Psychedelia: An Ode
The Black Angels aren’t shy about their style. The Austin-based band has dutifully carried on the customs of psychedelic rock, albeit from the darker end of the genre’s spectrum. Named after the Velvet Underground’s “The Black Angel’s Death Song”, the band has consistently taken its cues from that bleak, drone-laden tradition.
Their third release, the highly anticipated Phosphene Dream, is a blend of new and old sounds. The album fits comfortably in the band’s existing repertoire, but brighter elements scattered throughout lift it from the typical depths of hypnotic darkness.
Although opener “Bad Vibrations” sets an ominous tone with its reverb-heavy minor riffs, the remainder of the album tempers that sentiment with an array of other influences. “True Believers” adds bits of dark folk to its story of confused religiosity, and the ghostly “Haunting of 1300 McKinley” borrows from the blues. Songs like “Telephone” or “Sunday Afternoon” draw influences from 1960s Brit-pop and other strains of bouncier retro rock, while the murder tale “River of Blood” ends in a characteristically gloomy haze.
Overall, Phosphene Dream only slightly alters the band’s musical trajectory. While its upbeat additions are refreshing, the album’s strongest moments are those that continue in the vein they’d already mastered. This third release from the Black Angels illustrates that they can incorporate new sonic elements without sacrificing what they do best.