This year has seen an explosion of post rock albums, specifically from the Windmill scene in England, but while for the most part they’ve all been solid the only one I truly loved was Black Country, New Road’s debut album, and considering I didn’t really connect with “Schlagenheim” I wasn’t really expecting much from the newest release from black midi. However, now that it’s finally here, I can safely say “Cavalcade” is going to be one of the definitive records of 2021.
Add this to my list of probably bad takes - while black midi showed potential on their debut, I don’t think “Schlagenheim” had the strongest songwriting and I felt as though it just didn’t go far enough. However, “Cavalcade” takes that frantic energy on their debut and turns it up to eleven, causing it to explode into absolute chaos. The drums are like a fireball, the guitars and bass are equally as catchy as they are technical and wild, the sax and violins add to the off kilter atmosphere, and Geordie Greep and Cameron Picton’a vocals only add to the album’s tension and atmosphere. Not to mention the songwriting is a lot more structured and gives the listener a much more solid journey from beginning to end - black midi themselves said their writing was a lot more deliberate and less improvisational on this record, and it shows. It’s like a combination of System of a Down and Primus, and I absolutely love it.
I think what black midi smartly does to emphasize these bombastic grooves and riffs, however, is add quieter or slower moments to give the music room to breathe, making the moments when they’re back to their brand of jazzy prog rock feels all the more intense and give more of a sense of whiplash. Whether it be a full length song as a form of cool down or just a two measure phrase of release, it’s when the band uses those dynamics to let you catch your breath that are crucial to when they take your breath away once again and feel more intense. And while the Black Midi’s signature chaotic moments are easily the most infectious on “Cavalcade”, the angelic and beautiful moments are just as jaw dropping.
My issues stopping this from getting this record a full 10/10 are pretty small and probably ignorable for a lot of listeners, but they’re still things that hold me back from giving the big score. For one, the mixing can often be pretty muddy at a lot of points. It’s not a issue throughout the entire runtime, but it does occur enough that it does weigh on my listening experience. My next issue is more of a silly one and one that doesn’t happen often, but there are times where Greep’s singing hits this certain register that reminds me of Lin-Manuel Miranda, and once I heard it I couldn’t un-hear it.
All in all, this album is worth the hype and then some. I was skeptical after their debut, but black midi has absolutely won me over with their refined chaos, jazzy grooves, and gorgeous slower moments. black midi created a lightning strike of an album on “Cavalcade”, and it’s an absolute must listen for 2021.
“For The First Time” is *just* a little bit better tho.