Having perfected the dark art of Velvet Underground-style dirge-rock, a band can keep making the same record over and over again, or move on. Problem is, there are only two directions from which to choose: Drive deeper into miasmic noise and risk alienating your core audience, or open the door to more accessible hooks and, well, risk alienating your core audience.
Austin, Texas, garage-drone masters the Black Angels opt for the latter by exploring psychedelic pop with their fourth album. The results are eyebrow-raising, but not startlingly unwelcome enough to put off any longtime fans.
The album begins familiarly, with the Angels hammering a two-note riff in the opening title track as singer Alex Maas outlines the thin red line between desire and destruction. "Evil Things" wields a nefarious, Sabbath-indebted blues-metal groove that the Angels have rarely, if ever, attempted. "Don't Play With Guns" pistol-whips listeners with a chorus that, given recent headlines, bleeds with ominous prophecy.
"War on Holiday," though, is among the best songs this band has written, black humor lodged in a political jab (Bill O'Reilly's "War on Christmas"). Here, the guitars—cranked to Stooges-level ferocity—confirm something crucial: The Angels, despite their LSD jams ("I Hear Colors [Chromaesthesia]") remain devilishly committed to full-bore rock 'n' roll.