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Hellfire is Black Midi at their most devilish and maniacal

"Hellfire"

Release date: 15 July 2022
9/10
Black midi hellfire art
11 July 2022, 07:00 Written by Kyle Kohner
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They say insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results every time. By this definition, London’s favorite experimental rock fiends, black midi, are far from insane.

Yes, even after releasing two records that still mangle, muddle and mystify the minds of those who dare listen, the trio like to play musical hopscotch. They refuse to yield to the same ol', same ol' as they're averse to insanity – and yet, they embrace calamity.

Simply, they love a good, sudden apocalypse where musical and lyrical depravity abounds. And what better way to entertain their appetites for unexpected wickedness than through their aptly-titled new record, Hellfire.

Boldly announcing itself by mere title, one could probably guess what's to be experienced through the foreboding flames. The first full-fledged moment on Hellfire, "Sugar/Tzu", brings the pyrotechnic mindfuckery from the sound of a bell — literally. Prefaced by the adrenaline rush of a ring announcer declaring the bloodbath of a century between two light-heavyweight competitors, Sun Sugar and Sun Tzu, listeners are prepped for immediate gusto and fireworks, but not without tested expectations.

Black midi ensue to cheekily follow this guttural announcement with thirty seconds of our soft-spoken narrator, Geordie Greep, purring above soft drum shuffles, framing his own egocentric demeanor as bravado: "Posterity will show me to be / The greatest the world has ever seen / A genius among non-entities" Greep is no stranger to wearing masks. Here, he dons one of cryptic delicacy. However, the unexpectedly tender aside is only brief as the band's peerless drummer Morgan Simpson kicks into full gear, pounding away at his kit at hypersonic speed.

Kaidi Akinnibi joins in the disorderly fun, parallelling Simpson's frantic playing with the luny theatrics of his saxophone. As this story of egotistical murder unfolds, the erratic jazz-fusion of “Sugar/Tzu” darts aimlessly with a similar ebb-and-flow of a professional boxer in desperation with his back against the ropes, maneuvering the threatening punchers of his opponent.

A layer deeper into this comedic and often self-indulgent depiction of hell, black midi set a new, albeit kindred scene – a mangled one at that – of a race with "The Race Is About To Begin". Here, deluged by the deranged cacophony of the band's avant prog-rock, characters of various vile nature and namesake vie with one another, one-upping each other with their respective hideousness and deserved place in hell. There's a Mrs. Gonnorhea, an Eye Sore, a Perfect P. Deadman, and our dear murderous friend, Sun Tzu. Here, our off-kilter, Greep-ian narrator recounts "There's a winner and a loser", with indifference.

Though listeners are again tricked into calm stillness, "The Race Is About To Begin" is black midi most feral. Before slowing to a sultry lull for the last two minutes, Greep wears his most flagrant face and unloads with a frantic spiel that may remind some of Serj Tankian, but spun a degree or two more paranoid. As he vomits words about literal and figurative nothingness, the rest of the band plays its brains out, seemingly making noise for the sake of making noise and unloading perversion onto the table for all to be overwhelmed by.

The audibly demented hullabaloo of these two tracks pervades the entirety of Hellfire. The music often doesn't make sense at first glance, and neither do the lyrics – a real black midi special. There's no conventional plot nor a conceptual line to contour the ruins of Hellfire's chaos. Rather, it's cynical gumbo, an amalgamation of confounding vignettes about a few degenerates in demise.

That said, the record's descent into hell deepens further, intensifying when it reaches its eternal tipping point. On "27 questions", listeners are introduced to one final character by the name of Freddie Frost – a dying actor delivering one last performance – only to combust in front of his audience. But before his perishing, he, a man of great self-purported stature, talent, and importance, lets loose with about 20 or so questions that he's taken to his death bed, all of which go unanswered when he finally kicks the bucket: "Is grass ever greener? / Is the will really free? / Is it only black you see when you join the deceased?" None of these questions matter when you're in hell, and that's okay – I guess – when you have a band like black midi to soundtrack endless suffering and Geordie Greep narrating the misery.

Black midi are one of the bands that will continue to invigorate with something new and unheard with every outing. Though many of the band's distinct hallmarks show face – heavier than ever, even – somehow their latest record sounds miraculously and hideously new, proving their aversion to any mindless repetition.

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