Review Summary: "Now let this party start, put modern back in art"
The genre of electronic music was never something I wanted to delve into. I had perceived that all pop music was annoying and overplayed. And for a long time, that's what I assumed all electronic music was. It wasn't until Blaqk Audio's CexCells
where I took my first step into the vast world of synthesized music. Davey Havok (lead vocals and lyricist) and Jade Puget (synthesizers and such) of AFI started this project back in about 2000, but it wasn't until 2007 when they had finally gotten the chance to release their first studio album. This album, CexCells
, was a highly diverse electronica album. It had some really unique mid-tempo and epic songs that were very reminiscent of stuff that could be heard on an AFI record. These were the song that were easy to accept. At the same time, it also featured poppy songs that could have definitely been heard on the radio frequently which I was surprised to find myself actually liking. Come five years later, and we now have a record that shows plenty of growth and redefines the CexCells experience in a positive way. This is Bright Black Heaven
, and it puts modern back in art.
Wait, five years? Did this record really take that long to make? Not at all. Even though roughly thirty songs were recorded for the album, it was finished before AFI's 2009 record, Crash Love
. Unfortunately for them, they didn't have a label until this year. Because of the long delay, many of the songs here have been heard before the official release of the album. I mention this to say this is not how I will review this album. There are plenty of people who aren't familiar with songs here that people have excessively listened to before 2012. I felt like it was necessary to mention this because now it is possible for those who aren't familiar with this group's history to get a better sense of why fans have been on the edge of their seats while they waited for this to arrive.
Now with that out of the way, Bright Black Heaven
is full of innovation in many different forms. It doesn't stray too far from their last release and it only sounds like a natural progression for the group. The structure is somewhat akin to the last release in a sense of how diverse this record is. One moment, you will be truly engrossed by the darkness of "Bliss", but in the next you'll be dancing around and singing along to the upbeat "Bon Voyeurs". Although this diversity is noticeable, in no way does it surpass CexCells
which is kind of a shame, but nothing to fret over.
The album starts off with "Cold War", a very different track relative to the group's previous works. It's a short track that continuously builds up which is something they have never done before. Its purpose is to get you ready for what's ahead without sounding like a sole intro song. It's actually a quite optimistic track that I enjoy a lot. After that we have "Fade To White" which is a dramatic dance track where Jade's programming shines. In the verse, Davey casts a shadow on this fast paced track with his own specific talent which creates a memorable song. The next one, "Faith Healer" follows that with a successful attempt at being a catchy, mid-tempo song worthy of being the first single.
The best work on this album happens to be some of the best work for Blaqk Audio yet. "Let's Be Honest" may very well be not only the highlight of the album, but the best track the two have managed to construct. The chorus begs you to sing along. In fact, it's a challenge not to. It's fun, accessible, and it just flows perfectly. "Say Red" is another top contender where Jade's work is highly apparent. I consider it to be the "Again, Again, and Again" of the album because of it being the second to last song and due to how much of a dance track it is. Also, that dubstep-type breakdown at the end is to die for. Another truly epic work is "Deconstructing Gods". It's a powerful, atmospheric track with haunting verses that explode into an unforgettable chorus. This was the track that screamed the words "Bright Black Heaven" to me, which is all I was looking for when I heard about this album. Closing track "Ill-Lit Ships" is the first Blaqk Audio song driven by piano. It makes quite the eerie sensation and is another standout track. Yet, personally I don't think it lives up to being a closer since after I listen to it, I don't feel like the album is over. As dark as it is, it lacks the depth of "Wake Up, Open the Door and Escape to the Sea". Maybe it's just me, but I just don't see this as the grand finale.
Perhaps, there is no true star of the group on this record. It's easy to give credit to all of Jade's magnificent performances especially in songs like "Everybody's Friends" where Davey may fall a bit short or "With Your Arms Around You" where he stands out exceptionally. Although I have to admit Davey may not sound his best on this album, how quickly he changes his voice from a high-pitch to a lower pitch is beyond me. This attribute to his voice is exploited best on this record and it is perhaps his best quality. His lyrics, are of course, nothing short of a spectacle. Whether he's creating a story or just showcasing his brilliance, it's always something to praise.
Love comes quickly and I’m indisposed, and what I can’t describe is what I want the most. Love’s so sickening and I’m indisposed and what I can’t describe is what I wanted
Bright Black Heaven
matches, and in some cases, exceeds my high expectations. Every second shows how much these guys have improved as an electronica group. Although I can't say it's better than its predecessor, it is an obvious step ahead of where they were. Fans of CexCells
and quite possibly some fans of newer AFI will find it easy to embrace. For those of you looking to give electronic music a try, give this a listen. Maybe this album will do to you what CexCells
did for me, in terms of showing me a whole new kind of music to appreciate. The overall sound this record has is nothing short of astounding. It's dark yet beautiful. Bright yet black. All Heaven.