HEALTH's sixth album, Disco 4:: Part II, provides the finale to their Disco 4 project. Cat Woods takes a look and listen to it and concludes that It is the natural evolution of their adventures in both original music and remixes, a band always striving to achieve a dark, aggressive, menacing sound, whatever style of genre they stray into on the way.
LA synth-guitar trio Health have defied genre pigeonholing since their self-titled debut album in 2007. Their influences, interests and identity have moulded their sound into a multi-tonal, dynamic palette. Whether it is their straight-up albums or remix work, their signature sound has encompassed darkwave, industrial, metal, grindcore and atmospheric synths.
Their sixth album, Disco 4:: Part II provides the finale to their Disco 4 project. It is the natural evolution of their adventures in both original music and remixes, always striving to achieve a dark, aggressive, menacing sound, whatever style of genre they stray into on the way.
Health//Disco in 2008 revelled in snarling, savage disco-industrial remixes care of Acid Girls, Crystal Castles, Pictureplane and C.L.A.W.S. Two years later, Health::Disco2 again showcased their punkish, synth-driven stylings on remixes featuring CFCF, Gold Panda, Salem, Pictureplane and Baron von Luxxury. Then, their remix albums went on hiatus until 2017, with the release of Disco3 the first remix album on Loma Vista.
Disco 4:: Part I broke their remix mould, in which each of the band's albums was accompanied by a corresponding album of remixes. This time, each of the tracks was an original collaboration, some of which had been years in the making. In all their resplendent diversity, Xiu Xiu, Soccer Mommy, 100 Gecs and JPEGMafia showed up and showed off on this apocalyptic rave party, just a smidgin under 40 minutes in total, traversing art-punk-dance and seething industrial bangers.
And now, Disco 4:: Part II.
The spectrum of stars they've gathered for this epic rave-up leaves no doubt that Health have hit the jackpot on collaborators. From Poppy to Nine Inch Nails, Lamb of God to EKKSTACY and Ho99o9, could such a sensational lineup deliver the full savage, sensory purgation we need post-pandemic?
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You bet it does.
The danger, in working with so many collaborators, is that the resulting album might have served up a smorgasbord of sounds that aim to please everyone, but lack cohesiveness. Indeed, how many Lamb of God fans are also Nine Inch Nails fans, and vice versa? And yet, Disco 4 Part II achieves what vocalist/guitarist Jake Duzsik, bassist John Famiglietti and drummer Benjamin Miller set out to do: it weaves a web of integrated metal-dance-synth textures while retaining their creative integrity.
Over 12 tracks, there's a mood shift from the melodic, sultry industrial throb of "Isn't Everyone" featuring the unmistakeable vocals and ghostly instrumental arrangements of Trent Reznor through the relentless, tidal smash of "Cold Blood" featuring Lamb Of God. In their promiscuous treatment of genre, Health's follow-up to Disco 4:: Part I reflects the reality of their listeners, as much as the band themselves. Listeners in 2022 are playlist junkies, remix-seeking, podcast-hunting, music media-savvy connoisseurs and curators. We listen to hip hop, rave, Afrobeat and thrash metal in the same week, if not the same day. Why shouldn't we embrace all these elements within the one band, as long as they can find a way to interpret the elements with integrity so that it is cohesive and authentic?
At the heart of Health's strategy is a thorough knowledge and appreciation for their collaborators. In that sense, it is a meeting of like minds, with the malleable mindset of push-pull, give-and-take until a song takes shape without the preconception of a template to fit. A lot of these songs required a commitment of time and conversation, beginning with the collaborator's idea and offering. Despite a couple of really violent, noise attacks epitomised by Ada Rook and Lamb of God’s collabs, the majority of the album rides an almost R’n’B wave of melodic, synth-industrial dance that sounds like a heavily caffeinated version of The xx. In the best way.
The ominous, reverb-drenched synth drama of "Dead Flowers" reveals a gothic romance between Duzsik's melancholic falsetto and Poppy's ethereal, hyper-feminine delivery. When her operatic soprano dissolves into a throaty, wrenching wail halfway in, it's cathartic: an unholy revelation.
It sets a high bar, which Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross sail over effortlessly. On “Isn’t Everyone?” Reznor's masterful mixing leaves the clean, metallic synths clear as crystal over the murky throb of percussion. His barely contained snarl recalls his fury at its fieriest since NIN's 2004 Downward Spiral. "We get the world we all deserve" Reznor and Duzsik harmonise. "Are you alone, are you alone?" implores a ghostly Duzsik. "Isn't everyone, isn't everyone?" he laments.
The cavernous gates of hell are thrown agape with "Murder Death Kill" (featuring Ada Rook and PlayThatBoyZai), a spitfire mashup of screamcore and melodic metal that shreds your ears and eyeballs with the strength of pure acid. "Bodies dropping, moshpits rockin" is the almost breathless rhyme of PlayThatBoiZay (Florida rapper Isaiah Loubeau), his smooth, bass tones a foil to Ada Rook's relentless violence.
Macabre metal riffs and the apocalyptic thunder of drums herald "Cold Blood". Lamb of God's Randy Blythe delivers a bloodthirsty growl bound to satiate headbangers who exist on a diet of Slipknot, Trivium and Mudvayne.
As a salve to the savagery, the latter half of the album takes a swerve into more rhythmic, gloomy-dance numbers.
The cold, thudding pulse of “Identity” features Milanese techno-industrial producer Maenad Veyl, the macabre, brass-flourished ballad “AD 1000” features The Body, “No Escape” (featuring The Neighbourhood) is as close to a pop punk ballad as Health might ever steer. It’s contagiously catchy, if just too generic for some palates.
Final number, and the only track without a collaborator, "These Days 2021" is a sombre heartbreak dressed in a dark disco beat, an atmospheric new wave number that recalls the bleak jangle of The Cure upon opening before seguing into a dark dance of romantic, dreamy synths and the desolate echo of Juzsik's reminder “these days are going nowhere, these days are going fast…these days are all we have.”
Whatever mood you find yourself in, Health’s sixth album is going to meet you where you are. Start at the beginning, or throw yourself in mid-way, or play the final two tracks on repeat until you’ve cried snotty tears all over your keyboard. Disco4:: Part II is the sonic equivalent of a late night, post-nightclub roadtrip with no map. Embrace all the unexpected discoveries under this veil of stars.
Disco4:: Part II (Loma Vista) released April 8th.
DISCO4 :: PART II
LOMA VISTA RECORDINGS
01. HEALTH x Poppy - “DEAD FLOWERS”
02. HEALTH x Nine Inch Nails - “ISN’T EVERYONE”
03. HEALTH x Ada Rook x PlayThatBoiZay - “MURDER DEATH KILL”
04. HEALTH x Maenad Veyl - “IDENTITY”
05. HEALTH x Lamb of God - “COLD BLOOD”
06. HEALTH x The Body - “AD 1000”
07. HEALTH x Backxwash x HO99O9 - “PAGAN-ICONZ”
08. HEALTH x Street Sects - “THE JOY OF SECT”
09. HEALTH x EKKSTACY - “STILL BREATHING”
10. HEALTH x The Neighbourhood - “NO ESCAPE”
11. HEALTH x Perturbator - “EXCESS”
12. HEALTH - “THESE DAYS 126.96.36.199.”