With their fourth studio album Vol 4 :: Slaves of Fear, LA industro noise rock trio Health have produced a dark, brutal and bruising piece of work that just about avoids becoming completely head crushing thanks to a lightness of touch on the vocals and atmospherics.
Right from the off, bar the distant sound of banjos wafting in on the wind, you are bludgeoned with immense crashing drum beats that rather take your breath away. Initially in Psychonaut this takes the form of more traditional ‘bashing the hell out of some skins’ drumming before later morphing into some seriously heavy dub from a drum machine.
There are some heavy guitar riffs in here too, but what saves this track – and the album in general – from being too overpowering is the soothing and listless vocals from Jake Duzsik. Drifting somewhere between emo and pop, his fragile high-pitched tone provides vital relief from the portents of doom that surround.
This format continues on Feel Nothing, which has some heavily processed Ministry-like guitar work balanced out by Duzsik’s vocals. There are elements of EDM at play here too in what is a much more beat driven number.
God Botherer slows down the pace slightly, but not for long as what was a more sedate track suddenly doubles up the tempo and brings the noise – to maximum effect.
Black Static provides a slower heavy stomp, reminiscent in some ways of the recent Bring Me The Horizon album amo, while Loss Deluxe plunges its dance beat into some murkiness, allowing the vocal track to temporarily come to the fore.
There are some straight out Industrial head bangers in here, such as The Message and Strange Days (1999), but we also get some heavy RnB influenced beats in tracks like NC-17 and Rat Wars.
Single and title track Slaves of Fear, is probably the best effort of the album. It’s the first time you get a recognisable bass guitar line chugging along as well as some classic soft-loud moments, with the track building to a momentous crescendo.
Final track Decimation sees a much calmer, ballad-like ending to the album, and by that point you may well need a bit of relief.
This album won’t be for everyone, but if you are a fan of Nine Inch Nails or Ministry, then it’s well worth a crack.