The Black Angels

Picks 2 click

The Black Angels
Photo By Aubrey Edwards

It's not often that a band's performance can actually make you feel like you're having a flashback. Such is the dark charm of Austin's Black Angels.

Their descent has occurred rather fast since forming locally in 2004. Singer Alex Maas, guitarist Christian Bland, drummer Stephanie Bailey, bassist/guitarist Nate Ryan, keyboardist Kyle Hunt, drone manipulator Jennifer Raines, and, more recently, projectionist Richard Whymark gigged around town, and rumored marathon multimedia performances only added to their red haze. The grainy video element gives their live shows an eerie glow that might cause the aforementioned hallucination, but their lysergic tones and feral rhythms are what pull like quicksand.

Last year saw the release of their four-song EP on Seattle's Light in the Attic Records, an album that birthed their love child: clean, minimalist tones dosed with Brian Jonestown Massacre's psych adrenaline. Their debut full-length, Passover, out in April, channels the spirit of some dusty Texas roadside, drunk on peyote and howling at the moon, much like another psychedelic parent.

"We love the [Velvet Underground]," nods guitarist Bland. "They represent the evil side of the Sixties. While most other bands were singing about flowers and love, they were singing about heroin and death. They were singing about real things, nothing was candy-coated."

And Passover is anything but. It's a heavy, dirt-caked, war-is-hell opus of drone, Maas' strident voice rising and falling like a napalm bomb. The title even references a verse from Exodus 12:12-13: "The blood was a sign to the death angel to pass over their homes." From the viscous blues of "Black Grease" and ominous guitar scrape of "Manipulation" to Maas drawling, "You gave a gift to me in my young age. You sent me overseas, put the fear in me" on plodding opener "Young Men Dead." It's definitely, well, dark.

"I can see where people would think that, but we just sing about real life," Bland explains. "Our world is a dark place. It's not like we try to be dark. We're all happy people, but we just see things from a skewed perspective, I guess."

The themes of war and destruction are myriad on the album, but so are questions of love, death, values, and whether our generation is as fucked as our parents'. The Black Angels are just channeling something higher.

"The entire album parallels what's going on now with what happened in the Sixties," explains Bland. "The Vietnamese war is about learning from our mistakes so that we don't ever fall into the trap of a second Vietnamese war, which the current war in Iraq is panning out to be. I don't see us as being completely political; we sing about life and truth, and politics just happens to be one facet of that. We do have a message, and it's one of getting people to open up their minds so they can let everything come through."

Texas psych is rising again, and it's a bad moon.


SXSW showcase: Wednesday, March 15, 1am @ Emo's Annex

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at austinchronicle.com/sxsw. Sign up for our South By-specific newsletter at austinchronicle.com/newsletters for news, reviews, and previews delivered to your inbox every day of the Fest. And for the latest tweets, follow @ChronSXSW.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
Saturday Picks & Sleepers
Saturday Picks & Sleepers
Last night blurbs – hip-hop Picks and slept-on Sleepers

March 20, 2015

Friday Picks & Sleepers
Friday Picks & Sleepers
Obvious Picks and loads of not-so-obvious Sleepers!

March 20, 2015

More by Audra Schroeder
SXSW Interactive Conference Quick Cuts
The Signal & the Noise
Statistician Nate Silver on more data, more problems

March 15, 2013

SXSW Film
SXSW Film Reviews: 'Kiss of the Damned'
Daily Reviews and Interviews

March 15, 2013

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

The Black Angels, Alex Maas, Christian Bland, Stephanie Bailey, Nate Ryan, Kyle Hunt, Jennifer Raines, Richard Whymark, Light in the Attic Records, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Passover

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle