Review Summary: YOUWILLHATEEACHOTHER
2019 marks the 10th anniversary of HEALTH’s beloved sophomore album, Get Color
. It’s crazy to think about how far the L.A. trio have come since 2009, but if you were to compare Get Color
to Death Magic
back in 2015, the juxtaposition of these two sounds would appear rather arbitrary. However, after the doors had finally closed on Death Magic
’s hefty touring cycle, it soon became apparent it was a turning point for acute planning and disciplined focus on where they wanted to go stylistically for the coming years; a stark and mature contrast to the adolescent years of the band – which once over projected a far more blasé and whimsical freedom to their writing, and a set of ideals that translated into a career dependant on the moment. The telling factors for the band’s change in operations stem from the effects Max Payne 3
’s score has had on their writing, and, coincidentally or not, the events that occurred in 2015. To the casual observer of HEALTH’s activities and works, you’d be forgiven for not knowing Jupiter abandoned ship halfway through Death Magic
’s European leg of the tour – a subtle hush, hush circumstance that would have flickered past your knowing if you weren’t paying attention. To the hardcore fanbase, however, it was a matter that left long-time fans to question whether the wheels on the wagon were finally falling off, and more to the point: did the band still have the minerals to continue delivering on their inimitable brand of alternative noise-rock if they continued without him.
True to form, HEALTH bypass the conventional means of letting their internal dramas be known, instead keeping their heads down to let any music post-Death Magic
speak for itself. The last couple of years has seen a buzz of activity from the band; carving out a soundscape that takes Death Magic
’s accessible, listener-friendly blend of grandiose cinematic foreboding and pop-y penchants, and mixes it up with a much darker tone. It’s been a gratifying build up in evolution, and now their vision finally comes to the payoff with Vol. 4 :: Slaves of Fear
. The band’s fourth full-length album is a culmination of experiments and baby sets – it’s something they’ve patiently nibbled away at ever since DISCO3
’s original tracks – morphing the melancholic dream pop template of Death Magic
into a methodically downcast wrecking ball. The band’s bassist, John, has been noted for having a fervent obsession with getting their albums to sound as loud and weighty as humanly possible. With that in mind, Vol. 4 :: Slaves of Fear
’s production is easily HEALTH’s most fully realised and distinct offering to date, not only capturing the core essence of a band that’s been going for 14 years now, but managing to achieve what John has always set out to do. This album sounds massive
. Its foundation crushing finesse and tight songwriting is matched only by its tasteful influences, and really highlights a band functioning at full capacity. The industrial-armoured backbone of “Feel Nothing” creates a clinical anguish that’s newly touched on for the band, but Jake’s lamenting vocal style, simple melodies, and grief-laden guitar swells stitch together a familiar framework that now brandishes concentrated pessimism.
Which, in short, sums up this album’s sound perfectly. A potential caveat is that Death Magic
’s personality might sit a little too close to the heart of this thing. If you’re still yearning for a structureless noise-rock album, the chances are you won’t be won over here. Vol. 4 :: Slaves of Fear
is as user-friendly as its predecessor, but it expands on old ideas to get something entirely fresh and interesting out of them. “Strange Days 1999” sounds like a cut that could have come straight from the 2015 LP, but its bleak presentation and compositional simplicity makes it a well-defined effort. Indeed, brushing over the songs shows glaring similarities, but two notable integrations make it a far more engaging record than its former: the use of heavy metal guitar tones; and its compulsive draw to the industrial ethos. The sterile and cold simplicity of the album’s rhythm section is reminiscent of pioneering industrial acts from the late 80s and early 90s; a genius approach that has the drums sitting on the backburner so synths and ominous guitar effects can synergistically billow out across the songs. The metallic clanking from the electronics on “God Botherer”, the classic rhythmic stomp associated with industrial on “Black Static”, and the whirling-pounding effects on “Loss Deluxe” are just a couple of EBM-industrial elements being fused to their signature traits. The result from this is an album so densely packed with eerie clouds that loom over the haunting melancholia, it solidifies an airtight presentation for the entire record – a vibe that ends up creating their most distinctly cohesive album yet.
In essence, this album sounds like Death Magic
if Trent Reznor had gotten a hold of it. They’ve subverted the congenial elements associated with their last record to make some of the band’s darkest incarnations yet. The cacophonous “Psychonaut” is an introduction that merges their punk roots with the ungodly sonic juggernaut of recent years, and warns the listener to strap in for the ride. There’s literally not a dull moment to be found here, every track is lean and expertly written, averting a moment’s hesitation and keeping you in it from start to finish. Vol. 4 :: Slaves of Fear
is a career-defining achievement that proves patience and planning can hold rewards. The last track is a perfect closer, and another subversion on one’s expectations as it turns out to be the softest number here. “Decimation” is a slow builder that uses clean guitar passages and restraint from everyone else; filled with a bucketload of catchy melodies that swell to the top before fading out into obscurity. Whether this closing piece becomes indicative of future events remains to be seen – as I can’t imagine where the band will take their sound next – but for now I’m going to relish every second of HEALTH’s crowning vision in 2019.
FORMAT//EDITIONS: LOMA VISTA BUNDLE/̶̶̶/̶̶̶D̶I̶G̶I̶T̶A̶L̶/̶̶̶/̶̶̶C̶̶̶D̶̶̶/̶̶̶/̶̶̶V̶̶̶I̶̶̶N̶̶̶Y̶̶̶L̶̶̶/̶̶̶/̶̶̶C̶A̶S̶S̶E̶T̶T̶E̶/̶/̶V̶A̶R̶I̶O̶U̶S̶ ̶B̶U̶N̶D̶L̶E̶S̶
PACKAGING: Standard vinyl (red variant) record and sleeve; a nice lightweight fabric long sleeve shirt, with a high-quality transfer; and a standard cassette.
SPECIAL EDITION: N/A
ALBUM STREAM//PURCHASE: http://youwillloveeachother.com/