Clear red coloured vinyl LP
black midi – the UK-based trio of Geordie Greep (guitar, vocals), Cameron Picton (bass, vocals) and Morgan Simpson (drums) – announce their third album, ‘Hellfire’, out on Rough Trade, plus a North American tour in the autumn.
Written in isolation in London after the release of last year’s Cavalcade, ‘Hellfire’ builds on the melodic and harmonic elements of its predecessor, while expanding the brutality and intensity of their debut, ‘Schlagenheim’. As Greep describes it: “if ‘Cavalcade’ was a drama, ‘Hellfire’ is like an epic action film” that delves into overlapping themes of pain, loss and anguish. It is their most thematically cohesive and intentional album yet.
Whereas the stories of ‘Cavalcade’ were told in third person, Hellfire is presented in first-person and tells the tales of morally suspect characters. There are direct dramatic monologues, flamboyantly appealing to our degraded sense of right and wrong. You’re never quite sure whether to laugh at or be horrified.
The track ‘Welcome To Hell’ tells the story of a shell shocked soldier’s excess and military discharge. The setting is a far-off military campaign – an exotic coastal town, commandeered by the invading army and swarming with soldiers. It is night-time; erratic men rush up and down the strip in various stages of inebriation, neon signs light up the bars, and out of their open doors waft wisps of indeterminate smoke. Deafening howls of motorcycle engines linger all around, accompanied by a medley of languages – albeit all slurred, coarse, hoarse and evasive of any true emotion – and he’s unable to handle the world in which he finds himself. The track is soundtracked by funky guitar sections, driving horns and a progressively snarling vocal. Its accompanying video was directed by Gustaf Holtenäs (who also directed the video for black midi’s ‘Slow’).
The mysterious military mining corporation behind ‘Cavalcade’s ‘Diamond Stuff’ reappears in Picton’s new song ‘Eat Men Eat’, and some of his best lyrics appear on the forcefully sweet ‘Still’, Hellfire’s least abstract, most lyrically personal song. “There’s a lot of love and things like that on ‘Hellfire’,” says Picton. “There’s a tender flipside to every song. The dark comes out strongly, there’s Hell and Satan and murder and unsavoury things, but every song has both light and dark.”
Creating ‘Hellfire’ took six months, sprouting from a riff on one of the group’s oldest jams, which bloomed into the futuristic boxing drama, ‘Sugar/Tzu’. The range, power and potent production of black midi’s music has never been greater than on ‘Hellfire’, partly thanks to producer Marta Salogni, who worked with the band on ‘Cavalcade’ opener, ‘John L’. But, as always, the type of music black midi play isn’t as important as its quality. And whatever you think about black midi’s music isn’t as important as how you feel about it.
The band are about to play some of their biggest shows yet, including concerts at London’s Somerset House, New York’s Central Park SummerStage, Los Angeles’ The Wiltern, San Francisco’s The Warfield, Denver’s Ogden Theatre and First Avenue in Minneapolis. Experiencing the band live, feeling the power of the tension they carefully build up just before each explosive cathartic release, is essential to understanding black midi.
Live, there’s Kaidi Akinnibi (brass) and Seth Evans (keyboards), summoning fearsome squalls of intensity at will. Simpson’s concussive percussion underlining everything, sometimes a boxer fighting a nightly bout with his kit, others silkily caressing the cymbals. Picton, the still centre of a cyclone, waiting for those moments when the band feel inevitable, invincible, like “that massive lurching machine from ‘Mad Max Fury Road’.” And Greep, stalking the stage, soaking up that exhilarating, combustible energy, pouring it all out through his microphone and guitar.
Eat Men Eat
Welcome To Hell
The Race Is About To Begin Dangerous Liaisons