Tuning into black midi’s third studio album ‘Hellfire’, we are greeted by a slew of vast caricatures. However, central to their existence is Geordie Greep, the group’s frantic-yet-not-fanatical vocalist, who brings these characters to life with his emphatic, brittle vocal stylings, alongside the broken gearbox art-rock pacing of his band members. Presenting their most cohesive album to date, ‘Hellfire’ dives deep into the sprawling concepts of different pop culture and religious interpretations of the afterlife, modestly intertwining with themes of pain, shell shock, and retro-futuristic landscapes. Their glut of influences bleeds through without over-saturating the landscape. You can catch the quiet country-leaning folk of Bob Dylan on seven-minute epic ‘The Race Is About To Begin’, stomping oompa and steadfast krautrock on ‘Welcome To Hell’ and the expected maximalism of cocksure heavy-hitter ‘Dangerous Liasons’. There are less fully unhinged moments (see ‘DT, MI’ from their debut) than previous records, and more open air that allows bassist Cameron Picton’s voice to float through the intensity and bring a grounding sense of calm. This is especially clear in the Bowie-feeling ‘Eat Men Eat’ or the uncanny ‘Still’. Although less esoteric than its predecessor ‘Cavalcade’, ‘Hellfire’ is a fiercely experimental record that sees black midi teeter back and forth on a crumbling precipice, halfway between unhinged madness and art rock precision.
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