HEALTH – VOL. 4 :: SLAVES OF FEAR
VOL. 4 :: SLAVES OF FEAR is a move back to basics for HEALTH and feels like the album they were supposed to make
The world is slowly coming around to HEALTH's worldview. An incongrously paranoid outlier when they first garnered attention back in the late 00s, now the band seem more aptly representative of the bleak geopolitical state of affairs. Their fourth album VOL. 4 :: SLAVES OF FEAR is uncertain about a lot of things (even punctuation), but neurotic panic seems to be the one constant among this claustrophic, troubled collection of songs.
Most of the nods to style and trend (the pop melodies, the trap beats) that emerged on 2015's Death Magic are now gone, with the arrangements largely heavier and more visceral than ever before. Note the punishing drums and stabbing static that opens the record on PSYCHONAUT, the thrash metal leanings on GOD BOTHERER, the synth blasts on WRONG BAG or the gurgling industrialism on NC-17. It's a stark palette to work with, the album rarely dipping out of grayscale, preferring to linger in the shadows.
Even the lyrics are less ambiguous than previous albums, with anxiety-ridden platitudes all over the album: 'We didn't choose to be born', 'Life's gonna break us down / Time is running out', 'Slaves of fear / From the moment we're born'. There's a slight dip in intensity around the album's mid-section, with a few spacey codas, before the title track brings back the disquieting focus. Closer DECIMATION pivots to an almost-whispery delivery in its ballad-like posturing, feeling more like an addendum than a conclusion.
The album is a move back to basics for HEALTH, but with the means to bring those basics to their full, fleshy limit, unlike the relatively lo-fi early releases. The lyrical paranoia dovetails beautifully with the raw, bone-scraping arrangements to powerful effect, challenging listeners in both intensity and message. It feels like the record HEALTH were supposed to make.
Listen to: SLAVES OF FEAR, LOSS DELUXE, GOD BOTHERER