Once in a generation, we end up having a band so obscure and different to the rest of the crop we can’t help but admire them from afar. Yet we are too afraid to go near that band for fear that we cannot understand them. In this modern world, everything has to be understood, everything must be delivered in manageable chunks, because heaven forfend the world will break into a thousand pieces if we don’t. Up becomes down, left is right and we end up living in a world where your mum doesn’t flip your best mates lid for your lunch money down the docks every Monday night.
Put simply, our modern world cannot leave well enough alone.
We are so obsessed with wanting to understand everything so when we do, we can claim we’re smart and move on to the next flavour of the week. This is where HEALTH comes in. A band that is going to upset a lot of people, only because what they deliver is pretty unique, you’re actually going to have use that mushy mass in between one’s ears to actually understand who they are. F**k me raw, that sounded pretentious, excuse me while I vomit.
I’ll try to break them down, because I wouldn’t be living up to my moniker of ‘The Chivalrous Slut‘ if I didn’t. To those who game, you have heard of HEALTH, especially if you have played a Rockstar game in the past 10 years. They have done work for Max Payne 3 and GTA 5 to name a few. With a interesting blend of EDM, Pop and early Industrial, they’re already doing well into becoming an island unto themselves, an island so far off any continent in the music world, Tom Hanks would be hard pressed to escape this island.
Their fourth studio effort ‘Vol. 4 :: Slaves of Fear’ – a title I’m already getting fed up with typing out, carries on that tradition of hard to grasp music, only favouring more of that industrial approach they flirted with in previous albums. The journey you set on with HEALTH is a thirty-eight minute foreboding one, a journey that makes you claustrophobic but has enough strange charm that none of it comes across as being up its own arse.
Surprisingly this is probably HEALTH’s stab at meeting the mainstream halfway!
The album lulls you into a false sense of security with ‘PSYCHONAUT’ with it’s wispy lullaby style arrangements before giving you a hard punt in the cunt with crashing bass and glitchy electronics. For a two and a half minute track this pretty much introduces you to the album has a whole, which is impressive, if nothing else this song alone was like an episode recap of what HEALTH are.
We then dive deep into what I can only describe as the closest thing a nihilist will get to a love song ‘FEEL NOTHING’ A song steeped in hopeless romanticism and the wonder of what the point of it all is. Even if you are loved up, you can’t help but agree with HEALTH that the pursuit of love and fulfilment comes with a lofty price at the best of times. Though it doesn’t come across as being negative for the sake of it, the song asks some perfectly valid questions. So it’s a song fitting for a Valentine’s dinner at Casa Del Meekham, I’ll have you know.
I’m just kidding, in Casa Del Meekham, Valentine’s Day is corporate sham of a holiday that can go f**k itself.
With every song, I was treated to many new layers and experiments that it was getting more difficult to critique this album, something I’m fairly certain HEALTH want the critics to feel. Songs like ‘GOD BOTHERER’ and ‘LOSS DELUXE’ for example, are taken straight from the bible of Trent Reznor, but with enough departure that is doesn’t seem like a complete rip off, more a template to build on. Slower tracks such as ‘NC-17’ and ‘STRANGE DAYS (1999)’ invites you to wallow in the confusion and misery they offer that you may end up feeling better for it.
After a funeral march of an album closer ‘DECIMATION’ rung out its final chords, I was left more perplexed than what I was when before I listened to this album. Usually when I do a review for In Key, I get a good idea what I want to say after two listens, type out enough words to p**s someone on the internet off, before sauntering off to a seaside town to hire prostitutes to cry on their shoulders for a pretty good price. With ‘Vol 4.’ I had to keep listening, going back to certain songs, mainly due to the layers upon layers, I didn’t want to get anything wrong.
I suppose if there was one thing I could take away from this album is that, HEALTH did a f***ing good job at putting a soundtrack to modern Western civilisation. It’s cold, it’s unforgiving and no-one knows what the f**k they’re doing, or what our roles are. We’re all tired and a slim majority want this to all be over, quick and painless. HEALTH persist with the questions of who we are, what identity we have, that shiny happy plastic ‘never wills’ are going to find this body of work uneasy listening at best.
This album is not afraid to tap into the human psyche as whole and ask the internal questions we would rather ignore. However, like car crash TV slowed down ‘Vol 4.’ it’s simply mesmerising and engaging that you don’t want to look away, not everyone is going to understand this album or HEALTH’s body of work, but I think they’re going to be OK with that, for them it just makes their clubhouse all the more exclusive.