Black Midi
Hellfire


3.3
great

Review

by don't ask me, I don't know any hallways STAFF
July 15th, 2022 | 382 replies


Release Date: 07/15/2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: “I’m sorry," he told the alligator. He fired. The alligator jerked, did a backflip, thrashed briefly, was still. Blood began to seep out amoeba-like to form shifting patterns with the weak glow of the water. Abruptly, the flashlight went out.

Following last year’s avant-snooze Cavalcade, Black Midi were on top of an abundance of ideas, an abundance of irritating ways of contorting them, and an unusually dire need of a redemption arc for such a young hype-shaped band-vehicle. They have apparently found it in the least likely place imaginable: full-on gonzo carnage. No longer is Black Midi strictly synonymous with lab-grown semblances of chaos; Hellfire steps right into its titular brimstone, affording the band’s postmodern fables newfound stakes and dynamism. The upshot is far and away their most consistently focused record to date: unlike past narrations, which frequently scanned as background noise amidst overcalculated ‘chaos’, “Hellfire”’s subject matter is forthright enough to subjugate the instrumental romps that once stifled entire songs. “Sugar/Tzu”, for instance, dips its toes into a similar brand of prog whirlwind, but it incorporates this in support of a back-and-forth boxing match commentary with clear direction, rounded out by successive fleet-footed changes of pace. The band have stepped up their storytelling chops to a considerable degree, and their formerly stale instrumental ambitions finally have something worthwhile to play against. So far, so good.

It’s not quite a clean sweep, though. The storytelling in question begs further unpacking, not least because it reeks of the kind of imagination that grew up on an unbalanced diet of Thomas Pynchon, Oscar Wilde and The Mighty Boosh. Subject matter includes the diabolical Circean captain of a mine designed to harvest human stomachs, an unfortunate farmhand duped into murder by Satan himself, and a child gunman. It’s quirky; it’s absurd; it’s prime fodder for first-person storytelling so uniformly rambunctious that without the aid of a lyrics sheet you’ll likely confuse the band’s gawky narratorial punctuations (Random killing - no gang affiliation - no mob justice - MUURDEEEER!!!) with their uncomfortable character outbursts (You fucking faggots ain’t seen the last of me yet // He could depend on the strеngth of a man of manual labor / The perfect idiot for his need ). “The Defence” and “Welcome to Hell” offer serviceable satires of hypocritical prejudice towards sex workers and the infamous stiff-upper-lip dogma of the British military, respectively, but for the most part it’s unclear whether the band have any substantive statement to make with these narrative vignettes, or whether they simply dreamed up a host of problematic characters for the sake of injecting a little drama into their chaotic matrix. This isn’t a criticis- pahaha who am I kidding: it’s ambiguous as all ill-advised fuck and in no way helps their unshakeable impression of dabbling with eccentricity-for-the-sake-of-eccentricity like a solitary man with too much lubricant.

However, for perhaps the first time in their career, they’ve found an indulgence that suits their style across the board. Geordie Greep’s oil slick of a voice is far more entertaining in the mouthbox of first person character rants than in the swarmy overhead perspective we previously came to associate him with, though his apparent allergy to expressing the slightest shred of pathos still covers many of his characterisations like a concrete ceiling. Conversely, bassist Cameron Picton has the impetus to raise his game from the mumble-charm of his past vocal contributions, finding his apparent performative awakening on the single ”Eat Men Eat”. He retains his understated style on the mellow highlight “Still”, possibly the most uncontroversially, miraculously enjoyable Black Midi song to date (no mean feat considering its all-at-once interpolation of 1) Appalachian folk 2) the drippiest bollocks Thom Yorke ever saw fit to record and 3) good ol’ cartoonish fart-brass). Last but by no means least, it’s a whole lot easier to enjoy Morgan Simpson’s virtuosic drum performances now that the songs on hand are not contingent on his being by far their most engaging facet.

What to make of all this? The trio are at the top of their game, and if they haven’t grown out of their disposition for laboriously concocted indulgence, then they have at least worked out how to synthesise it towards more entertaining ends. That above all should be cause for attention. Beyond this, I doubt that Hellfire will have much staying power: for the palatability it draws from its pulp aesthetics, it also inherits that medium’s disposition for binge-no-repeat consumption. It’s shallow and fleeting and momentarily gripping - and then it’s over. Lyrical delving and clarity of narration aside, there’s little to be had from this music that isn’t immediately apparent in the thrill of first impression - this will likely pose little issue to these songs’ role in Black Midi’s ever-growing live repertoire, but it reinforces the ongoing sense of their studio albums as calling cards rather than enduring statements. Will this bear much impact on whatever freaksongs they churn out next? Probably not. After all, it’s suspiciously easy to reinvent yourself when you supposedly never took yourself particularly seriously to begin with.




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Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
July 15th 2022


49294 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

Positives: best Black Midi album to date

Negatives: Black Midi album

parksungjoon
July 15th 2022


45122 Comments


its a legitimate question ...

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
July 15th 2022


49294 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

The band met at the BRIT School. Fellow pupils were… not in black midi. Geordie and Matt borrowed the name from a Japanese music genre where a MIDI file is stuffed with so many musical notes that its visual representation looks solid black. MIDI files do not contain sound.

parksungjoon
July 15th 2022


45122 Comments


>MIDI files do not contain sound

yea theyre basically a sequence of events (note events, control events etc) that need to be played (or rendered if you prefer that term) by a device like a synth or a virtual synth or a soundcard ...

SteakByrnes
July 15th 2022


27409 Comments


mid guy

rabidfish
July 15th 2022


7757 Comments


They're like those pianola rolls that they show in cartoon saloons

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
July 15th 2022


49294 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

thank you for explaining what midi is i now understand this band's name and the many bad memes around it much better

SteakByrnes
July 15th 2022


27409 Comments


okay i pull up
hop out at the after party

parksungjoon
July 15th 2022


45122 Comments


i mean youre the one being a cunt for no reason to me lol

there are plenty of ways midi can be and is used in creating music even if its not technically a soundwave file in itself. many video games have their soundtrack in midi format and rely on your soundcard to play it back. also i am pretty sure most DAWs use midi *internally*



Scoot
July 15th 2022


21353 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

i don't get this band

Slex
July 15th 2022


14553 Comments


I hate this band so fucking much lol

JesperL
Staff Reviewer
July 15th 2022


4589 Comments


i'm the king of the ring?

YoYoMancuso
Contributing Reviewer
July 15th 2022


16937 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

no idea what to think of this one yet, writing on point as per usual

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
July 15th 2022


46709 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

eat men eat is such a banger and then they fuckin drop the whole slur in right at the end and i'm like oh ok this was a choice

rabidfish
July 15th 2022


7757 Comments


No more words, only ooga booga

Conmaniac
July 15th 2022


27144 Comments


Got exposed to so much uk post punk past few weeks….tied up in NOTTZ with a ZED

Faraudo
July 15th 2022


4115 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Way better than Cavalcade.

Demon of the Fall
July 15th 2022


25460 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Is the rec by reviewer section genuine? 😂



Seems like a shitpost / one random band you’re trying to ‘plug’

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
July 15th 2022


49294 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

listen to radiohead

SteakByrnes
July 15th 2022


27409 Comments


hadioread



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