Six years on from their last proper studio effort, Los Angeles noise-makers Health finally return to the fold with Death Magic, a record apparently inspired by artists as diverse as Depeche Mode and Rihanna.
The mention of the Barbadian superstar may ring alarm bells for those who prefer the electro-punks firmly in aggressive/confrontational mode. But although the long-awaited follow-up to 2009’s Get Color occasionally veers into surprisingly poppy territory, there’s still plenty of commotion on offer.
“Courtship II” is an unhinged blend of squalling guitars and thunderous drums which serves as a doom-laden sequel to a track from Health’s self-titled debut, the punishing instrumental “Salvia” proves that they have lost none of their ability to thrill and terrify in equal measure, and “Men Today” sees Jake Duzsik’s wispy vocals get completely smothered by an abrasive wall of white noise.
The stomping industrial house of “Stonefist” and “Flesh World (UK)” show that the quartet can move towards the dancefloor without sacrificing their usual sense of menace. However, the nightmarish “New Coke” is a slightly belated attempt to join the dubstep movement, a track which should have joined the previous three incarnations of Death Magic that the group abandoned.
Health’s unexpected displays of their more vulnerable side also produced mixed results. “Life” is the kind of blissful dream-pop number you would expect to hear in an 80s rom-com, but the goth-pop balladry of “Dark Enough” and disco heartbreak of “L.A. Looks” both plod along in search of a memorable hook.
Of course, following such a lengthy absence, Health couldn’t really have got away with serving up more of the same. But although Death Magic doesn’t always hit the mark, it’s a largely convincing attempt to broaden their horizons which should satisfy diehard fans and new converts alike.