Among the bands vying for MVP status at South By Southwest this past March was Austin's own Black Angels, performing six shows over the course of four days, including one memorable gig where Brian Jonestown Massacre guru Anton Newcombe jumped onstage. Each time out, the group's heavy-duty fuzz-drone assault proved primally thrilling, and you'll get that same thrill from Passover, which comes on the heels of a pair of 2005 EPs. The influence of Spacemen 3 is heard on several tracks, notably the woozy, opiated twang of "Better Off Alone" and the interstellar overdrive of "The Prodigal Sun." The latter actually recalls the Spacemen's take on classic Texas psych, e.g. Red Krayola and 13th Floor Elevators, which if you think about it brings things around full circle. Speaking of which, "The First Vietnamese War" has a paranoidal 13th Floor Elevators vibe, right down to the compressed '60s-styled production. And the 11-minute closing track, "Call To Arms," bears an unmistakable Velvet Underground imprint, including a "Heroin"-like guitar pattern from guitarist Christian Bland and a Moe Tuckerish martial percussion motif courtesy drummer Stephanie Bailey. With vocalist Alex Maas groaning into the mic with a visceral, apocalyptic dread war, blood, anomie and imperialism being favorite lyric themes the ghost of Altamont slowly rises like a death star in the Black Angels' sound. While the group gets docked for the name we've already seen Black Angel, Sweet Black Angel, Black Angel's Death Song and rapper Dave the Black Angel (!) Passover is the psychedelic album of the year.
Fred Mills writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].