The Black Angels - Wilderness of Mirrors (Partisan Records)
Credit: Pooneh Ghana

The Black Angels – Wilderness of Mirrors (Partisan Records)

The Black Angels formed in Austin, Texas in 2004, taking their name from the Velvet Undergrounds track ‘The Black Angels Death Song‘. A lot has happened since their inception eighteen years ago, and in fact its five years since their previous album release Death Song.

Their new album Wilderness of Mirrors is out on 16 September via Partisan and it is the sixth from the psych-rockers. More than two years were spent creating Wilderness of Mirrors which was of course moulded by a pandemic, political tumult and the ongoing devastation of the environment, providing ample material for the The Black Angels to pour into their music.

As vocalist/bassist Alex Maas states: “A big focal point of this record is just the overall insanity that’s happening. What’s true? What’s not?” Adds guitarist Christian Bland: “We leave our music open to interpretation, but our topics are always universal themes – problems mankind has had since the beginning of time. You can relate them to any period.”

Opener ‘Without a Trace‘ builds as if increasing the anticipation then its into blasts of fuzzed-out buzzing guitars and background howling vocals. The untamed energy of The Black Angels is evident from the very start. “Is it possible to be invincible when everyone else is expendable?”.

History of the Future‘ begins by ramping up those guitars and drums. The distorted vocals and chaotic soundscape reflecting the turmoil the world currently finds itself in. Current single ‘Empires Falling‘ picks up the pace with its thumping bassline. With current world events it appears strikingly relevant, but then as The Black Angels point out history tends to repeat itself. The band expands further: 
Empires Falling’ is a critical and reflective plea that examines humanity’s repetitive art of violent mass destruction. As we say in the chorus, “it’s history on repeat.”  We are living in a Wilderness Of Mirrors, where it’s hard to tell what’s right from wrong, up from down, or the truth from lies as we navigate through these times where the fate of humanity is being refracted and reflected from one state of panic to another. The world is a “bleeding animal” and we are left exhausted, polarized, and “pleading from street to bloody street.”  

There are surprises on Wilderness of Mirrors with ‘Firefly‘ being one example of a more experimental sound. It’s a ‘60s French pop homage’ which features the sultry intonations of Thievery Corporation’s LouLou Ghelichkani. “We don’t ever really bring people in to sing, but I thought it would be cool to have someone singing in French here – a back and forth, playful thing,” Maas says of ‘Firefly.’ It also gives the listener a chance to catch their breath, as this album is a substantial body of work at fifteen tracks, and these songs are not your two minute blasts but each is thought-provoking and dramatic. Hence time is required in order to develop the themes.

The Black Angels recorded this album in their hometown of Austin, for the first time in more than a decade. Bland admits that it allowed for a more creative process, there was less stress over time pressures and an opportunity to focus on the music. They looked inward, both personally and at their own musical development, and also externally at the surrounding chaos.

Is ‘Walk on the Outside’ a respectful nod to Lou Reed’s ‘Walk on the Wild Side‘? It’s a highlight of the album, taking the listener deep into the psyche-rock that this band are masters at. Its captivating and repeat listens only increase its emotional power. The lyrics “I’m your man” repeated towards the end again referencing Lou Reeds song ‘I’m Waiting For Your Man‘. Their love for those who came before is further expressed on ‘The River‘, namechecking Syd Barrett, Roky Erickson, Arthur Lee and the members of the Velvet Underground. Their concern for the environment is evident throughout this album. On ‘100 Flowers Of Paracusia’ they speak of “Reach into the great unknown / The stars will light before us.” Paracusia refers to impaired hearing, perhaps a reference to the powers that be being deaf to the needs of our planet.

The final word must be from the band themselves having produced this album full of depth, power, universal themes all enveloped in their glorious psychedelic blanket:
“The Velvet Underground song ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’ – that’s what every Black Angels album has been about. You can’t work out your struggles unless you bring them to the forefront and think about them. If we can all think about them, maybe we can help save ourselves.”

The Black Angels new album Wilderness of Mirrors is out on 16 September via Partisan Records.

For more information on the band please check out their facebook and their website.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.