Death Magic

by: Health

As their furious earlier albums and all-caps name suggest, HEALTH don't do anything in half-measures. On Death Magic, they throw the extremes of their music into even sharper contrast, juxtaposing moments that shred eardrums with ones that caress them. They exploit the tension between negative space and full-bore noise as expertly as ever on "Victim," while "Men Today" and "Salvia" feel like fragmented flashbacks to the most intense parts of Get Color. However, Death Magic's super-sweet pop is arguably more shocking than its outbursts, not only because it's so catchy, but because HEALTH pull it off so well. "Life" is downright mellow, transforming Get Color's breathy vocals and massive backdrops into a chillwave anthem; "L.A. Looks" adds a dash of poignancy, with Jacob Duzsik sighing "It's not love but I still want you" over strobing synths and cavernous drums. Indeed, the most remarkable thing about Death Magic is the directness of HEALTH's words and music. By organizing their previous chaos into widescreen industrial pop, they offer up their hearts -- only to smash them. The band revels in heartbreak of epic proportions, using the visceral quality of their music to convey the physical toll of loss on "Courtship II" and mourning what was on "Flesh World (UK)": "All the bones grew strong before they broke/All the blood runs hot before it's cold." Shades of their former collaborators Crystal Castles can be heard here and on bleakly pretty songs such as "Stonefist" and "Drugs Excist," while "Dark Enough" reaches back farther for inspiration, exploding and reconfiguring Depeche Mode and the Pet Shop Boys into gorgeously gloomy synth-pop. While fans of HEALTH's previous onslaughts might be disappointed by the preponderance of hooks and emotion on display here, Death Magic presents a 2010s version of HEALTH that fits in with the likes of the Soft Moon and Blanck Mass while delivering their most accessible music to date. ~ Heather Phares

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