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The Black Angels - Indigo Meadow (Album Review)

Monday, 18 March 2013 Written by Graeme Marsh
The Black Angels - Indigo Meadow (Album Review)

The 4th studio album from US psychedelic rockers The Black Angels is released in the UK by Blue Horizon Ventures on April 1st, having been preceded by hard hitting single 'Donít Play With Guns' in January.

ImageHailing from Austin, Texas, the band are now just as famous for their annual Psych Fest as they are for their musical output. Attracting acts such as The Raveonettes, A Place To Bury Strangers and Stephen McBeanís side project Pink Mountaintops, the festivals are widely acknowledged as being a vital part of the rock music calendar.

The Angels debut album 'Passover' is well renowned for being their finest moment, and for some it is even Passoverís opener, 'Young Men Dead', that is the best track the band have ever produced, therefore setting themselves an almighty standard with the very first track that they have arguably struggled to match since.

'Directions To See A Ghost' and 'Phosphene Dream' followed, continuing the bands strong psychedelic roots that has often been compared to the inaugural drug-fuelled period of psychedelia in the late 1960ís featuring amongst others Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles in the shape of Sgt Pepper, and numerous other artists including The Doors, 13th Floor Elevators and The Velvet Underground Ė the Angels actually taking their name from a VU track, 'The Black Angelís Death Song'.

The band has also appeared on various film soundtracks, their distinctive style along with vocalist Alex Maasís instantly recognisable tones adorning exciting cinematic moments in fine style.

Christian Bland, Stephanie Bailey and Kyle Hunt complete the current line-up, with drone machines aplenty in operation as well as the customary Doors-like organs and ultra-thick fuzzy guitar lines and bass.

A generous 13 tracks adorn 'Indigo Meadow' and by all accounts this number was gradually reduced from a monstrous 30 songs that had been written from January 2012 onwards. It would probably have been fairly easy for the band to release a double album to tumultuous applause and credit as is often the way with double albums, as they are usually viewed with wonder at the stunning ability to write such huge amounts of music, which often masks the quality of the output itself.

The hypnotic title track opens with an unmistakable nod towards those hazy 1967 days, with prevalent Doors-like organs and crystal clear production allowing lyrics to be clearly heard, which is a nice change from normality. This is followed by 'Evil Things', an early contender for best new track with its trademark fuzz and effects laden guitars driving the almost sensual (in a sleazy way) chorus.

Single 'Donít Play With Guns' starts with eerie stabbing keyboards that wouldnít sound misplaced on a Hitchcock thriller before giving way to a completely contrasting chorus depicting the title which is somewhat contradicting in its nature. The message here is as clear as anything though, and the Angels are no strangers to tackling contentious issues head on.

The stark, and in comparison skeletal, 'Holland' follows with a bouncy bassline carrying the song along which is then joined by more psychedelic effects accompanying the harrowing ĎIíd rather dieí lyric; another impressive track.

'The Day' carries on the same vibe, recalling previous collaborators and similarly veined and undervalued Brian Jonestown Massacre at times. A sublime twangy guitar riff opens 'Love Me Forever' and continues throughout before the fuzz-infested chorus kicks in, which is over almost before its begun and replaced by an immediate second verse. A pace halting break ensues before returning the track to its mesmerising drone machine foundations.

More of the same comes with 'War On Holiday', again Maas not afraid to deal with serious subject matter which rears its head often throughout this entire collection; 'Always Maybe' drops the pace again and is simple in its construction and not the most memorable until it really kicks in at the end, but indeed maybe it should have been called Almost Maybe. 'Broken Soldier' again recalls BJM guitars and doesnít hide its colours with lyrics like ĎItís hard to kill when you donít know whose side youíre oní and ĎYouíll never be the same when this is overí painting a vibrant picture.

The up tempo 'I Hear Colors' benefits from kaleidoscopic keyboards, depicting another strongly psychedelic flavour and harking back to the 60ís once again, as does 'Twisted Light' with its reverb drenched guitar, pummelling drums and organ.

'Youíre Mine' and 'Black Isnít Black' close proceedings, the former painting an almost Beach Boys sunny surf-like picture in places and the latter being the one that got away Ė an almost brilliant track but sadly itís over too soon just as it starts to explode into something quite majestic; it is literally crying out to be given an extended instrumental climax, instead deflating somewhat in a puff of smoke.

This is a solid, strong collection of songs that should build upon the bands loyal following, and is possibly the most consistent album they have managed to produce Ė well worth your hard earned cash if youíre into this genre.

'Indigo Meadow' is released in the UK by Blue Horizon Ventures on April 1st.


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