Now that that’s out of the way, yay I’m back! Sorry I've been out a while. I think I needed to take a loooong break in order to try to get some of my shit together and prioritize things that felt more important to me. But I don't want this to be about me. I want to focus on writing: something I've gotten increasingly more passionate about getting back into.
So... let’s review an album, shall we?
You probably already know how much I adore black midi’s output. They’ve made two albums before this and they both received a 9.9 and a 10 respectively! When "Hellfire" was announced shortly before "Cavalcade", of course I was fucking pumped! They even played a good majority of these songs when I saw them live that October and I was eager to hear how they would sound in the studio. Unsurprisingly, they pull it off just about as well as you could've hoped!
"Hellfire" goes for a much more theatrical, conceptual setup this time around. Right on the intro title track, Greep gives us a brief but chaotic welcome to the world of "Hellfire"! War is Hell and Hell is rampant! Starting off with "Sugar/Tzu", a boxing match between Sun Sugar in the red trunks and Sun Tzu in the blue trunks. There's seemingly no way for Sugar to win against a mere demigod and then suddenly a little boy assassinates Sugar, leaving the audience to spiral within the chaos. And that's not even mentioning the music here. This is easily one of the best and most technical works the band has written to date! Greep's riffing is faster than a cock and balls escaping a body then driving a sports car, and Cameron's bass playing along with Morgan's drumming keep an equal pace with jazzy crescendos everywhere on this track! Marta Salogni also went fucking HARD on the production for this album! Easily some of their best production to date!
And to think this is just the beginning of such an unhinged set of recordings and tales! "Welcome to Hell" feels like a sonic continuation of "John L", but with a war theme that sets up the album narrative extremely well! The guitar chords are hypnotic, Morgan's drum fills are otherworldly and the switch-up to a faster metal section in the second half punches you square in the face! The two Cameron Picton-led tracks are equally as terrific and surprisingly more focused on queer themes. "Still" is a much needed folky break in the middle of this album and "Eat Men Eat" is the best song about a homophobic ship captain! I can't wait until I, the silly dumb little gay that I am, scream the lyrics to this song next time I see them live (kidding... unless).
The non-single tracks in the back half are just as engrossing! The 7-minute "The Race Is About to Begin" (Mrs. Gonorrhoea is a badass in this one), the murderous "Dangerous Liaisons" and the soft, vocal-led "The Defence" show how eclectic black midi can be without ever losing their luster in terms of songwriting, technical skill and ways to tense-up a composition. "27 Questions" is probably my favorite closer from them, tied with "Ascending Forth"! It ties up the general storytelling of "Hellfire" perfectly with a man, in his dying breaths asking foolish, horny questions such as "Can nuns fornicate?" or if a man can still procreate long after death.
To me, the craziest thing about all of this is that black midi are in their early twenties, three albums in and all of them are masterpieces! "Schlagenheim" was such a fantastic, noisy, inspiring debut that immediately had their potential in full display, but "Cavalcade" was even proggier while keeping their very strengths intact, despite losing a member (at least that's what seems to have happened). I would rank "Hellfire" third... (nvm lol) but that's not even saying much! With this being a continuation of their last record, I initially feared that they wouldn't bring much new to the table. This is very much not the case. In fact, this album makes it even more apparent that this band is finding new ways to grow both live and in the studio! The compositions are staggering, the narratives are beautifully-written, the production is fantastic and the performances are as blissfully noisy as ever! I don't think this band will ever stop impressing after this!
Fav Tracks: Sugar/Tzu, 27 Questions, Welcome to Hell, The Race Is About to Begin, Eat Men Eat, The Defence, Still, Dangerous Liaisons
Least Fav Track: Half Time
|1||Hellfire / 100|
|2||Sugar/Tzu / 100|
|3||Eat Men Eat / 100|
|4||Welcome To Hell / 100|
|5||Still / 100|
|6||Half Time / 85|
|7||The Race Is About To Begin / 100|
|8||Dangerous Liaisons / 100|
|9||The Defence / 100|
|10||27 Questions / 100|