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HEALTH - Death Magic (Album Review)

Friday, 07 August 2015 Written by Ben Bland

HEALTH were always weird. In fact, they were probably too weird. There’s a point somewhere along the scale at which weirdness stops being interesting and, at various times on their first two full-lengths, they crossed it.

In theory, this means that ‘Death Magic’ should be HEALTH’s most complete record to date. An album that promises to be both more accessible and more coherent, it is nevertheless typical of them: frustrating.

While their self-titled album and ‘Get Color’ could bemuse because of the occasional unnecessary detour, ‘Death Magic’ is – at times – disappointingly straightforward. There are moments here, especially the one-two of Dark Enough and Life, that are almost completely anonymous slabs of electro-pop, like filler from the latest MGMT album or rejected tracks from the ‘Drive’ soundtrack.

For a band that has previously thrived on a mentality that could perhaps loosely be described as “Wolf Eyes gone pop”, this makes parts of ‘Death Magic’ a jarringly comfortable listen. 

That change does have its positive aspects, though. In the past HEALTH have had a tendency to throw paint at the canvas at every opportunity, meaning their best songs have often been clouded by attempts at experimentation.

‘Death Magic’, by contrast, tends to separate the more abrasive, antagonistic side of the band’s personality from the more approachable one. Even more glaringly, this separation almost literally makes it an album of two halves. The first five tracks, from Haxan Cloak-featuring opener Victim onwards, retain a significant chunk of HEALTH’s disparate musical personality. In fact, on the likes of Stonefist and Flesh World (UK) the balancing of the elements is perfect, better than on either of their previous LPs.

From Dark Enough onwards the mood changes. It would be an over-exaggeration to say that everything becomes bathed in light, but there’s something missing. Tracks blend into one enough with alarming regularity. The final salvo of Hurt Yourself and Drugs Exist attempts to steer the album back into its earlier groove, but the vitality of the first half has long since evaporated.

In fact, even though it’s only 39 minutes long, ‘Death Magic’ drags towards its conclusion. Listened to in isolation, each of the tracks on the second half are pleasant enough but, lacking the energy of the album’s opening shots, they cannot help but feel plain in comparison. Ultimately, then, ‘Death Magic’, is just as inconsistent as HEALTH’s previous efforts, and therefore more underwhelming than a record by a band capable of such invention should be.

Health Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Sun October 25 2015 - LIVERPOOL Kazimier
Mon October 26 2015 - GLASGOW Stereo, Glasgow
Tue October 27 2015 - MANCHESTER Gorilla
Wed October 28 2015 - LONDON Heaven

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