The Black Angels spread their wings in Vail
VAIL When you get to track six on The Black Angels newest album, Directions To See A Ghost, its easy to imagine lead singer Alex Maas as a reincarnation of Jim Morrison a kind of modern-day musical prophet/shaman. Bang, bang your magic is here, white men and God are one? Make us feel like foreigners, devils under our own sun, Maas drones in the song Deer-Ree-Shee as pounding drums, fuzzy guitars and Rhishi Dhirs cosmic-sounding sitar steamroll the listener into a trance. Maas never breaks out into the self-aggrandizing vocal tantrums that Morrison did, but lyrically its easy to see the link.We freely admit to wearing our influences on our sleeves, Maas said during a recent phone interview.Which is why the cautious listener can hear traces of other psychedelic rock pioneers such as The Velvet Underground, 13th Floor Elevators and Jefferson Airplane in the music of The Black Angels.I dont think it would be fair to say that were completely, 100 percent derivative of all those bands … but its fair to say that were inspired by these people, Maas said.The Austin, Texas rockers will perform Tuesday night in Vail a town thats likely not accustomed to the level of intensity the Black Angels bring.I recognize the fact that its probably a big curve ball for the valley at this point, said Dick Dime, manager of the Sandbar. But, you know, its also a show that (when) most people see this band, theyre going to talk about it for days.
To Maas, Americas current situation is much like the volatile times that psychedelic rock emerged from in the 60s government corruption, social confusion, war so in essence The Black Angels neo-psychedelic music is a reflection of the times.When writing a song, Maas prefers to be vague and intangible, trusting that his audience is capable of forming their own thoughts and opinions about the music.Its better to have the listeners think for themselves, you know, and to kind of put that I dont know question out there and let people think for themselves and come up with their own meaning for everything. Obviously the true meaning will stand out to the majority of people, Maas said.The songs take shape through many different channels and almost no song is written the same way twice, Maas said.Theres no right way to eat a Reeses, Maas said in reference to the many paths to songwriting the band takes. But the lyrics usually come a lot easier than the melody and tone of the songs, according to Maas.You can always write about something thats important and needs to be said, he said.
But try composing the elaborate soundscapes found on Directions To See A Ghost and their previous albums and you have a bit of a challenge. Like those bands of the mid 60s when drug-fueled psychedelic rock was the height of cool in America and Britain The Black Angels bring an essence of higher consciousness and soul searching to modern music. Its music meant to take the listener inside the freedom associated with tripping and evoke images in the listeners mind. Much like the previous era of psychedelic rock, The Black Angels incorporate heavy metal, Southern blues and Eastern music into their potion as well as onstage visuals to create something vicious and urgent, emotional and groovy. A typical Black Angels song will build slowly with layers of instrumentation, peak much like an acid trip, then slowly let the listener out of its grasp. Like any other form of rock, the guitars, bass, organ and other instruments are important, but its Stephanie Baileys drums that drive most of their songs.You have this primitive, tribal drumbeat behind a song that just keeps the song moving like a train, Maas said. The days of free love and the social acceptance of psychedelic drugs may be gone for good, but the music that era spawned is obviously still relevant in these PC times. And good music is good music in any generation. Just like the classic songwriters in his genre, Maas knows that music is one of the best doorways into other realities.As an artist youre trying to connect with this mysterious thing thats happening to your world, and to yourself and life and everythings so crazy and confusing and weird … a lot of stuff I write about and that we draw feelings on is fear of the now and whats to come, Maas said.High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Black Angels are hardly the first psychedelic rock band in history. In fact their roots can be traced back to some of the most influential bands in rock history.The Beatles: Although they started out as a clean-cut pop group from England, The Beatles eventually became known for their songwriting prowess and experimental sound with such psychedelic wonders as Tomorrow Never Knows off 1966s Revolver and Within You, Without You from their follow up Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.Jefferson Airplane: Released in 1967, Surrealistic Pillow introduced the world to Grace Slick, whos soaring vocals helped make The White Rabbit a song about the relation between psychedelic drugs and Lewis Carrolls book Alices Adventures in Wonderland and Somebody to Love, two of the most memorable songs in rock history.The Velvet Underground: Lou Reed and his band of leather-clad hipsters brought the sleazy side of rock and roll into the mainstream with their 1967 psychedelic breakthrough album The Velvet Underground & Nico. This trippy album featured songs about drug deals (Waiting for the Man), drug addiction (Heroin) and the song from which The Black Angels pulled their name (The Black Angels Death Song).Brian Jonestown Massacre and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: These bands, two of the biggest names in the neo-psychedelic school of rock, paved the way for the Black Angels from the early 90s to the present.
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