The Black Angels are a rock n’ roll band, and that’s all there is to it. It’s rare to find a band with the capability of playing true vintage rock music, but the quintet from Austin, Texas delivered such with stunning ferocity. The Black Angels have been touring their new record, Phosphene Dream, on the Dropout Boogie Tour for the better part of the fall with fellow psychedelics Black Mountain.
Coming on 20 minutes late at the Paradise Rock Club Tuesday, The Black Angels filed onto a stage backed with a tapestry adorned with an optical illusion, and surrounded with strobe lights. Following up 2006’s Passover, and 2008’s Directions to See a Ghost, The Black Angels were out to prove that they could incorporate the tracks off of Phosphene Dream into their live show.
The band’s set, running for well over an hour, was mingled with songs both old and new, but the numbers they played from Phosphene Dream held up against the best songs from their previous two albums. “Telephone,” off of Phosphene Dream, was a high point of The Black Angel’s set.
While a lot of the band’s older material has a dark and sometimes even had a morose feel to it, “Telephone” has a distinct surf rock tone. Lead singer, Alex Maas, growled into a microphone heavy laden with echo effects for the entirety of the set, with an unmistakable likeness to the late Jim Morrison.
Toward the end of their set, the band launched into the title track off of their latest record, “Phosphene Dream.” This song may be one of the weaker ones on Phosphene Dream, but through their live show, the band turned the song into a veritable death march.
While The Black Angels proved they could make the songs from their latest record a successful part of the live show, they also gave their audience what they wanted, anything from 2006’s Passover.
When the band launched into “Manipulation,” the first song from Passover incorporated into their set, the crowd erupted in approval. The song’s intertwining vocals and eastern sounding guitar part were delivered with impeccable precision. The band did pause to banter with their audience in between songs, but their words were near incoherent as there was so much reverb on all of their microphones but no one in the crowd seemed to mind.
It was hard to find fault with the content of The Black Angel’s set, but also impressive was the versatility of the band. Throughout the course of their set, the four front men of the band took turns playing guitar, bass, and a variety of keyboard and synthesizers.
Armed with an arsenal of Richenbackers, Fenders and Hofners, the band achieved an authentically vintage sound that ranged from the aforementioned death march to pop oriented surf music.
The epitome of The Black Angels set was the final song they played, “Young Men Dead”, from Passover. The song climbed from a thumping drum and bass line to a screeching, yet melodic finish.
Following The Black Angels, Black Mountain took the stage to perform songs from their new album, Wilderness Heart. Black Mountain, a psychedelic rock band in the same style of The Black Angels, has an arguably heavier sound than the latter band. From the moment Black Mountain took the stage, it became evident that the backbone of the band was the rhythm section. The drum and bass were easily the most impressive part of the band’s set.
While the band’s set started out slowly as the band launched into “Rollercoaster,” from their latest record, the energy of the crowd escalated. The vigor with which Black Mountain was playing grew as their set went on, with most of the band feeding off the energy of the drums and bass.