by James Fleming

Psychedelic rock tends to make more promises than it can keep.

Since its inception in the ‘60s, it has lured many a rock n’ roll fan in with promises of third eye-cleansing, mind warping, shit-stirring enlightenment. With very mixed results.

For a genre that’s supposed to send shockwaves reverberating through the caverns of the mind, much of the time it’s very tame. Very safe.

Enter The Black Angels stage left of the dial. The melding of psychedelia with garage rock resulted in many great bands; Spacemen 3, The Cramps circa Psychedelic Jungle, and many thrilling modern groups. Check Thee Oh Sees.

The Black Angels are one such group. Death Song is almost the antithesis of the mellowed-out folk-rock that passed for psychedelic music in the 1960s. With its tales of dangerous obsession, wildly overdriven riffs and general state of dementedness, it’s clear that the Grateful Dead this ain’t.

While the sound may be different, there’s an air of Barrett-era Floyd about Death Song; there’s a treacherous undercurrent of danger beneath the deadpan vocal delivery. The manic guitar lines don’t spiral out of control in an Interstellar Overdrive-style freak out, but rather seem like a wild neurotic trying desperately to keep everything together. Even though everything is far from under control.

The Black Angels have mastered a fine art; the past is present in their sound, but they have put their own stamp on a well worn-out genre. The mark of the future.

It doesn’t take a musicologist to decipher where their style comes from, as is the case with some of rock n’ roll’s more out-there groups. Their influences may be tattooed on their arms, but you just try taking the piss out of them for it.

That’s a fight you won’t win. ‘Cause this band is just too damned good. A genre that by all reasoning should have died a death decades ago lives, breathes and freaks out for a whole new generation because of groups like The Black Angels.

Where many acts would insist on keeping the sound as pure, as “true,” to the original as possible, The Black Angels have built upon a foundation that simply would not have worked in this day and age anyway.

We’ve become desensitised. Where before a toke on a spliff and a Jefferson Airplane record would have sufficed, now it takes four hits of LSD, a blunt, a light show and a beat infectious as ebola to get the kids even halfway to enlightenment.

Alternatively, you can put Death Song on the stereo. That’ll do it for ya.

Anna Coogan-The Lonely Cry Of Space And Time
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