guitar. A wrestling presenter’s passionate belt introduces a smooth, low-key jazz jam. Said jam lasts 10 seconds before absolutely insane guitar arpeggios kick in at an impossible tempo. Existential lamentations over failing organs, hell and oblivion are sung like the last number in a Disney movie. It’s sometimes funny, often disturbing and always shocking.

For some, it was this confrontation that was lacking in Cavalcade, which took longer to paint unique character portraits than just attacking your ears. But the band managed to bring back the same level of bizarre dissonance, skillfully blending it with a truly unique proggy-post-punk-noise-rock-jazz vision. The change is subtle: it’s not as if they’ve already been “spent”, as Cavalcade was still not easy to listen to. being easier to analyze than Schlagenheim it’s a bit like being easier to eat than a bag of cement.

That said, the presence of brass, woodwinds and strings makes Hellfire feel like a direct sequel to Cavalcade. But more in the sense that the band have found their groove and are now exploring what they can do in this groove. We don’t listen to Black Midi retread the old pitch. Reintroducing some of the more chaotic elements into the fray is hugely successful, making Hellfire living up to the expectations set by its title and the two albums that preceded it.

Cameron Picton of Black Midi
Cameron Picton of Black Midi. Image: Burak Cingi/Getty Images

It is perhaps needless to mention that the performance on Hellfire are flawless. Often when rock dares to introduce elements of prog or jazz, the question of “virtuosity vs. emotion” arises, but neither musically nor thematically there is any risk of Hellfire appear cold. Greep’s voice oscillates between a vintage croon and a crazy monologue, and the guitar playing is beautiful and understated as often as it is prickly and chaotic. And despite the inherent silliness in some of the ways in which they are presented, the lyrics are poetic and their own philosophy consistent – ​​if somewhat esoteric. Also worth noting is Morgan Simpson’s drumming in this regard: although he can play extremely busy, the sense of groove is never lost, even amid all the chaos the band can conjure up.

Morgan Simpson of Black Midi
Morgan Simpson of Black Midi. Image: Burak Cingi/Getty Images

So rather than any risk of coldness, you might find Greep’s idiosyncratic delivery, constant tonal shifts, and sonic chaos all become irritating. And if so, then Black Midi might not be the band for you – and it would be naive to suggest that a band like this are for everyone. But, on the other hand, if you want to hear what some amazing young players achieve early in their career, there’s no better example of what incendiary musicianship paired with a clear vision for an album can accomplish. .

midi black Hellfire is out now.

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