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HELLFIRE

black midi

RIO/Avant-Prog


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black midi Hellfire album cover
4.06 | 159 ratings | 14 reviews | 32% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2022

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Hellfire (1:24)
2. Sugar/Tzu (3:51)
3. Eat Men Eat (3:08)
4. Welcome to Hell (4:10)
5. Still (5:46)
6. Half Time (0:26)
7. The Race Is About to Begin (7:15)
8. Dangerous Liaisons (4:15)
9. The Defence (2:59)
10. 27 Questions (5:44)

Total Time 38:58

Line-up / Musicians

- Geordie Greep / lead vocals (1-2,4,7-10), accordion (1-5,7-10), resonator guitar (1,4,7,9), Bechstein grand piano (1-4,6-10), mandolin (1,4,10), K. Yairi classical guitar (1,4,7,9), Gibson SG (1,4,6,8,10), Fender Stratocaster (1,4), Surfboard lap steel (1,2,3,5,9), orchestral whip (1,3,4,10), triangle (1), wind whistle (1,3,7), police whistle (1,3,4,10), train whistle (1,3,10), Yamaha SA60 (2,7,8,10), Burns Double 6 (2,8), Espana CS-40 (2,7), Gibson Dove (2), Rhodes 54 (2,5,10), Optigan (2), Rickenbacker 4003 (3), snaps (4), claps (4), stomps (4), Arturia Microbrute (4,7,9,10), Kay 5190J (5), wooden whip (5), Roland Jupiter-8 (6), lapsteel (7), Japanese classical guitar (10), Gibson ES 150D (10), Referee's whistle (10)
- Cameron Picton / lead vocals (3,5), Rickenbacker 4003 (1,2,4,6-10), Hofner Senator (2,7,10), triangle (1), sampler (6), sound design (3,6), flute (2-3,5,7-9), drone (5), Hohner C harmonica (5,9), marxophone (2-3), micellaneous synthesizers (4), xylophone (2), Arturia Pigments (2,4), Arturia Synthi (2), crowd noise (2), Espana CS-40 (3), K. Yairi classical guitar (3,4), Guild M120 (3, 5), picked Bechstein grand piano (3), sub bass (3), Gibson SG (3, 5), National Archtop (3, 5), Larry James 56 baritone (3), snaps (4), claps (4, 5), stomps (4), sound FX (4), resonator guitar (5), field recordings (5), Bj÷rk bird instrument (5), Yamaha SA90 (5), Silvertone guitar (5), Radio Bed (6), vocals (6)
- Morgan Simpson / snare (1), kick (1), china cymbals (1,4,5), tom (1), cabasa (1,4,8,9,10), crash cymbal (1), triangle (1), doumbek (1,4,10), Ludwig Vistalite Kit (2,6-8,10), tambourine (2-5,7,8,9,10), salt shaker (2,8,9), guiro (2,4,10), clave (2), cowbell (2,4,7), Funky 405 Kit (3), maraca (3,7), Green kit (4,5,7,9,10), snaps (4), claps (4,5), stomps (4), woodblock (4,7), chimes (4), shaker (4,5,10), hi-hat (7), hand drummed snare (8), WFM snare (9)

With:
- Kaidi Akinnibi / alto saxophone (5), soprano saxophone (1-2,4-5,7), baritone saxophone (1-2), tenor saxophone (1-5,8-9)
- Seth Evans / Bechstein grand piano (3,5,9), Hammond organ (5)
- Demi Garcia Sabat / cajˇn (3,5), palmas & percussion (3,9), udu (3)
- Blossom Caldarone / cello (1,3-5,9-10)
- Max Goulding / triangle (1), handclaps (4-5), snaps (4), stomps (4)
- Joscelin Dent-Pooley / violin (1,3-5,9-10)
- Ife Ogunjobi / trumpet (2-5,7-9)
- Hus Ragip / boxing announcer (2)
- Paul Jones / Vespa (4)
- Joe MacLaren / electric upright bass (5,7)
- BJ Cole / pedal steel guitar (5,9-10)
- Marta Salogni / Roland Jupiter-8 (5)
- Joe Bristow / trombone (2-5,7-10)
- Radio Rahim / radio host (6)
- Finn Carter / grand piano (7)
- Mike Ro-Phone / percussion (10)
- Akiu Tonto, Alex Peters, Amy Caek, Antoine Ray, Barn Marts, Cole Clements, Curtis Fogg, Dean Ferguson, Emilio Bazan, Finn Gildea, Georgie Du Boulay, Jack Sheppard, Jc Lightbody, Jeremiah Fowl, Lorenzo Lorini, Lucas Lockeridge, Maia Ciarapica, Mario Morales, Milanka Caballero, Nathan Cheung, Olly Bate, Sophie Pritchard, Tj Critchy, Zachary Oberdier / burps (3)
- Alek Ertman, Antoine Ray 1, Atereick, Ben Dreblow, Benjamin Ford, Bidskimbudskum, Bruce Quasar, Cole Clements, Colin Hedberg, Christian Malinoski, Dan Milmine, Drew "Droneman" Goad-Pacheco, Ellaar, Felipe Gonzalez, Fin "DaMando" Gildea, Gabe Lactu, Gus Crane, Jamie Teixido Ubeda, Johnny Rockstar, Josh Healing, Joshua Brenan, Keep Me Safe, Kian Kermani, Lee Pritchard, Luke Cherchenko, Matt Bisaccia, Mattsladedrone, Mr Chain Blue Lightning, Sam R, Tanner York, Teodor Vujic, The Kaj, Trevor Davies, Vincent Sgro / drone (5)

Releases information

Production:
- Marta Salogni / production
- Max Goulding / co-production
- Dani Bennett Spragg / engineering
- Luke Glazewski / additional engineering

Artwork:
- David Rudnick
- Emiel Penninck
- Maharani Yasmine Putri

Label: Rough Trade Records
Formats: CD, LP, MC, Digital
July 15, 2022

Thanks to projeKct for the addition
and to DangHeck for the last updates
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BLACK MIDI Hellfire ratings distribution


4.06
(159 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(32%)
32%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(31%)
31%
Good, but non-essential (24%)
24%
Collectors/fans only (8%)
8%
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)
4%

BLACK MIDI Hellfire reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Dapper~Blueberries
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars It is that time of the year again where we get a release from a band that just seemed to appear out of thin air. I am a sucker for black midi. Their style of post punk, Avant Prog, and jazz fusion is some of the wildest and down right insane I have heard in a band, even rivaling the weird stuff King Crimson did in the 70s. They ended up landing a place in my heart with their music so when I was excited to see this release come out this year. In tandem with An Hour Before It's Dark, Closure / Continuation, and Vaxis II; Hellfire was one of my most anticipated album of this year. I was pumped and ready to experience the wild, magical, and lunatic world of black midi once more.

The album starts with Hellfire, the title track obviously. It is more of an introductory piece to the album. It's Greep sing talking about some man who is so incredibly lazy that his body never grows anything anymore, and he is losing more than what he has already. Obviously the tried and true black midi weirdness is apparent in this song with the background instrumental being a weird marching band like tune being played over Greep's insanely weird vocals. Where their last album, Cavalcade, perfected the band's weird sound, Hellfire continues it even more impressively.

The next song is Sugar/Tzu. This is a song about a boxing match that goes insanely wrong because of an evil little girl shooting one of the boxer's in the back. The story is as crazy as the song, combining extremely obtuse fusion playing and drumming that is just insane. It feels like a boxing match from hell, especially the part when the horns are going all weird and fast, like they are beating you up in the ring. It is crazy how well they managed to create the feeling of being beaten to a pulp without trying for a heavier sound, instead they beat you up with insanity. This album truly is hell already, because with hell there is chaos, and with chaos there is insanity, and insanity and black midi is like bread and butter.

Speaking of bread and butter, next up is Eat Men Eat. This is stylized as a western drama where a cowboy couple gets invited into a mine that is basically a trap for them to be poisoned and turned to fuel where at the end they escape and kill the captain of the mines, who then curses them with?choice words. Yeah, if I had a nickel for everytime an artist made an album that had a certain word in it that came out this year, I'd have two nickels, which isn't a lot but it's definitely weird it happened twice. That aside, I really freaking love this song. It gives me a good outlaw country vibe mixed with the fusion lunacy the band specializes in. The drums, the guitar, and the horns, they just make an atmosphere that I never thought could sound so good. I wouldn't mind an album by the band that was basically this sound, because it's really good. Aside from THAT word, the song is another hit from the band.

I was definitely waiting to talk about this song. Welcome To Hell, the lead single of the album is just a masterpiece. I know I am talking highly positively on the last two songs, but this can even rival the amazing spectacle of John L. It is so raw and insane that it turns into something only black midi could do. It is essentially a song about an online stalker who is creepy to a girl, basically being a creepy incel to her, with the music video making it more otherworldly and almost evangelical. It is so freaking jazzy and oddball that it sounds like several songs rolled into one, and they managed to make it sound so natural that it is absolutely absurd how this band hasn't won a Grammy yet, because this is just fantastic.

Obviously at this point we are getting beaten down by some insane melodies, so it was nice to hear Still. Have you ever wondered what the band would sound like if they made a beach album? Well look no further than this song. It is the most tropical and summer feeling song the band has made. Obviously they do like to sprinkle in some craziness, especially towards the middle, but for the most part this is a calm and soothing ride that gives me some nice and cool vibes throughout it, which I enjoy quite a bit.

The next song is an interlude called Half Time. I think this is a good time to reflect on the album so far, and I gotta say, this definitely is one of the best releases of 2022 so far. Right at this moment I feel no shame in saying that I have no complaints right now for this album. While some albums definitely were great but had a few issues, this one feels perfect by just how it is, and so far it isn't even the longest album, but that's basically ok since these songs are good enough in my opinion that saying they should be longer undermines them profusely. Heck I think they are perfectly fine where they sit at the moment. At this halfway point, I cannot wait for the next song already.

Next is The Race Is About To Begin, and wow is it a race. It is so fast and wild and it just gets faster to where you can just feel the band getting exhausted just playing it until it all crashes and becomes a light acoustic ballad towards the end. This song is actually interesting since it is essentially telling a story about something that is more normal, and that is someone betting on a horse race and then losing said bet. It definitely feels like a song you'd hear when you have something to lose. It's so wild that after hearing it, I paused the album to really process it. It's like getting into a car crash with your body paralyzed in shock before it all comes crashing back and hitting you like a sledgehammer. It is a rollercoaster of a song, but less of a DisneyLand one and more of something you'd see in a Six Flags built by a psychopathic man who is too deranged to see his own reality, which I think perfectly describes this band as a whole really.

Next up is a sorta ballad-ish song called Dangerous Liaisons. This song is about a farmer who gets tricked by the devil posing as a member of the mafia to kill someone. It starts off pretty quietly and almost somber like, but when the farmer realizes that the man who tricked him was actually the prince of darkness, everything just spirals out of control, musically and lyrically. It feels like you get punched in the gut with dread as the horns blare and everything starts to feel mangled and twisted. All I can say is that you shouldn't trust the mafia, they might be some red guy with a pitchfork.

This is surprisingly the most normal song on the album, a lot less weird and more straight forward. This is also the shortest track on the album so I guess they were going for something a bit more tension breaking than something overly chaotic, which I like. The song is about a pimp with a god complex who realizes that he is going to hell and his girls aren't. Gotta love those songs with nice melodies and a good setup that has some dark lyricism, and one that really shows how much an ego can get you. Another nice work as usual.

And now the last song, 27 Questions. black midi is sort of a modern day King Crimson in a lot of aspects, heck they even made a cover of 21st Century Schizoid Man. This song is basically a tribute to the ever so stunning crimson kings with a story about a man named Freddy Frost who can be portrayed as King Crimson as a whole, something so old that life doesn't touch it, yet still extremely modern that even death may never reach it due to the internet and also because of a certain manga that is pretty popular. Also if you are wondering, yes there are 27 questions and I have no idea how to answer them. Like yeah the sun will burn out one day but how am I supposed to answer 'Intangibly dressed, invisibly seamed?' Like what? This is why I love this band, they make the best music around and stories but also pull stuff like this that really shows you that they truly are having a great time.

This is a strong contender for the best album this year due to how good it is. Super jazzy, weird, and just all around a must listen for basically any music fan. It isn't overly long and it is a perfectly sizable amount of songs to work your way through. A certified INSTANT hood classic.

Review by LearsFool
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Shots in the back. Stalkers on shore leave. Farmers driven to murder. An equestrian gambler on the edge of brimstone. All these questionable characters and more, all stewing in Hades, can be gawked upon on the latest Black Midi record. The ever eclectic, intricate, and brash Windmill aligned band have outdone themselves on Hellfire, an apotheosis for their music thus far and an entertaining plunge into the depths of depravity.

The heart of the record is in the lurid lyrics, which develop a mythology between the three releases the group have yet dropped. Both guitarist Geordie Greep and bassist Cameron Picton spin tales at the very cutting edge of their abilities, truly engrossing and nightmarish. In particular, "Sugar/Tzu" is a futuristic boxing match silenced by a minor's gunshot, perhaps some of fighter Sun Tzu's dirty pool. "Eat Men Eat" describes the fate of the mine from Cavalcade's "Diamond Stuff", controlled by a homophobe who seeks to cannibalize cowboys and curses the survivors to a Kentucky-fried Montezuma's revenge. "Welcome To Hell" is, in and of itself, the tale of an officer evangelizing about the vile fun of shore leave before turning on an underling of tight morals. This cut's music video - as great as the others associated with Hellfire - expands this swashbuckling into the world of the masterful "Slow". The delivery of these stories are heightened by continued growth in each vocalist's respective style and abilities, with Greep's crooning in particular standing out as it twists and contorts around the damned.

Matching this are the complex, vanguardist instrumentals. The band has synthesized elements from their preceding albums into a cohesive whole, and from there exploded into new frontiers and whiplash dynamics. The likes of "Sugar/Tzu", "Welcome To Hell", and "The Race Is About To Begin" deliver on the heaviest, most mathematic side of BM, heightened by their ever expanding eclecticism and sidewinding that reminds the listener of a roller coaster. "Welcome To Hell" adds to the group's jazz leanings with a cornettist blasting alongside saxophonist Kaidi Akinnibi. In contrast, both the country-western leanings flashed on Schlagenheim and the softest faces of Cavalcade are refracted elsewhere. Both the galloping, neurotic "Eat Men Eat" and the beautiful "Still" develop the former in radically different directions. Later, the home stretch cuts "The Defence" and "27 Questions" recontextualize the latter through the LP's dark cabaret.

Part of the majesty of Hellfire for me comes from having experienced most of these tracks live both before and after the release of their studio versions. The evolution and reinterpretation of Black Midi's repertoire - and particularly this fiery LP's cuts - is a key part of their style and composition, which for Hellfire creates a fractal soundscape unlike any other. Volcanic gallops have given way to intricate pieces almost impossible to describe. And so the result is assuredly one of the best records of the decade, born of literal blood, sweat, and tears on club floors and forming into one of the new frontiers of prog music.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Prog's energetic young lovers of literature and music history are back with another mind-blowing entertainment offering--this one, remarkably, pushing beyond the limits of imagination that they had shredded and blown to pieces with 2021's Cavalcade.

1. "Hellfire" (1:24) an intense musical (vaudevillean) encapsulation of the essence of James Joyce's Odyssey. Wow! What an intense opening! (5/5)

2. "Sugar/Tzu" (3:51) a song that definitely puts on display how serious these musicians are committed to producing really top notch, complicated music. All musicians really impress, especially Morgan Simpson--but their precision teamwork! The odd story about a boxing match somewhere in the future (2063) as observed by a midget who would then become Sun Sugar's murderer is obviously a slam about the tabloid industry as well as a satire on all that our entertainment industry gives attention to. (9.5/10)

3. "Eat Men Eat" (3:08) musical cabaret with interestingly intimate vocal delivery (uncredited but I know it's Cameron). Turns George Harrison-like in the second half of the second minute. It's so hard to find fault with this amazing music! (9.75/10)

4. "Welcome to Hell" (4:10) a little punk, a little electronica, a little King Crimson, all serving to buoy Geordie's uniquely provocative and adroit delivery of his shrewdly intelligent lyrics. A little dry and monotonous in studio, this one comes to life on stage. (8.5/10)

5. "Still" (5:46) Cameron's turn again. Singing in a gentle voice over some Country&Western styled music. As we move deeper into the song, its style becomes more akin to the old-time saloon music of the Wild West. Sax, trumpet, and upright piano give it such a shift. At 2:57 the music crescendos cacophanously before clearing out for a lone acoustic guitar. Cameron picks up his singing with a little more feeling of the forlorn as vibes, strings, flutes, bird noises and other computer keyboard generated noises fill in the background for the song's long decay. Interesting. Quick beautiful in a genre-bending, time-warping way. (9/10) 6. "Half Time" (0:26) channel surfing on an old radio. Radio Rahib!

7. "The Race Is About to Begin" (7:15) So many musics! So many styles! So many tempo changes! So many clever lyrics with so many delivery styles! And then to end it all with that crooner's delivery for the final 2:50! Astounding! (14/15)

8. "Dangerous Liaisons" (4:15) gently picked electric guitar, jazz piano, jazz drumming, bassa nova bass, smooth sax accents, bowed electric guitar, and Geordie's theatric telling of a 1950s-like murder story. Seth Evan shines again with his dextrous piano play. Great story and delivery but not the most engaging music--and not very proggy (or even jazz-rock fusiony). More like retro 1950s vocal jazz with an entirely in-your-face graphic 21st Century story told over it. (8.75/10)

9. "The Defence" (2:59) thought this one starts out sounding like something off of Roddy Frame's Aztec Camers's High Land, Hard Rain from 1983) "The Bugle Sounds Again"), it becomes more something that sounds like a big band Sinatra-esque song from 70 years ago. What a lyrical message! Astounding song! Time-bending! (9.75/10)

10. "27 Questions" (5:44) time-disjointed play on some 1940s-style European music over which Geordie narrates yet another window scene of history (1943). Extraordinary work on the piano from keyboard player Seth Evan (the hardest working keyboard artist I've ever seen on a rock concert stage). In the fourth minute, the music convenes into something more stylistically resemblant to the Parisian cabaret scene of the 1940s. But then things go full in- your-face for the final 30 seconds. I feel as if Geordie is performing a finale for us, his audience, after a night-long cabaret. Extraordinary execution of a mind-numbingly complex composition but, sadly, not necessarily my favorite (as much as I like the subject matter and cabaret styles manipulated here). (8.75/10)

Total Time 38:58

The speed with which this band blends a myriad of musical styles is astounding. To have this kind of vision, collectively, mixed with the adaptability and skill of the musicians as both individuals and a collective to execute these compositions is even more astonishing. Not even Belew-era 1980s King Crimson, Pascale Son-era Cos, Samla/Zamla Mammas Manna, Cardiacs, Farmers Market, Humble Grumble, or Abel Gilbert's Factor Burzaco have produced musics like this.

The flow of this album--and of its stories being told--remind me more of a thematic cabaret or dinner theater performance--only with supremely talented/gifted musicians providing the music behind the story presentations. The infusion of some cabaret jazz and Country Western sounds/elements shows an interesting evolutionary path for these modern day Renaissance men.

A-/five stars; while I do not feel as engaged or attached to this album as I did to 2021's Cavalcade, I do think it a work of artistic genius whose peers or equals are few and far between. Definitely a minor masterpiece of highly adventurous and supremely impressive music. The question cannot be avoided: How proggy is this? (Answer: minimally.) But it is unquestionably progressive rock!

Review by siLLy puPPy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
4 stars Considered the modern saviors of modern avant-prog by many, BLACK MIDI has certainly set the world on fire with its last album "Cavalcade" which was greeted with critical acclaim finding music reviewers and even indie rockers frothing at the mouth to get their fix. And rightfully so, the album truly was a masterwork that skillfully mixed various sensibilities of progressive rock, jazz-fusion, math rock, avant-prog and experimental weirdness. Even i joined the crowds and gave the album a whopping 5 stars as i myself gushed with glee at prog's latest superstars that traversed the line between classic prog excesses and modern day indie rock brazen bravado. The band led by vocalist / guitarist Geordie Greep didn't spend any time bathing in its newfound success but rather kept the momentum going by working on what comes next. What came next was the next chapter of the BLACK MIDI world.

That next chapter would begin with 2022's HELLFIRE, an album of only ten tracks that sticks to a classic vinyl album's time of just under 39 minutes, a wise move as some bands get cocky following a hit record and perform the career-killing deed of releasing a double album's worth of material. Despite having only formed in 2017 in the greater London region of the UK, BLACK MIDI has already released three fully developed albums and a huge number of EPs and live releases. That indeed is intelligent marketing as bands fall out of fashion as quickly as they emerge in the volatile modern world of the music biz. Thankfully BLACK MIDI hasn't gone the route of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard which unleashed a whopping five albums during the same calendar year as 2022. Not overwhelming the fans is a great strategy as well.

Notably different than previous works, HELLFIRE eschews the excesses of post-punk and tributes to the angularities of King Crimson scattered on the previous works, "Schlagenheim" and "Cavalcade" and rather looks to the lush orchestrations that swept across "Calvalcade" and smoothed things out even further in that direction. A noticeably less jagged little pill to swallow for many, HELLFIRE does indeed drift into a more accessible albeit far from commercial musical experience. Steeped with influences from jazz-rock, art pop and even Vaudville theatrics, HELLFIRE is indeed a larger than life production with the three main members of Geordie Greep, Cameron Picton and Morgan Simpson playing an unthinkable number of various instruments along with well over a dozen guest musicians and vocalists.

With the King Crimson and math rock focus out of the way, BLACK MIDI joins the ranks of Fred Frith, Mr Bungle, Secret Chiefs 3 and other similarly minded bands as it wends and winds its way through various musical genres ranging from cabaret, country, flamenco and show tunes while it still implements its razor-sharp avant-prog math rock laced prog for key moments. Greep has taken on the role of crazed carnival barker for much of the album but still finds himself in crooner's territory but for the most part this is an art rock album laced with indie rock leanings that happens to incorporate all the aforementioned genres. One of the primary influences is the world of Vaudville, a popular mid-19th century theatrical style of musical performances that remained en vogue well into the 1930s. This is the aspect of the album that drops this album down a few notches in my world but i seem to be the minority regarding this as its seems many more are loving this album much more than the previous "Cavalcade."

Despite my apprehension and repulsion by the overall and overused Vaudville aspects especially on over drenched tracks like "Dangerous Liaisons," there's no denying that HELLFIRE is a quality release that dances circles around where most music dares tread these days. This is an album of unthinkable precision that will allow you to dive in and sample various aspects time and time again without ever really catching all the details. Mixing reckless chaotic moments with tender earnest moments of tenderness, the band seems to have found a balance that was tilted in the more chaotic world on previous works. For my ears this sounds a little sappy at times, even cheesy as if BLACK MIDI was resurrecting the spirit of vocal pop legends like Engelbert Humperdinck. I have to admit that i did not like this it all with a single listening experience but it has grown on me to the point i recognize its brilliance, still though i long for the days of "Cavalcade," as i sense the band has gone in a direction that i am loath to follow.

Review by DangHeck
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Post-Punk Appearances Dismissed; Avant-Prog Crooners Ponder Eternal Fire

With my 'The List' getting way out of hand for far too long, it's no surprise I'm getting to the latest by UK's Black Midi nearly a year later (I have no real devotions leading me to prioritize one band over another, so I am indeed a fake fan haha). Following the release of their EP Cavalcovers, from a few months before in March '22, their third LP, Hellfire, was released to fairly positive criticism [and I can now see why], and it's certainly the hottest thing in their main discography according to our fellows here at PA. And can we give it up for a Prog band outputting a 10-song, 39-minute album?! Likewise, impressed to see the credits so filled out, so to speak; haven't seen this much individual involvement since Gentle Giant's potential magnum opus (my favorite) Acquiring the Taste (1971); even GG is outdone here. Regardless of how long it's been, I am absolutely stoked to jump on in.

Title track "Hellfire" starts off the record with Euro quirk. Geordie Greep delivers a truly crazed monologue-come-rap over the darkest Cabaresque accompaniment (somewhat circus-faire). This is truly a striking and remarkable opener. Acting as stark juxtaposition to the soft, jazz croon of "Sugar/Tzu"'s intro. The mix opens up and the pace is quickened; we're in for a treat, are we? I'm beaming. The rhythmic cacophony of the post-verse is unbelievably tense: no surprises yet, but ever-delighted by what Black Midi bring to the table. Collective genius, in my humble opinion. From the lightest quiet to hyper-focused [or chaotic] drama, this is a killer. Without skipping a single beat, "Eat Men Eat" begins with a sort of Latin-inspired drive, as Cameron Picton sings in (briefly) soft singer-songwriter tone. The strums and plucks of acoustic-classical guitar are delish, all while percussion thrusts us all forward. After a harsh crescendo, the middle of this Picton-led number reveals a psychedelic oasis, only to fall apart under the weight of increasing tension [Was it all just a mirage?]. I love the theme here. Lyrically, an Odyssey-like surrender to comforts and earthly delights which only result in an awful, unrelenting, infernal despair. The excited, inflammatory diatribe of a 'drunken captain' takes all the attention away, a curse of curses on 'Company A'. Wonderful, wonderful. Eclectic Prog recontextualized for Indie Rock? Not quite that simple.

Greep takes back the helm for a funnily upbeat number, "Welcome To Hell". Stylistically speaking, it made me think of New Wave and Funk Rock (many sections are very much reminiscent of Primus). Drummer extraordinaire Morgan Simpson in great part gives this track a great, danceable lilt; he even has a drum solo in the second minute(!). This reasonably 4-minute tune is dramatic and epic. All forms, styles and affects are confidently theirs [Y'all like Showtunes?]. Picton takes up the mic once more on the shockingly sweet "Still", a Country-Folk ballad(?), replete with (in order of their credits listing) accordion, lap steel, whip, harmonica, resonator guitar (what I thought was banjo, I guess), tambourine, handclaps, and violin. Handsome, bucolic, classic and randomly (still) British. And then right about 2:00, we get a brief rhythmic shift which is so modern [and relatively foreign territory for BM]. Their sudden shifts, consistent since their beginning, are so ear-catching and awe-inspiring. Really beautiful stuff in the third minute, softened with a Rhodes and an orchestral backing. Dare I say, this ending passage sounded to me like Star Wars. Like "Leia's Theme" could have begun there and I wouldn't have been surprised at all haha.

Interluding briefly as possible is "Half Time", a charming rapid-radio-tuning to a DJ's intro--with Radio Raheem referenced, from Do The Right Thing--for the next, "The Race Is About To Begin". We are alluded to Jazz, but moreso Traditional Pop and specifically Tin Pan Alley. Greep gives us more impassioned monologuing, honestly one of the things he's very good at, at least at face-value. The first thing I really think of here is, for lack of a better word, speed. Everything [in the first half] is hurried, balls-to-the-wall. Regardless, in a very classic sort of way, another epic number, simultaneously exploring different styles and dynamics as it morphs. Up next is "Dangerous Liaisons", the first track to not really be intrinsically tied to what came prior. Even so, nothing is out of place here. A much jazzier number, the waltzing music really flows with Geordie's poetic delivery of what seems like a deal with the Devil. This one light-Fusion Trad Pop?... Who cares? Beautiful stuff. Best time as ever to praise the saxophone on the album, here a tenor, throughout performed by Kaidi Akinnibi. Akinnibi has featured on Black Midi since Cavalcade, and apparently performs regularly with them live.

Continuing in this very old-school fashion, "The Defence" just swept me off my feet; I'm trying desperately to lower my brow haha. And this was only made more difficult by the lyrics. From what I can tell, this is pro-sex work(?), and I frankly have no other comments at this current time [Seriously, though, the lyrics throughout have been spectacular storytelling]. On second thought, though, I believe this is a Tony Bennett cover /s. Regardless, for the Trad Pop stylings throughout, this will surely polarize a few. The Eclectic Progging continues most assuredly soon enough, I assure you, on the dark finale, "27 Questions" [Is that the British version of the classic Questions game?... /s]. Come on everybody! It's Bang On The 88s Day! This manic state doesn't last, and we close out with a ridiculous, at-all-times rhetorical recitation of these 27 Questions. What we do love is actually tasteful materialism displayed in Prog. And I mean that haha. Thankfully, our song and our album end in a most disturbed manner. Praise be.

Hope y'all enjoy! Love this band. They never cease to impress and inspire.

After some internal deliberation, a rounded-up True Rate of 4.5/5.0. Their best yet.

Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars black midi's musical evolution continues on Hellfire, a brutal prog trip through territory you might have previously glimpsed in the jazzier sections of Mr. Bungle's Disco Volante but which black midi have certainly claimed as their very own. With a dramatic, almost theatrical flair, it might even be a concept album, though you'd need to spend a good long time simmering in its murky depths to navigate what's going on here. Greep, Picton, and Simpson have really come into their own as composers and multi-insturmentalists; imagine three Mike Oldfields unleashed on a studio with full access to all the instruments they want to use and a big dose of PCP to get things hopping and you might end up in similar turf.
Review by rdtprog
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Heavy, RPI, Symph, JR/F Canterbury Teams
4 stars The title of that album tells you a bit of what to expect here, but it's not an album by a metal band, but by an avant-prog band that can incorporate in their own style music that it's not totally Prog. First, the vocalist can go on a frenetic pace with a voice that is sometimes between singing and talking. At other times he lowers his voice sounding almost like a crooner. One thing is sure, this band enjoys playing Jazz music with plenty of instrumentation. There is a Zappa influence in some songs that are obvious. Also, some short and heavy sections are integrated into their music which gives another dimension to their music. Also, those elements work well, especially the cool "Welcome to Hell" track that is easy to get hooked on. There is a sound coming from a big band orchestra with some busy drumming and a heavier passage. The singer can get loose by speeding up his pace so much that the musicians have trouble catching up. Some listeners could find that there is a bit of too much jazz at the end of that album, but I can only give credit to this band just for the way they craft their songs in a unique and a bit insane style that makes this album an enjoyable experience.
Review by A Crimson Mellotron
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Is black midi's 'Hellfire' the best that 2022 had to offer? To put it plainly I will quote an online reviewer of the album whose words just resonated with me the most, and do in fact sum up my personal experience with the band's third studio offering: I had never felt so equally impressed and disgusted before in my life. Full stop. Hardly have any vocals sounded so corny and uncomfortable, since the days of the glorious Canterbury Scene. But there is an overarching trend that goes throughout the albums offered by the bands of the Windmill Scene - they become increasingly unlistenable.

'Hellfire' is a cavalcade of sounds (pun intended) that bombards the unprepared listener with an instrumental menace, topped by the hardly distinguishable lyrics, sang in a pretentious manner, often through spoken word. Despite the interesting and adventurous flamenco and jazz influences, the band intentionally and successfully blurs the line between music and noise. The playing is impressive by all means, but when an album becomes more painful than pleasurable to listen to, then this is a bad sign. Apart from this, 'Hellfire' is so emotionally shallow that one could hardly feel connected to any part of it, generally lost among the bull[&*!#] stories or the chaotic instrumental sections. I am generally confused by the record. Mostly messy.

Latest members reviews

5 stars black midi is one of the most original sounding prog acts to come out in the past few years, while I love prog and modern prog I can't disagree when people say they don't like modern prog such as Wobbler or Steven Wilson for they just emulate the sound of the 70s I personally don't mind it howe ... (read more)

Report this review (#2933663) | Posted by Captain Midnight | Thursday, June 15, 2023 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Last year, black midi made a fairly big shift in their sound. They moved away from the post-punk sounds of their debut and insteadá dove headlong into progressive and avant-garde rock. Cavalcade is a fantastic record that brims with anxious energy, and Hellfire feels like a natural evolution.á Th ... (read more)

Report this review (#2904574) | Posted by TheEliteExtremophile | Tuesday, April 4, 2023 | Review Permanlink

4 stars 4th January: Black Midi - Hellfire (avant-prog, 2022) I feel like I like the idea of Black Midi much more than I actually like their music. There's something utterly brilliant about a band starting off as the height of trend and fashion as a total trojan horse for becoming a completely unasha ... (read more)

Report this review (#2873076) | Posted by Gallifrey | Thursday, January 5, 2023 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Hellfire is the natural continuation of the cavalcade aesthetic, and which seeks, according to the band, to reconcile high-fidelity jazz recordings that were made in a single room (eg Keith Jarrett), with the chaos of Frank Zappa. We could also add the repetitive madness of punk, certain touches ... (read more)

Report this review (#2845159) | Posted by JohnProg | Monday, October 10, 2022 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Black midi made the record of the year for me! Well, until now as we are halfway through 2022. What a blend of musical styles this is. And what virtuosity and confidence. Geordie Greep reminds me of a twisted Frank Sinatra. He sings with a similar flair and that legato-style. Especially the song ... (read more)

Report this review (#2778371) | Posted by WJA-K | Thursday, July 21, 2022 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Echoes of a distant scenario, that of Dante and its miseries, the hells of the early renaissance seem like a nightmare of the present. And at these gates of hell, I see the dichotomies of present tense, global pandemic and the rise of new ways of fascism and authoritarism all around the world, hellf ... (read more)

Report this review (#2777219) | Posted by santisoux | Friday, July 15, 2022 | Review Permanlink

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