HEALTH – ‘Death Magic’

Los Angeles electro-punks' first album in six years mashes genres triumphantly

I don’t know what I want / I know that I don’t know what I want”, chants Health singer Jake Duzsik on ‘Life’, the seventh track on the cult Los Angeles electro-punks’ third album. His lyrics reflect what’s been an uncertain period for the quartet. In the six years that have passed since the release of their last album ‘Get Color’, Health’s only major endeavour has been the recording of a largely ambient soundtrack to Max Payne 3, an ultraviolent video game that has sold over four million copies since 2012. The band felt the pressure of the expanded audience, re-recording ‘Death Magic’ four times.

The result is as brilliant as it is surprising. ‘Get Color’ and its self-titled predecessor were lo-fi and defiantly tuneless, but ‘Death Magic’ throws catchy hooks into the mix. At times it appears these punks have gone pop, though it’s telling that ‘Death Magic’’s prettiest song, the mid-paced, notably sleek ‘Life’, is followed by its most abrasive – the punishing instrumental blast of ‘Salvia’, which is studded with a relentless kick-drum beat that recalls the spirit ‘Crimewave’, the brooding 8-bit digital monster they made with Crystal Castles in 2007.

Elsewhere though, Health focus on freshness. Almost every song bursts with new ideas, from the swathes of synth that slosh around ‘Flesh World (UK)’ to the subtle house bassline that throbs through ‘L.A. Looks’, the record’s second most accessible track. Fusing elements of EDM (the staccato, electro squall of lead single ‘New Coke’) and their trademark industrial (the crushing slabs of white noise that smother Duzsik’s wispy vocals on ‘Men Today’) with pop choruses, the album mashes genres together triumphantly.

Only the plodding ballad ‘Hurt Yourself’ fails to earn its place on the track list, and on the whole ‘Death Magic’ makes a grander statement than its more rudimentary predecessors. It sounds like Health finally know what they want.

Jordan Bassett