Austin’s The Black Angels have done quite a unique thing in that throughout their nearly 20-year career as a psych rock band they’ve remained relevant. They’ve never tried being anything more than what they are, which is a dark, looming rock band. No forays into ballads, EDM, pop rock, or the like. Their records are dark, fuzzed-out odes to doom, gloom, and the fading of our humanity. Far out.
On the band’s newest long player, the heavy and propulsive Wilderness of Mirrors, it seems a post-Covid Black Angels is as dark and foreboding as you’d imagine they would be. 60s acid-burnt psych melds with 70s desert cult drones, all with a dizzying dystopia that is equally enthralling and harrowing.
The Black Angels made one of the best modern psych rock albums with 2006’s Passover. An anti-war record that wasn’t peace and love and “smile on your brother” naivety. It was heavy, dark, and volatile; a Molotov Cocktail of a record that was wasn’t shy in its disdain for politics and the physical and emotional damage left in its wake. Each record that followed built on that bedrock, maybe never quite achieving that album’s creative highs, but coming close. Wilderness of Mirrors comes closer than anything, and at times surpasses.
“Without A Trace” comes out swinging, a mix of fuzzed-out groove and spell casting, this song is a guttural roar of acid rock and rock and roll mysticism. “Empires Falling” is a chugging locomotive of a song, combining both early doom metal riffing and the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. The Black Angels use reverb as an essential ingredient to their sound. It’s a perfect flavor to a song like this. “El Jardin” is an almost straight up rocker, touches of Stooges and Velvet Underground.
Throughout Wilderness of Mirrors‘ 15-song and nearly 60 minute runtime there is no relenting from the grooves, the fuzz, and the overcast sky mood. From the menacing “Make It Known” to the haunted carnival feel of title track “Wilderness of Mirrors” to album closer “Suffocation”, with its melancholy mood and dreamy atmosphere, The Black Angels build a dark kaleidoscope of sound and mood.
The Black Angels continue to make engaging dark psychedelic rock and roll, and with Wilderness of Mirrors they made one of the best albums of the year.