Remember hearing HEALTH’s self-titled debut album for the first time? It was a listen unlike any other – an album that redefined what was meant by ‘controlled chaos’ while pushing noise rock out to a wider audience, all without compromising on the genre’s absolute madness. Revisit tracks like ‘Triceratops’ and ‘Glitter Pills’ and you’ll find that they still pack that same vital edge that they sported way back in 2007, fizzing with urgency while simultaneously causing slight nausea and the sudden need to party.
For the most part, the record’s follow-up GET COLOR retained the same qualities of the first, albeit fleshing out the electronic moments as well as upping the quality of the production. ‘Die Slow’ was quintessential HEALTH – familiar yet otherworldly; club-ready yet claustrophobic; melodic yet manic. These were qualities that came to define the band, and with DEATH MAGIC – their first full-length in six years – they’re excitedly only partly retaining them.
If HEALTH was a ferocious sprint and GET COLOR a well-paced jog, then DEATH MAGIC is without a doubt a slow-burning marathon. The pace is entirely different here – songs like ‘Men Today’ and ‘New Coke’ sport that same hard-hitting, off-kilter sound we’ve come to love, but they also contain moments of calm. For the most part, DEATH MAGIC plays out like an album of club bangers from another dimension, forcing your body to move in time to a rhythm it either won’t be able to keep up with or will ultimately be moving too slow to. ‘Courtship II’ is a prime example – one moment you’ll be finding yourself freaking out to its nightmarish and freakishly tight rhythm section, the next swaying your head in a dizzying aftermath.
DEATH MAGIC is an exhilarating record that reminds us of why HEALTH are such a phenomenal band in the first place. ‘Dark Enough’ is a pulsating late night anthem that shows a grander, more composed side to the band, who throughout DEATH MAGIC ditch the unrelenting noise for – believe it or not – well-written pop songs. Benjamin Jared Miller sounds like a proper performer on ‘Dark Enough’, his vocals retaining that monotonous quality while also sounding far more pristine. Same goes for ‘Life’, a song that for the first time allows the words “beautiful” and “gorgeous” to be applied to a HEALTH track – and it’s bloody catchy to boot, too!
Maturer and more experienced, HEALTH have returned with a record that’s the go-to standard in fan servicing – they’ve provided more of the same whilst also being forward-thinking. It might not win many detractors over, but for those of us who’ve been feverishly anticipating this for six years, it’s a record that’s full of shimmering pop moments, dystopian and disorientating chaos, and lots and lots of highly satisfying noise. DEATH MAGIC is more than just a kick of nostalgia – it’s HEALTH evolving into an entirely different beast.
Buy: HEALTH – DEATH MAGIC
Live: Heaven – October 28th