Album review: Health – Vol 4 :: Slaves of Fear

Health - Vol 4 :: Slaves of Fear album cover

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.

Release date: 08 February 2019

Rating: 7/10

Standout track: Slaves of Fear

For fans of:

  • Nine Inch Nails
  • Ministry
  • Bring Me The Horizon

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2018 Music Review – March

After the relative famine of February comes a bountiful feast in March. I could quite easily have made of top 50 of great albums released this month. There’s no place in my list for the reformed and revitalised Breeders, despite a strong effort. No room either for the soulful voice of South African trailblazer Nakhane, the laid back R&B licks of Ty, the all out alt-rock of Turbowolf (yes, it sounds exactly like you think it would), the shoegaze glory of Air Formation or the fuzzy indie-stomp of Cabbage. There’s not even a place for one of my all-time favourite artists, Biosphere – but then if you will make an album largely consisting of farm machinery noises tit risks being quite divisive.

So what did make it into the top 10? Surprisingly, an act as traditionally bluesy as its possible to get made a big impression on me. Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite‘s No Mercy in this Land is a classic piece of harmonica and electric guitar blues rock, that will get your toes tapping and put a smile on your face.

Less surprising was the arctic-inspired techno of Molecule. This type of sparse beat-driven dance music was my bread and butter back in the day.

Gwenno‘s Cornish-language pop odyssey Le Kov has shades of St. Ettienne to it, while remaining truly unique.

Special shout out to veteran industrial metal outfit Ministry. This is the first time I’d come across them since the early nineties and their album AmeriKKKant, is a not-very-subtle attack on Trump’s America, but no less enjoyable for it.

Rolo Tomassi‘s Math-rock opus Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It is an excellent way to get your fix of delicate female vocals laced with death-metal growling. It’s even more pleasing to know both sounds are coming from the same vocalist.

A quick mention for the R&B stylings of Young Fathers and The Skull Eclipses, who did their very best to warm me to a musical genre that has largely passed me by.

Perhaps it should be no surprise that I’m a big fan of Demob Happy, being that the band formed in their hometown of Newcastle before moving to Brighton. Their album Holy Doom lands them somewhere between late-era Beatles, Black Sabbath and Queens of the Stone Age. Initially it took me a while to warm to this album but I adore it now.

The album that finally got me to rethink my view on jazz is Sons of Kemet‘s Your Queen is a Reptile. In some ways to call it jazz does it a disservice. It’s as groove laden, incessant and addictive as any electronic dance music band. The Tuba and drums lay down a wicked rhythm section that just does not quit, while the sax and clarinet take you to a higher plain. Utterly brilliant.

However, it wasn’t quite as brilliant as Slow Sundown from Holy Motors. This Estonian band deliver some beautiful languid guitars that invoke the feel of a relaxed desert road trip. Imagine David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino had decided to rent themselves a Cadillac and cross Death Valley and your getting somewhere close to this haunting piece of joy.

Top 10 March 2018

1: Holy Motors – Slow Sundown

Standout track: Sleeprydr

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2: Sons of Kemet – Your Queen is a Reptile

Standout track: My Queen is Doreen Lawrence

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3: Demob Happy – Holy Doom

Standout track: Runnin’ Around

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4: The Skull Eclipses – The Skull Eclipses

Standout track: Take My

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5: Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar

Standout track: Wow

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6: Rolo Tomassi – Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It

Standout track: The Hollow Hour

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7: Ministry – AmeriKKKant

Standout track: Twilight Zone

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8: Gwenno – Le Kov

Standout track: Den Heb Taves

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9: Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite – No Mercy in This Land

Standout track: The Bottle Wins Again

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10: Molecule – -22.7°C

Standout track: Délivrance

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