LA-based noise rock band HEALTH has returned with their third studio LP in six years (not counting their soundtrack to Max Payne 3 or their remix albums), and that is reason to rejoice. If you could imagine listening to 2013’s phenomenal chokehold-in-the-dark electronic album Excavated by The Haxan Cloak but with the addition of New Order’s post-punk/pop intricacies and Death Grips’ manic penchant for breaking off volume knobs for the ultimate ear bleed, then you’ve got this concoction HEALTH has deemed Death Magic, a hot-blooded rave record that is ready to demolish the rest of this summer and maybe the year.
Though Death Magic isn’t terribly unlike HEALTH’s previous offering, Get Color, or their self-titled debut, its 12-track journey is more fluid and accessible thanks to its consistent and pulpy production, which is evidently more grandiose in its grime thanks in part to their behind-the-scenes collaborations with Bobby Krlic (The Haxan Cloak), Mars Volta engineer Lars Stalfors, and Kanye West’s Yeezus engineer Andrew Dawson.
HEALTH’s penchant for “analog” sounding post-punk/noise rock now sounds chopped, screwed, and amplified, leaning toward something that’s more in the vein of acid/house music. At one moment it feels designed for listening on headphones as its dense and digitalized textures bleep and phase in each ear and each bass drop swallows you whole, but at another, it sounds so focused on pounding and exorcised rhythms that you just need to throw down and get down.
From the pulsating “Stonefist” through to the high-end/low-end piercing “Courtship II,” HEALTH is relentless in their power, instituting tribal drumming at high velocities, distorted and menacing synths and electronics, and disorienting vocals that appear more nightmarishly creepy than dreamy.
It isn’t really until “Dark Enough” that things begin to settle instrumentally, giving way to more shoegazey and dubstep elements and allowing Death Magic’s bleak lyrical content to complement its loud atmosphere, which is also stronger here than it has been before. Standout “New Coke” singularly blends these sonics into one track for something quite glorious.
It could be that the band sounds so enormously revitalized on this album because we’ve been without them for so long, but HEALTH’s sound has never been one you could easily categorize, making Death Magic sort of a reproduction of their earlier work, but just more enhanced on most fronts and with an increased willingness to be more experimental (and the group is better for it).
Though you’re likely to have sweat through two shirts by the time Death Magic is over, you’re just as likely to pick it up for another go-around to hear what you’ve missed. And, you know, to bleed on the dance floor once again. HEALTH’s sense of experimentation has been elevated on this album, with a digitalized production style that really grasps what they were trying to accomplish on previous efforts. The payoff is great if not grand, and if your summer or year has so far been lacking noise with more crunch, throw this a spin.
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