The Black Angels – Death Song
It’s one of the staples of any conversation about The Black Angels to mention that they take their name from the Velvet Underground song of almost the same name – but it’s taken them five albums to go the whole hog and utilise those two final words.
Curiously, though, for a collection entitled Death Song, this might be their most upbeat set. Maybe it’s the fact that Death Song is singular – or maybe it’s the inclusion of a climactic Life Song – that suggests here is a band looking to run the gamut, to present you with everything you need to know about them in a single 11 song run.
Frontman Christian Bland may sound like Will Oldham (aka Bonnie Prince Billy) at times but the band themselves cook up a riotous noise. The first couple of songs, for instance – Currency and I’d Kill for Her – are marked by a piercing, emphatic guitar noise guaranteed to have you nodding, stamping your foot and air guitaring with the best of them. By the time we hit Half Believing, they’re throwing in sonic effects that recall the Butthole Surfers’ cover of Hurdy Gurdy Man and The Chameleons’ Script of the Bridge. They can be melodic – as the opening of Comanche Moon demonstrates – but massive riffs are never far away (see Hunt Me Down, Medicine), usually counter-pointed by Bland’s curious, folk-inflected intonation (best seen on Grab as Much (As You Can) and the aforementioned Life Song).
However, it’s when The Black Angels are most out there (as they are on the wonderfully atonal I Dreamt), vividly demonstrating why Roky Erickson finds them such a draw (he’s had them as his backing band and they’ve all shared the same stage in 2008, 2011 and 2015), that they make their most compelling music. All told, Death Song might be their finest hour.
Listen to: Comanche Moon, Hunt Me Down, I Dreamt