This is one of the harder concert reviews I’ve penned in the past year. I’ve never been at such a loss of how to describe what it was I experienced while shooting.
HEALTH. Bone-shuddering bass. Pitch blackness punctuated by staccato strobes searing freeze-frame scenes in your brain. HEALTH. Intense darkwave/industrial club vibes with velvet-soft vocals crescendoing to a discordant shriek. HEALTH. Subtle melodies. Raging guitars. Do I have your attention now? Good.
Dubbed a noise rock band and hailing from Los Angeles, only one thing has stayed consistent about HEALTH’s sound since its inception and debut album in 2007: sound. There is a lot of it, by any measure: volume, variety, scale, ###. Forget genres. (Are they industrial? Punk? Electronica? Couldn’t peg them if you tried.) Mass market standards of singles and filler hold no sway here; HEALTH is the definition of sonic freedom. Their music will make you feel things—not all of them good—and in the current times, that is more than okay. It’s vital. Necessary.
HEALTH’s fourth album, VOL. 4 :: SLAVES OF FEAR, dropped this year. Written for and about the current climate of uncertainty, fear mongering, and air of willful ignorance permeating politics, religion, and society as a whole, it parallels modern events. At times there is so much sound, so much happening, that it’s almost suffocating. Yet also a raging catharsis.
HEALTH opened their show at Washington, D.C.’s Rock & Roll Hotel in darkness so pure that the EXIT signs over the doors were offensively bright. That darkness gave power to the punch of a single repeating bass beat drilling through the crowd, kicking off the set with the 2015 track “VICTIM.” From the first pulses of the bass the crowd was utterly transfixed, and there wasn’t lull for the entire 18-song set. Favorites of the night were all from VOL. 4 :: SLAVES OF FEAR, but peak power came with a trifecta of three songs played as one continuous auditory barrage: the driving rhythm of “THE MESSAGE” feeding into the slower, crushing bass of “FEEL NOTHING” before the final resolution of “STRANGE DAYS (1999).”
Life,a mystery Euphoria And misery We can’t go back Strange days slowing down Slowing down Slow it down […] Strange days slowing down You don’t worry now Worry now Where will you be when they come?
– “STRANGE DAYS (1999)” from VOL 4. :: SLAVES OF FEAR (2019)
HEALTH has a single UK date before embarking on the South American leg of a summer world tour hitting Argentina and Brazil before heading to Russia and Canada. If you’re lucky enough to catch them live, prepare yourself for anything … or everything. The music is a physical force like few things I’ve ever experienced live. These pictures, these words, can’t come close to doing it justice. Throw yourself into the moment. Live for it. HEALTH.