Consider Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Hecate and the Weird Sisters, hanging about on the misty heath; up to no good. “Double, double, toil and trouble”, they chant, as they chuck all kinds of detritus into their cauldron. Imagine you could look inside that bubbling potion. The chaos. That’s Black Midi’s Hellfire.
Like the Alabaster DePlume album that resided behind window 9, Hellfire bamboozled me when I first heard it. How now, you secret, Black Midi architects? I was hearing Sinatra at the Sands and Scott Walker at his avant-garde peak. I could hear Ornette Coleman at the Tivoli and Wire at the Marquee. It was Stephen Sondheim on Broadway. And that was just one song. Impossible, right?
I’m nothing if not resilient. Thankfully. I’m not saying I got it on the second spin. I’m not even sure if I get it yet, five months in. But I’m getting there. I do understand that Hellfire is a thing of wonder, an album like no other. Just look again at those influences.
Musically, for the most part, it is frenzied and visceral and like the protagonists in the surreal second track, Sugar/Tzu, it relentlessly beats you about the head until you eventually succumb. Check out the Megadeth meets Captain Beefheart fiesta, Welcome To Hell.