The Black Angels Reviewed
The Black AngelsDirections to See a Ghost (Light in the Attic)
"Kurtz discoursed. A voice, a voice! It rang deep to the very last. It survived his strength to hide in the magnificent folds of eloquence the barren darkness of his heart." Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness beats from the first notes of self-released Black Angels EP The Sniper at the Gates of Dawn, opening like the helicopters of Apocalypse Now and clanging shut atop the ventilator blues of "Bloodhounds on My Trail." The Austin quintet's eponymous, four-song "Black Grease" fire for Seattle's Light in the Attic Records (2005) and follow-up LP Passover (2006) spelled it out with a single credit: "Jennifer Raines, drone machine." As squad leader Alex Maas drones on Passover's "The First Vietnamese War," Charlie's everywhere, and he doesn't mean the Chocolate Factory magnate. Sophomore long-player Directions to See a Ghost pushes ever deeper, into Laos and Cambodia, up the river to terminate Kurtz. Whereas Passover came wired with explosives, Ghost airs out its thrust with mercenary inevitability. The end's near – why hurry? This approach torpedoes "18 Years," "Vikings" death march, and 16-minute closer "Snake in the Grass," but Ghost's napalm-flavored mulch of acoustics, electrics, sitars, and tambourines notches another kill with extreme prejudice. Doors slamming lyrical impressionism ("Feel it, in your house. ... Steal it, while you're out"), power-cable riffs writhing like a monsoon-lashed python ("Mission District"), and the elephantine subthump of groaning "Science Killer" prove that Kurtz moaned it best: the horror. Liquid fire shoots sky high on "Deer-Ree-Shee," Maas' "rogue sitar" as stinging as the rattlesnake maracas and shock therapy guitars of the 8½-minute "Never/Ever." The Love-era Cult-ification riff of "You in Color" and cicada madness ("The Return") confirm that Ghosts come from within. Conrad, 1902: "His was an impenetrable darkness. I looked at him as you peer down at a man who is lying at the bottom of a precipice where the sun never shines."