Black Midi: Hellfire - a compelling album

Third album by the experimental London trio has a nefarious undercurrent

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Artist: Black Midi
Genre: Alternative
Label: Rough Trade

They may be graduates of the same performing arts school as Adele, Jessie J and Amy Winehouse, but the similarities end there for Black Midi. In fact, it’s difficult to draw parallels between the young London trio and any other act. Those who have heard their two previous albums will be familiar with their eccentric, unmapped approach to music making. Twisting and turning through unconventional styles, timing and tempos, they cherry-pick from various genres to create a sound that is exquisitely singular.

Their third record is a concept album of sorts about hell in all its forms. Characters include shell-shocked soldiers, boxers and Satan, all vying for attention: “almost everyone depicted is a kind of scumbag”, according to lyricist and vocalist Geordie Greep. His theatrical voice whirls from schmaltzy circus ringleader to avant-garde jazz crooner. Sugar/Tzu flips from jazzy waltz to a flurry of math-rock riffage akin to Battles or Holy F**k; other sounds are nightmarish hellscapes from horror films, like the unsettling descent into madness that is The Race is About to Begin, or the dramatic, intense jags of sound on Welcome to Hell.

In between the agitated weirdness, the quieter tracks (like the almost pastoral 1960s-esque folk pop of Still) only serve to enhance the nefarious undercurrent. It may not be good for your blood pressure, but this is an extraordinarily compelling album.

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy is a freelance journalist and broadcaster. She writes about music and the arts for The Irish Times