God: Part Two!
I don’t even think you need to read this review. If you know me and my taste, you know for a good damn FACT that this album was gonna be my thing. There’s no amount of paragraph’s I need to write in order to get that across. From the genres alone of noise rock, math rock and experimental rock, you could almost pinpoint my high score for Local Weirdos Black Midi. But in a strange turn of events, not only did Black Midi expand on their sound to add more depth and sonical color but...in less than a year, they’ve matured their sound in a way I genuinely was not expecting.
Let me explain.
‘Cavalcade’ is an album brimming with dense, deep and more complicated musical passages then anything Black Midi have attempted before, in many ways I feel influenced by the fact that, for once, they couldn’t go out and tour for this project. It’s everything a Black Midi record should be: technically bewildering, chaotically arranged and Fucking Bangerific, but there is a huge difference between this and the bands debut and that is this: If their last record, (2019s ‘Schlagenheim’) was a futuristic hellscape injected directly into your eyes, then this new release is a melancholic heaven.
This album, surprisingly, is fucking gorgeous in composition, with this new, more atmospheric sound works wonders for the bands overall punch, making for one of the best records of the year, and a worthy follow-up to ‘Schlagenheim’. That’s not to say that hellfire in the band's stomach has become extinguished or even lulled on this new release, but instead of a full on forest fire, this LP is a smoldering beast that fills your lungs up with ash and forces you to evacuate for safety.
...In a good way of course!
Trust me, the absolute ‘assault to the senses’ mentality that this band had on ‘Schlagenheim’ has not gone away. From the opener ‘John L’ alone, you can tell that this is not the band trying to halt the breaks on their fresh and chaotic sound, starting the record on an honestly freaky tale of cult leader mutiny wrapped around some of the most technically fuckery you’ve heard in your life that made the band quote on quote ‘famous’ to begin with. It’s dissonant guitars, dark lyrics and almost apocalyptic tone gives the album this bleak and horrifying aesthetic from the get go, which it uses to its advantage by basically going a full 180 on the next track, ‘Marlene Dietrich’, which…
How do I put this...is a Black Midi lounge track?
Yep. You heard that correctly. Black Midi follow up what I would consider one of their most obtuse and freaky tracks ever with a borderline ‘Burt Bacharach’ inspired lounge track, and honestly? It’s fucking beautiful. The mix of serine stringed instrumentation with Geordie's soaring vocals combined with the maximalist insanity the band is known for to create something unique and interesting, with the track almost acting as an ode to the singer in question on the title. Another noticeable thing about this album is that By God, has lead singer Geordie Greep’s vocals gotten so good! While his personality driven vocals made the last record a blast, I honestly didn’t know he had this much power in him to deliver some honestly eye opening vocal lines that make this record so goddamn beautiful at times!
And this newfound versatility continues through the track-list, from the frantic breakdown that is the high energy ode to Knee Pain in ‘Chondromalacia Patella’ (especially with that extremely gratifying outro that, yes, does in fact hit my Peak Music threshold for those wondering) to the prog-flavored nihilist anthem of ‘Slow’, sounding almost Swans-Esq at times with it’s large and more grand soundscape to accentuate some of the songs harder hits to make them hurt even more. It’s an album that doesn’t just use space and atmosphere to make a more moody statement, it uses space and atmosphere to make everything you hear stand out even more!
And that is exemplified by probably the most atmospheric and pretty tracks on the entire project, ‘Diamond Stuff’, which utilizes an almost Moon Shaped Pool-era Radiohead instrumental with more gentle crooning to create the most beautiful track on the whole album, with dense synths on top of fluttering guitars and jazz inspired drums. It’s a track that honestly took me back a bit when I first heard it, as while the band have had pretty songs before, they never had a track that felt genuinely spacey and melancholic like THIS before, sounding like I was being transported to fucking Mars. And from there, the album keeps giving! The powerhouse three track run of the punchy ‘Dethroned’, the absolute insanity (and I do really mean insanity) of punch to the head trauma track ‘Hogwash and Balderdash’, and the absolutely TRANSCENDENT closing track appropriately titled ‘Ascending Forth’ is, by far, one of the best tracks that Black Midi have ever made. Yes, I meant that.
‘Ascending Forth’ is one of those closers that, at it’s 10 minute runtime, makes for a hell of a closing impression on the listener. What starts off as yet another acoustic led atmospheric slow burn transformers into this soaring suite of strings, guitars and synths with one of the most satisfying melodies the band has ever graced us with, and the end it with almost a Pixar-tinged stringed score? It’s a perfect ending to one of the year's most interesting releases.
Granted, I do have some slight nitpicks. For one, some of the mixing on some of these tracks isn’t as hard hitting as it was on ‘Schlagenheim’, like on ‘Chondromalacia Patella’, which is a fantastic track, but gets brought down due to the production being a little weaker and not as impactful as Black Midi’s last record...which brings me to my second nitpick. Sadly, I feel like Black Midi have accidentally cast a shadow over themselves with just how amazing ‘Schlagenheim’ is, so of course this album isn’t going to be as good because...well, ‘Schlagenheim’ I have at a ten. Unless this band has another breakthrough moment of pure genius (which granted they do come close to on this album), I feel as if Black Midi are going to be riding ‘Schlagenheim’s coattails for the foreseeable future, as this album just isn’t as good as their debut.
That being said: with a greater sense of melody, beauty and overall atmosphere, Black Midi have very confidently come through with a change of pace that, while I slightly prefer the chaos of their last album, I see as a more mature outlook on the classic Black Midi sound. The band can now basically go wherever Black Midi wants to take their sound at this point, and as they keep their songwriting versatile and fresh, it adds new dimensions to what these boys are able to achieve. ‘Cavalcade’ shows new blood for such a young band, and will most likely show (in the future) just how far these guys can go with their sound. And hell, if the future is Black Midi, then the future is bright.
Favorite Jams: Ascending Forth, Slow, Chondromalacia Patella
Lest Favorite: Hogwash and Balderdash
|1||John L / 96|
|2||Marlene Dietrich / 90|
|3||Chondromalacia Patella / 95|
|4||Slow / 100|
|5||Diamond Stuff / 90|
|6||Dethroned / 99|
|7||Hogwash and Balderdash / 96|
|8||Ascending Forth / 95|