black midi are one of the most unpredictable bands of this generation. With each album, they achieve a new level of idiosyncrasy, with intense, post-rock, future jazz, folk and hip-hop compositions. And often they incorporate all these genres together, with explosive results. The punk-fuelled intensity of their breakout 2019 debut Schlagenheim was a fierce statement of intent, imprinting their own identity on a sound that is so uncharacteristic and eccentric. 2021’s Cavalcade combined their striking, pulsating sound with more melodic and soft moments that captured a more soulful, soulful side to their music. Their propensity for manic, abrasive music has always been with them since their first record, and their third album, titled Hellfire, might be their strangest, animated and overwhelming project to date.
The album kicks off with the animated, orchestral titled track, “Hellfire”. Geordie Greep’s spoken-word, fast-paced delivery sounds as if he’s agitated, yet it’s so over the top it’s funny and super engaging, even if I don’t understand most of what he’s saying. The album really kicks off from there, with intense rhythmic drumming and intense synth and guitar-fuelled “Sugar/Tzu” and “Eat Men Eat”, with varied rhythms that combine loud and dominant drumming, with folk-like melodies that are just joyous to listen to. They really don’t take themselves seriously, and neither should anyone else. Not to say the music isn’t intricate, impeccably textured and instrumentally dense, it’s their Zappa-esque humour that makes this such a fun, yet disorienting listen. The grand horns and guitar leads on “Welcome to Hell” are infectious, while the melodic, unpredictable “Still” takes you on a rollercoaster of sounds, from quite and melodic guitar leads and strings, with Geordie’s soulful vocals, to intense drumming and overall energy that sounds utterly captivating. It is one of the more emotive tracks on the album. “The Race Is About to Begin” starts off with a cacophony of drumming, guitars and synths, as the track kicks off with the lyrics “Idiots are infinite and thinking men are numbered. Don’t kid yourself, this is the news”. It’s such a fun way to open the album, and is among my favourites on the project, not only for its humorous lyrics but the overall tone and energy of the track itself. The melodic and softer cuts “Dangerous Liaisons” and “The Defence” are powerful tracks, with incredible sonic arrangements and vocals that are poignant and heartfelt. “27 Questions” closes the album out with a loud, orchestral sound, with infectious, colourful melodies that are both fun and engaging.
On Hellfire, black midi have continued their streak of idiosyncratic, humorous and wildly experimental compositions, with an album that is concise, punchy and to the point. The rock absurdists really came through with a colourful and weird body of work that definitely takes some getting used to, but once it clicks, it fucking clicks. Go listen to black midi’s exceptional new album Hellfire below!
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