Louder than Sound describes Wilderness of Mirrors as “the perfect soundtrack for the end of the world,” which is ironic, seeing as Alex Maas seems to take every opportunity possible to get all lovey-dovey with the kind of nauseating lack of self-consciousness only a Southern good-ol’-boy could probably muster. They claim that the world has fallen apart since the last Angels release, Death Song, apparently forgetting that a failing casino tycoon who emaciated the ACA and disrespected mentally challenged reporters had already taken the Oval Office.
Also, the Angels sound pretty much the exact same as they did on Passover (2006), which is certainly a pitfall of this new project. On Death Song (2017), at least, Maas seemed to sing with purpose, with distinct subject matter in mind, as on the capitalism-chafing opener “Currency.” The baths of reverb and spooky sneer of Maas’ voice still seemed fresh and unfurling, whereas on Wilderness of Mirrors, this shtick just seems like a hopeless rehash, a toothless attempt at stirring up artistic merit out of extant and stale, rather than uncharted and exciting, waters.
The instrumentation and even the downright SOUND are pretty much the exact same as on Death Song as we approach Wilderness of Mirrors, this album even opening with a deliberately paced song and then speeding things up for the second track, exactly as Death Song did. “Empires Falling” finds Maas assuming this weird falsetto croon which just smacks of contrivance (somewhere around the time they started singing about the Vietnam War, I suppose, I should have perhaps begun to doubt this band’s emotional authenticity), and the cheap, two-bit guitar solo is like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club cheapened into a 15-second swatch of Guitar Hero. The Black Angels have really nothing to say, in 2022, but they want to make another great Black Angels album, clearly, which is why they’ve created a clone of Death Song, one siphoned of all feeling and urgency, giving way to pointless fan-fare and faux-art-rock back patting.
“El Jardin” finds guitarist Nate Ryan at least unleashing this echo chamber effect that’s pretty amusing. Maas, though, fails vocally to capitalize on it, content to dispatch lazily and vaguely about some casual love interest and sundry metaphoric, fake-symbolic drivel. The band is unable to take the sonic innovation (minute as it might be) and run with it into any new territory. And maybe it’s the curse of My Morning Jacket updated for metal — too much comfort from success in the American South. Anytime a metalhead won’t shut up about girls, I figures, that’s a pretty bad thing.
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