Four albums into the nihilistic void that HEALTH have carved out, the trio deliver at once their heaviest, catchiest, most decipherable and least predictable album. These long-term fans of impeccable contradictions are tearing up rulebooks quicker than anyone else can write them.
The defining aesthetics of ‘Vol 4 :: SLAVES OF FEAR’ are the mix of twinkling synths with guitars shredded to thrash metal levels, all over a soulful vocal delivery of lines of hopelessness and faithlessness in absolute clarity. Jake Duzsik’s floating, coo-ing vocals permanently exist above the ever-shifting stabs, grinds and beeps of the instrumentation. HEALTH meld the spiralling instrumentation of their earlier work, with the hooky structure of last album ‘Death Magic’ and then coat this creation in the blackest industrial ooze. The dispassionate, disillusioned lyrics, cut through any pretence with lines as simple as effective as ‘The Message’’s “Death is the message / when we’re young we can’t wait to grow up, we get old we give up, then we pray to grow young”.
After the motorised marching beats subside, ‘Feel Nothing’ is an ode to true numbness, the opening line “We’re all alone, you’re not only the one” ringing out through the overdriven guitars and sparkling instrumentation. The pace only quickens for ‘God Botherer’, the closest a song may ever come to sounding like a gun fight in a Blade Runner bar. HEALTH’s evolution as a band, through the albums, remixes and score work have led to the strutting confidence at the heart of each track, as relentless, dramatic and cinematic as they dare to be. The twisted dance, of nighttime brawler ‘Loss Deluxe’, with its pounding refrain, ‘Strange Days 1999’ and its woozy, mechanical sway or hook-laden ‘Slaves of Fear’; moment by moment HEALTH queue up atmospherics, and execute sweeping crescendos with android precision.
Forever the outlier, the relentless experimentation of HEALTH, and the absolute resistance to the conventional always seemed to leave the trio way off the map. Today though, as the world itself shifts violently to stranger, darker positions, it makes sense to have HEALTH as a landmark.