Review: Health – Death Magic

3.5 OUT OF 5 NUTS!

health-deathmagicDeath Magic is plenty dramatic, kicking things off with an ominous floor tom and some ambient squeals. From there, the L.A. noise-rock act’s latest record never lets up for a second, mixing post-industrial steam and synth with ethereal vocals to create something completely new.

The whole album is frustratingly difficult to classify, annoying the list-maker and grouper in me, but delighting the progressive rock fan. Tracks like “Men Today” really stress the clanging metal and pumping pistons, recalling the best of Nine Inch Nails minus the teenage angst that made Trent Reznor so profoundly irritating at times.

Just when things threaten to get too abrasive, Health pulls back and delivers something closer to Depeche Mode in “Flesh World.” The truly remarkable thing about this record is the impeccable sense of texture that Health brings to every track. The hooks come, but they’re secondary to a fully-realized visceral experience. Every torrent of meaty distortion and every heartbeat-esque kick drum are meticulously planned to create something chewy and layered.

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There is a vibrant pulse running through Death Magic that sustains the vibe when the songs start to sound a little similar to one another. That’s really my main fault with this record, and the jury is still out on whether this is even a fault: Death Magic isn’t terribly dynamic for a piece of music so clearly reliant on noise as an instrument. This is a common complaint with noise-rock bands. You start to wonder if the whole dynamic would fall apart without the interesting sounds. Would Health, minus the soundscapes, just turn into some shitty dancepunk band from the mid 2000s (I can only think of The Rapture, who are actually kind of okay)? Luckily we don’t have to find out.

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