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Blackfield - Blackfield II CD (album) cover

BLACKFIELD II

Blackfield

 

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3.69 | 306 ratings

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The Progmatist
5 stars When many people think "masterpiece," they may immediately think of musical works that burst with magnificent energy and may even smack of operatic grandeur. I don't blame them. I thought the same way. Until I listened to Blackfield's latest release, which is a masterpiece in every sense of the word and yet in no sense of the word. With their first album, Blackfield made it known that they would create works of melancholic beauty, and that release was certainly excellent in its own right. Yet as beautiful as their debut album was, this very beauty and the attention given to it may have actually taken away from the overall effect of the work. With Blackfield II, however, the band seems to take a more genuine approach to the melancholy, and I believe that this has made for a beauty much more lasting and emotionally moving. In short, if the debut's polish seemed to be reminiscent of a man recalling pain from a restored place of comfort and security, then this album depicts the man in the worst moments of his despair. If the group's first release seemed to wear a shimmering coating, then the dark honesty of Blackfield II certainly emanates from within.

The truth is that Blackfield II deals less with melancholy and more with irreparable nihilistic despair. "Once," the album opener, begins the musical journey with intimations of downward movement. When Wilson sings, "I want you to know that I could go at any time," the listener is immediately struck with the notion that things can only get worse. And indeed they do. The starkly magestic "1000 People" is unrelenting in its despairing overtones. Painfully bare synthesizer notes stand out in contrast to the smooth but cold strings in the background, which seem to swell at all the right moments. "This Killer" conjures up images of a helpless child abandoned to the world. Backed by needle-thin guitar plucking, Wilson opens by singing, "Don't leave the door ajar and walk away. Don't leave me in the dark." The cold, dark piano in the intro to "Epidemic" point toward the gnawing anger directed at both self and once-significant-other. "My Gift of Silence" features one of the most depressingly beautifully vocal melodies I've ever heard. This song also seems to epitomize the album's tendency to allow the music to reflect lyrical sentiments. Smooth, otherwise comforting electric guitar notes seem to contradict the piercingly depressing piano chords in the background. Wilson sings, "The smile on my lips is a sign that I don't hear you leaving me and I don't hear my own soul scream." The musical contradictions only enhance the stated denials. In what may be one of the most fitting conclusions to any piece of music, "End of the World" concerns just that. The title may seem cliche, but the band is able to treat the idea honestly enough so that the true gravity of it hits the listener in the face with all the power that an end should entail. Nihilism abounds here as it should. The almost overwhelmingly depressing lyrics are sometimes backed by carefree piano melodies. When Wilson sings that "we're dead but pretend we're alive," this musical device makes a lot more sense. In the end, few bands would dare conclude an album with such a cynically depressing song. Few bands could ever offer lines like, "In your room doing nothing but staring at flickering screens. Streets are empty but still you can hear joy of children turn into tears."

When listening to this album, I can understand what Blackfield set out to accomplish. They did away with the more superficial melancholy of their debut and replaced it with the gutwrenching despair of Blackfield II. Hardly anything is out of place. Nothing is overdone. Nor should it be. This is the no bullshit version of unhappiness. There isn't any room for meditation when the sky is falling. Just rain. And how perfect.

The Progmatist | 5/5 |

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