Angels Of Light We Are Him(Young God Records / Revolver) Buy it from Insound
Like some wicked fusion of preacher and devil; like a lost soul leading a band of nine-foot tall Frankensteins, Michael Gira's Angels Of Light return with their new We Are Him. Once again, Gira is backed by Akron/Family; together they chart a determined, frightening descent through personal hells and bleak travails. Opening track Black River Song begins the album like a waking nightmare: haunted piano, ghostly bells, and a guitar figure that sounds like it was run through an electric chair. Gira himself sounds positively possessed, howling, "Black river runs / beneath this ground / black river flows forever / but it makes no sound." The mission of the Angels Of Light may be to find that river and put it to music, and from start to finish, the instrumentation and production on We Are Him is immaculate; notes Michael Gira on the Young God Records website, "Despite Akron's valorous efforts and fine performances, things sounded thin and tentative to me, so I started calling my friends to help me flesh things out." All rise to perfect and glorious occasion throughout the album, never overpowering but pumping each song full of angry, yearning blood.
The second track, Promise Of Water, is a plaintive, beautiful dirge, and a necessary quiet before the oncoming storm. "Now they live in your head and they travel your veins / every word that you speak is a word they have made," sings Gira. His voice sounds almost unnaturally strong and sometimes otherworldly, as if every song is sung by a chorus of himself, angry heads of the same spirit. There is a fullness of sound that defines this record and, for all its torment, lends it a clear-eyed and often spiritual undertone. That said, We Are Him is a relentless, hour-long assault, and the sheer brutality of some of these tracks is bound to turn off a few listeners. My Brother's Man consists mostly of a zombie-like three-note guitar line and Gira's rising, dogmatic howls ("No god will never understand / I crush him in my brother's hand!"). Sometimes I Dream I'm Hurting You sounds for the first four minutes like the song of truly forlorn, depraved spirit, until it turns into a spectacular, riotous chase, sparkling with circus organs and a zealous call-and-response between Gira and his throng of followers.
Throughout, Gira tests and challenges the listener; those who stick with him will find that many of the more difficult tracks hide revelations at the end. Joseph's Song concludes with a rousing, half-way jubilant march of horns and Gira singing "There is no place to run from Joseph's truth / his hands are on your throat, but feeding you," as if it were something almost worth celebrating. Not Here/Not Now sounds better with every listen; its immaculate finale, with a chorus of "This is not here / this is not now," sounds wise and demented in equal parts.
Not everything here succeeds: Good Bye Mary Lou, with its metal/bluegrass guitar line and stock phrasing, feels tacked together; album closer Star Chaser wanders too long before it finds its soul. But to the end, the album is framed perfectly by Akron/Family's superior playing and the generally excellent musicianship of all involved; Gira sounds like he travels with a well-trained band of warriors.
And never is this tone clearer than on the title track, which begins in a fog of drone and distortion before exploding forth with a blues-guitar rift that could only have been learned from the devil himself. "Let him in!" they shout, "We're not scared!" Chanting "We are him!" over a fire of guitars: pure and blinding, an alter of white light and white heat. If you want to know what an "angel of light" would truly sound like, this is it.12 September, 2007 - 16:57 — Zach Green