black midi - Hellfire
55
VIDEO REVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvDZ3iuw3wg

Black midi's newest album Hellfire is like if 70's prog band Faust had a lot more money to blow in the studio but way less creativity to go anywhere with it. How this band still has so much buzz is beyond me; I was pretty into Cavalcade but this is a direct step down in every way, and I actually think even Pitchfork and Fantano will have to acknowledge that no matter how incentivized they are to go along with the hype.

The first four songs, especially Welcome to Hell, contain the best moments in this record's runtime. I especially liked the increase in tempo/energy brought by Welcome to Hell's infectious post-punk riffing. As much as the vocalist's pseudo-psychotic ramblings irritate me, at least with the pace being picked up instrumentally it felt a little more cohesive, while most of the time it sounds uncomfortably forced. However, the operacore singing in slower songs is totally unbearable, and the rambled vocal delivery get stale really quick, so the briefly compelling moments sprinkled in the first half crash and burn terribly especially when we hit the dreadful slog "Still". The record never fully recovers from there as the pacing in this album is really terrible.

I think the main issue with Hellfire, and black midi's discography in general, is they often prioritize taking an 'intellectual' approach in the studio rather than actually sharpening their songwriting skills. It is important to note however that just because you try to be intellectual doesn't mean that you actually are. And sounding like you’re trying to be intellectual when you’re not actually accomplishing anything worthwhile is a really bad problem for an album to have. The fact that I hear this band trying so hard to be creative but the best they can do is regurgitate their influences kind of ruins the artistic integrity essential to making great music. While some listeners might find slathering your mediocre album with dissonant piano chords or putting a generic ambient section in the middle in your brutal prog record a mindblowing sign of genius, the reality is these are painfully contrived gimmicks meant to mask the weak songwriting that plagues this album. It's overproduced not by accident but because overproduction is required to maintain a façade of avant-garde brilliance.

I've listened to this album so many times that at this point the most impressive aspect is how hollow it is despite its mask of cacophony. As a fan of cacophonous music this is especially insulting. Once you peal back the corny rambling and studio tricks, you get what sounds like a band that's just writing it in after being told nonstop they’re the best thing since sliced bread. The question is, will music critics and indie listeners let it slide? Or will the hype train continue to dominate over artistic merit? I am not optimistic on this front.

5 Comments
3w
hehe wrong
3w
really wrong
3w
This was no mafioso, this was Satan himself
3w
did joan of arca write this
3w
Decent to STRONG 9
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More Reviews by PunkRevNow
black midi - Cavalcade
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