It will only be a matter of time before our robot overlords force humankind to flee into makeshift shelters for safety. The Noise Rock group HEALTH has the right idea for the future with their flavour of music, integrating industrial sounds with an almost robotic way of vocalizing. Think the Prog-Metal group Cynic if the singer was an actual cyborg with a fractured voice box. Instead of altering their sound from their previous release Get Color, the band grabbed producer The Haxan Cloak by his robe, allowing several tracks off Death Magic to have edge. This record tries its best to find dance inspired solace in its fallout shelter.
HEALTH seriously might have listened to too many Hans Zimmer soundtracks, especially with the electronic quakes on the first track, “Victim.”. Ominous drumming leads into loud inserts and, eventually, the hampered voice of Jake Duzsik guides us into the much distorted transition to “Stonefist.” This subtle change between songs is chaotically beautiful and very much sounding like raw energy from a can. With the feeling of imminent doom, it would seem difficult to capture a dance-pop feeling, yet the band has its listeners head banging, flailing their hands, and bleeding all over the floor. Who cares? Especially with the tribal drums that kick off “Men Today.” The Haxan Cloak’s production on the electronic sounds do overshadow the vocals, and the static style of Duzsik does not do much for him.
“Flesh World (UK)” has a buzzing that is reminiscent of “Stonefist,” but with a much poppy, Kelly Clarkson-if-she-were-on-Quaaludes chorus. When I think about “Courtship II” I imagine Silversun Pickups and Prurient as reluctant cousins trying to communicate with each other and having satisfactory results. Drums are intent on blotting out vocals, while the noise aspects seem away from the singing. “Dark Enough” and “Life” are incredibly poppy, to the point where I think that their glitchy noises are what keeps them on the album. There are several times where the “dance” tracks take me aback from the misleading feeling of doom that started the album. “Salvia,” thankfully, is more of a respite from the droning vocals, with some additions of buzzsaw synths and a return to the dungeon feel. At this point of the record, I check whether or not the album has given me some form of blood disease from all the shards of glass on the floor.
Thematically, the revolving lyrics about love and pain are what drive the album, and the idea that the vehicle is this robot voice would make me believe in a hidden genius to this record would it have been a concept album about machines understanding love. Though it is not, it is easy enough to find yourself dancing to several tracks at a dance party in an abandoned construction yard.
The album is good if you are looking for that kind of dream pop vibe, but if you want a blend of doomsday and dancing in an almost pitch black bunker, then the album is hit-or-miss. Fans of Chelsea Wolfe might like “Hurt Yourself,” with its reluctant nod to gothic instrumentation, while those wanting to see a slowly crumbling future might like “Drugs Exist,” with its zooming synths and its Crystal Castles-like electronic textures.
HEALTH has taken some cliché lyrics and pop elements and have turned them into something between the realm of robotic and human, making songs off Death Magic feel hypnotic, taking us away into a liveable, yet dark future. But there are breaks in this spell that are way too bright, yet not light at the end of the tunnel bright.
Dustin Ragucos is a writer of things fictional, poetic, and musical. His main loves include Death Grips and Indie music. Dustin’s blog is host to a weekly blurb about albums old and new.