Whilst Death Magic could be deemed HEALTH’s sixth album, two remix album and the Max Payne 3 soundtrack make this offering their third studio album, and first in six years. Yesterday marked the release of the band’s latest full length, keeping up the self-assured brilliance that’s rattled up critical acclaim on previous occasions. On Death Magic, the LA four-piece show that just because they’ve been out the game for a while, doesn’t mean they’ve lost their knack.
It’s the controlled, deliberate opening of two minute Victim that demonstrates the work needs to be taken as a forty-minute bundle over a series of individual tracks; nothing that starts so powerfully wants your undivided attention. Overbearing, plunging, synths eventually let up to the snake-like hiss of vocals in a rather mechanical fashion, cut off sharply before the pop fizz of Stonefist breaks out. Loops of vocals beckon you into the record, whilst trance-like instrument urges you to zone out, at the same time as hooking you on every minute change.
A sharp shift to rapid percussion draws on HEALTH’s experimental rock influences, again with deep instrumental flurrying up chaos, make the ever-changing sound seem to warp time. Enthusiasm begins to emerge through Flesh World, momentum building up to swoop down and return to the industrial, stop-start, futuristic taste of Courtship II, a sense of impending doom woven into every dip and dark undertone.
The anxious twitch that opens Dark Enough soon fades out among the smothering synthesisers, rising to the surface in the vocals and pushing into the cracks left between hooks. Life is a perfect sample of Death Magic – there’s the sparkling optimism fusing into the synths, whilst on-the-surface bright vocals reveal darker lyrics that tackle almost existential issues in monosyllabic ten word snaps; “Life is strange / We die and we don’t know why”.
Gunfire intensity percussion and haunting vocals take turn to hold the attention with Salvia, whilst the album’s first single New Coke has an ebb and rise that’s kept under close control, intermittently reviving itself with pulses of energy. L.A. Looks has the familiar lick of a song you’ve heard a thousand times before, with the repetitive hooks honing in on that home comfort among jumpy, jarring instrumental.
A depressing edge returns to penultimate Hurt Yourself, the layering vocals splitting the sound and touching on the psychedelia flow of the music, again prominent in closing Drugs Exist. Easing away from the pointed and exaggerated vigour that appeared in the earlier album track, the close comes subtly, apologsing for the mess and chaos left by the previous belters.
Meandering yet with a resolute determination, Death Magic sounds rather like HEALTH’s minds were cut open, pulled apart and blended together, letting the deepest thoughts rise to the top.
You can watch the video for New Coke below.