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Black Midi - Hellfire (Album Review)

Monday, 18 July 2022 Written by Tom Morgan

Photo: Atiba Jefferson

Say what you want about Black Midi (and many people have chosen to do so) but the London three-piece are nothing if not unique. They’ve been variously categorised as experimental rock, math-rock and prog-rock, but none of these labels really stuck to the imaginative, manic and absurd flights of fancy that the precociously talented Brixton band concocted to date.

Their previous full-lengths, 2019’s ‘Schlagenheim’ and last year’s ‘Cavalcade’, felt like initial flexes of Black Midi’s musical muscles, exercises of varying quality that pushed the young band in idiosyncratic and occasionally nonsensical directions. ‘Hellfire’ represents a sizeable leap forward.

There’s conceptual rigour to these 10 tracks that makes for a more satisfying listen than previous outings, one that’s simultaneously more focused and even more ambitious.

‘Hellfire’ possesses the untethered, grandiose structure of a rock opera and frontman Georgie Greep weaves abstract, character-driven narratives throughout, recounting macabre delights such as a mysterious mining facility, a PTSD-afflicted soldier and a murder at a futuristic boxing match. 

These strange tales bolster the musical mayhem, providing the album with overarching themes that conjure a sense of design amid all of the cacophonous indulgence. Musically, ‘Hellfire’ also expands Black Midi’s palette. Eat Men Eat is a propulsive flamenco rock thriller, Dangerous Liasons is jazz-fusion in the shape of a resplendent show tune, and album highlight Still surprises with delicate, country-inspired wonder. 

Welcome To Hell and The Race Is About To Begin, meanwhile, broach more familiar Black Midi territory, but succeed in contorting the band’s familiar quirks into fascinating new shapes. The audacious imagination on display here is often jaw-dropping, and the band’s more abrasive, confrontational qualities have been contextualised with conceptual diligence. Journeying into this musical underworld is a rich, carnival-esque experience, one that reaps singular rewards.

Black Midi Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri October 28 2022 - LIVERPOOL Invisible Wind Factory
Sat October 29 2022 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE NX
Mon November 14 2022 - GLASGOW Old Fruitmarket
Wed November 16 2022 - BRISTOL SWX

Compare & Buy Black Midi Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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