Sound — 8
The Black Angels are a psychedelic rock band formed in 2004 in Austin, Texas. Drawing their name from The Velvet Underground song "The Black Angel's Death Song," the Angels have become one of the most distinguished names in the modern psychedelic rock scene. "Indigo Meadow" is the band's fourth full-length release and does not disappoint fans of their signature ominous, sinister tone. "Indigo Meadow" is arguably the most varied album the Angels have released to date, and certainly stands out as very different from the previous three. This is all done without sacrificing the sound for which they are known and loved. The record takes the listener in a variety of sonic directions, ranging from the softer, almost distortion-free "Holland" to the monstrous riffs of "Evil Things." Tracks such as "The Day" bring the group into a blues-like territory, while "Twisted Light," featuring lead vocals from guitarist Christian Bland, hearkens back to the droning sounds of their sophomore release "Directions to See a Ghost." The upbeat, poppy feel of "You're Mine" represents the biggest departure from the band's typical sound, and showcases the Angels' skill as dynamic songwriters. Though the Angels have in many ways ventured outside of the style of their previous releases, "Indigo Meadow" is still clearly a Black Angels record. The band's love for filthy fuzz tones, pounding drums, and vocal tracks soaked in reverb is just as obvious here as on any other album. The ability to experiment while still maintaining their identity is a skill many bands lack, but one the Angels clearly excel at, if this record is any indication.
Lyrics — 6
Lyrically, the Angels have made some progress, but still appear to be thematically restricted to a few concepts. Vocalist Alex Maas' lyrics have historically focused on themes of war and death (particularly on their debut "Passover"), and these concepts are still quite prominent on this release. Though the lyrics on "Indigo Meadow" do occasionally go beyond these topics, they still tend to focus on war and death. Tracks such as "Holland," "I Hear Colors (Chromaesthesia)," and "Twisted Light" provide notable exceptions, and help expand the lyrical content of the record. Despite the limited subject matter, the lyrics are very well-written and mesh well with the music. Maas' menacing vocal tone has changed little over the years, though it appears that he's taken a liking to more poppy and hook-oriented vocal melodies. Compared to previous releases' droning, anguished style of vocals, this is an area in which Maas has progressed noticeably. The shift to a more upbeat sound doesn't happen at the expense of uniqueness, however, as his voice is still unmistakably sinister. Maas' changes in vocal style matches the band's shift to a more up-tempo sound and really contributes to the overall feel of the record.
Overall Impression — 8
"Indigo Meadow" is a release that will likely please longtime fans and newcomers alike. It has a little bit of everything the Angels are known for, while simultaneously expanding into uncharted territory. It's really all a fan could ask for. It sticks to the signature sound well enough to not upset hardcore fans, while still bringing new concepts to the table to keep it fresh and exciting. It will be interesting to see where this group goes in the future, as this record shows that the band is unafraid to experiment and endeavor out of the comfort zone of their typical sound.