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It’s been six years since HEALTH has released an album, although they did score the soundtrack for Max Payne 3. Throughout their ten years as a band, one thing is clear – HEALTH have never been conventional, as they never really focused their music on any particular genre. This has resulted in the band not having a trademark sound. Instead, they’ve done pretty much everything. Electronic? Done that. Krautrock? Definitely an influence. New wave? Check. Synth-pop? Not quite, but close. House? Garage? Trip-hop? Three genres they’ve definitely touched on. Noise-pop? For sure. Electro-rock? Yep. Industrial? Most definitely. Country? Now let’s not go too far.
On their fifth, proper studio album, Death Magic, HEALTH, have taken all these genres and put them into one record. Death Magic, as such, could be considered a mash-up of the LA-based quartet’s influences. And with so many sounds, textures, and approaches, there is only one way to describe it – cataclysmic. At the same time, the album is surprisingly (and maybe even ironically) HEALTH’s most accessible effort to date, thanks in large part to Death Magic being largely rhythm-driven.
The droning suspense of “Victim” opens the album and brilliantly merges with the dark, pounding “Stonefist”, which is a song that sounds like a beat-heavy, electronic version of Depeche Mode. The trifecta of “Men Today”, “Flesh World (UK)”, and “Courtship II” usher the apocalyptic electronic reverb of Crystal Castles and to stunning effect, and the approach is later repeated on the catatonic and anti-climatic “New Coke”.
The original trifecta of songs are the perfect lead-ins to the pulsating and terrific “Dark Enough” and the electro-/synth-pop “Life”, which has the ethereal quality of Porcelain Raft while blending in the infectious melodies of early Phantogram. The two songs represent the album’s core and the most uplifting tracks without losing any of the edginess found in the album. However, in the latter half of Death Magic, “L.A. Looks” takes the mantle as the most infectious track with its electro-disco-pop dance vibe.
The entire album, though, is extremely introspective, with the songs touching on subjects such as the relevance of one’s existence, the confusion that surrounds our choices (which is the central theme of closer “Drugs Exist”), to the crumbling of a relationship. While Death Magic is a sonic wonderland that takes us from the dark caverns of our soul to an interstellar space that moves us physically, it is also an album that, if listened closely, has us reflecting on the what was and what is.
HEALTH are Jupiter Keyes, John Famiglietti, Benjamin Jared Miller, and Jake Duzsik.
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