Reviews

Black Midi
Hellfire

(Rough Trade)

9/10

Black Midi are interviewed in the latest issue of Loud And Quiet. Grab your copy here.

“There’s always something,” blurts Geordie Greep barely six seconds into Hellfire, all nasal, wild-eyed and frenetic. “An odd twitch, hearing loss, a ringing noise, new flesh,” he continues over an unhinged, Bach-style pipe organ, “A new bump, a weightlessness, a headache, a sore limb,” before drum fills, sax and strings sonically merge into a military march, and chaotic piano flourishes start to tumble in. This hammy, poetically fatalistic tirade takes a bewilderingly rapid one minute and twenty-five seconds, at the end of which the unknown monologuer bellows “Enough, enough, come in, come in, thank you,” and the ding of a boxing-ring bell sounds to start the next track. 



It’s a contender for one of the weirdest, most turbulent openers I’ve ever heard, markedly more oddball than second album Cavalcade’s lead single ‘John L’. And it resolutely sets the tone for the rest of Black Midi’s extraordinary third album, Hellfire, which revolves around the disembodied third-person narratives of characters from a sinister band of wrong’uns. With these episodes, Greep can reel you in and take you away from it all as expertly as MF DOOM. It’s an album rife with indications that Black Midi have even further developed their impeccable skill for terminally wry, enrapturing lyricism. 

On tracks like ‘Eat Men Eat’, their art for making music that can swing with baffling ease between a heart-palpitating, pounding headbanger and a poppy acoustic guitar melody is evidently more evolved too. But it’s the moments like on ‘Still’, three-and-a-half minutes in, when there’s a kind of rupture in the album’s hellscape, that Black Midi’s power takes hold. Bird song, strings, flute, harmonica, and xylophone pool into a warm ray of light and weld together, before you’re thrown back into the hellfire, in the form of abrasive radio tuning, on ‘Half Time’. Bewildering and brilliant.

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