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by black midi

Released July 15, 2022 via Rough Trade Records

Reviewed July 25, 2022

Top tracks (based on community voting)
Sugar/Tzu (66%), The Race Is About To Begin (48%), Welcome To Hell (41%)

Hellfire marks black midi’s first official release as a trio, with guitarist Matt Kwasniewski-Kelvin on hiatus from the group since they began the recording process of 2021’s Cavalcade. This lineup shift hasn’t forced black midi to quite yet reinvent their sound—at least not any more than you would expect them to—but it has led to what might be the band’s wonkiest release yet. The group takes a more conceptual and narrative-driven approach than what we saw on their previous two records, largely conceding to nihilistic worldviews presented in first-person from the mouth of a manic preacher. The jerky, mathy, and chaotic nature of their sound is no less present on Hellfire than it was on Schlagenheim or Cavalcade, but this newest record sees them utilizing it alongside much more restraint. Their weirdness is on full display with every time signature change, the juxtaposition of Geordie Greep’s crooning against barrages of noise, and every ounce of dissonance that makes up Hellfire. They inject over-the-top theatrics into their noisy, jazz-infused, batshit-insane post-punk meets prog-rock sound—which was already a lot to take in—and create a cabaret-like feel. But only this time, the venue is on fire and the performers have sealed off the exits as everything crumbles around you. It is both exactly what we have come to expect from black midi—a mind-boggling listening experience and a cacophony of noise—while still venturing into new territory for one of rock’s most riveting acts. – Dominick (9/10)

black midi's third album, succinctly titled Hellfire, roves with rabid and unfiltered creativity. Bordering on insanity, the exquisite and twisted operatic rock that black midi produce stifles understanding. Keep your predisposed notions at the door. Tenacious to a tee and irreverent in scope, Hellfire is home to a full-on cinematic experience, the ups and downs of a journey portrayed through aural means. The swoop and sway of the album cast sights on free-flow form—akin to waves—while the material elegantly, sometimes brutally, rolls to resolution. As with all black midi material, the beauty is weaved within the beast, the sophisticated within the simple, the slow within the swift—sweet to sour, complex to clear, 0 to 100, and right back. Hellfire extends an arm towards the spectacle and the all-out bizarre. Keeping up the pace and quality of these releases is something that we, as music fans, don't see often. Few acts can defy the faucet running dry. Messianic levels of discipline and determination are necessary to thrive forth, and the cutting edge requires a cutting sense. – Peter (8.5/10)

Dominick: 9/10 | Jared: 9/10 | Cam: 8.8/10 | Pax: 8.7/10 | Peter: 8.5/10 | DeVan: 8/10

Community Reviews:

black midi perfect their craft here, keeping that fanatical energy from Schlagenheim, and the more intricate instrumentation from Cavalcade. The result is an album of many merits for many listeners, a harmonic convergence of interests set in a pre-and-post-war landscape of scathing social commentary. – @gorumangshochronicles (9.8/10)

Hellfire is the black midi at their most maximalist yet, on a trajectory that only seems to be getting noisier. This time with more instruments, and incredible mixing, black midi proves themselves once again to be at the cutting-edge. Hellfire is exactly what it sounds like, and the album does a great job to keep a consistent theme and atmosphere. – @sorenstancliff (9.6/10)

black midi has released great, unique albums prior to this one— but this one blows those out of the water. There’s many reasons I could break down this album's incredibility but let me narrow it down to two reasons: writing and performance. The stories presented in this album are hellish. My personal favorite examples are exhibited on “Sugar/Tzu” where a kid witnesses a boxing match between Sun Sugar and Sun Tzu, or on “Dangerous Liaisons” which is the devil convincing an innocent to strangle a man. The performances on this record are grand, to say the least. Whether it be Greep’s jazz-inspired display, Cameron’s diverse arrange of acts, or Morgan Simpson’s drum performance of the year (as a percussionist I adore this performance). So, yeah this album is great and one of the best in 2022. – (9/10)

A gorgeous cacophony of various styles , tempos and subject matter. It genuinely becomes bewildering how black midi continue to impress with such consistency and on a regular basis. Riding the ups and downs of the record was an addictive experience. – @tylerwilliam.s (8.8/10)

An enjoyable listen that ticks every box for a Black Midi fan. However, unlike the preceding albums, Hellfire understays its welcome and misses opportunities to play with genre and pacing. Instead we are delivered song after song of action-packed craziness, and nothing more. – @maxrosk (8/10)


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