Artist: Blaqk Audio
CD title: Bright Black Heaven
Label: Superball Music
If you had told me that I would be enjoying a dance pop album from AFI's Davey Havok, I would have looked at you like you were insane before wandering off ranting about how a VNV Remix of “Miss Murder” does not make for a promising electro band. Then after hearing Blaqk Audio's debut album, CexCells, I would have turned back around and apologized for being so closed minded. CexCells was one of those albums that took me by surprise back in 2007. It proved that Jade Puget and Davey Havok (of AFI fame) could transition into a completely different musical genre and not sound like a knock off of their main project. Of course as soon as the hype surrounding CexCells died down, many fans were left wondering if this was just a one-shot wonder or if there would be more Blaqk Audio?
Last year saw the answer to that question with the release of Bright Black Heaven, five years after their debut release. The reason for the long delay was due to Havok and Puget focusing on producing a new AFI album, but continuing to write new Blaqk Audio material. Bright Black Heaven is not a retread of their previous success, but a surprising evolution of sound for the project. I've noted before how most synthpop bands will revise or evolve their sound after three or so releases. I saw this a lot with bands like Icon of Coil, Apoptygma Berzerk, and Covenant. Every three albums or so, they would change some dynamic of their core sound which was always hit or miss with most fans. Blaqk Audio has bypassed this entirely by delivering an album that is a lot lighter and more pop driven than the Synth/EBM tracks on CexCells. They went from being like VNV Nation to being more like Erasure.
There is a definite 80's synthpop feel to the album with tracks like "Everybody's Friends", "With Your Arms Around Me", and "Cold War". Havok's voice sails over Puget's pianos and synths. The beats are fast-paced and dancy but not over powering. I was also a big fan of the vocal harmonies on "Cold War". Bright Black Heaven does have the darker modern synthpop sounds that the first album was famous for. If you liked "Stiff Kittens", then you will love "Let's Be Honest" and "The Witness". The band also injects some drum n bass elements in songs like "Say Red" and "Bite Your Tongue", but be aware that these are just elements of drum n bass. The songs maintain the manic pop vibe the rest of the album contains. One other thing to point out about this album. It is hyper. There are only two slow songs on the whole album, "Ill-Lit Ships" and "Bliss".
While the album has been out for awhile, I still find myself going back and listening to Bright Black Heaven a lot. Like its predecessor, it is full of memorable synthpop gold. While I've had some struggle working the album into mixed sets, I still love how full of potential these songs are as dancefloor fillers. I cannot recommend this album highly enough. Do not mistake Blaqk Audio as AFI with oontz. You will find that you're very very wrong about that.
Here's hoping we don't have to wait another 5 years for another album as great as this.
Take a Listen to - Bliss
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Jason "DJ Kantrip" Calhoun
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