Album review: ‘Hellfire’ black midi, 2022

The British Avant-prog trio takes the spot for the best album of 2022.



Hellfire brings home the title for 2022 with an album cover to match

COLE QUINN, Evergreen Sports Photographer

Score: 9.8/10

Out of all albums I listened to in 2022, two albums took the top spot for me. Black Country New Road’s “Ants From Up There” and black midi’s “Hellfire.”

Both bands come from the recent wave of the Windmill scene. The Windmill scene saw a rise in British post-punk bands that frequented performances at Windmill Brixton in London.

Throughout the entire year, I struggled to decide which release topped the other. While I adore both albums, one fits my taste a little bit more.

black midi released “Hellfire” in July of 2022 to widespread acclaim. The album saw a transition of the band’s overall sound from a combination of post-punk and noise rock to avant-garde jazz and genre-hopping.

The album reminds me of Ween, as each track seemingly transitions between genres. The track “Eat Men Eat” has a distinct flamenco influence while “Still” has a tropical vibe to it. What separates the album from Ween is the fact that the band adds influences on top of their base sound. Similar to Schroedinger’s cat, the tracks simultaneously sound similar yet different at the same time.

The album is more concrete and tightly knit together than previous black midi releases. Each track focuses on evil individuals and their backstories.

For example, the track “Sugar/Tzu” describes the story of a young child attending a boxing match in the far future. The kid shoots and kills boxer Sun Sugar, believing Sugar will be immortalized and made famous due to his violent actions.

The track “Welcome to Hell” depicts a captain instructing a PTSD-ridden soldier to commit physical and sexual atrocities. The captain then dives into an aggressive tirade, calling the soldier weak and a disappointment.

One of the main reasons this album is near perfect is because of its first half. The first four tracks are the closest to perfection rock music can hit. The track “Hellfire” sounds like the beginning of a Disney ride through Jeffrey Dahmer’s basement.

Vocalist Geordie Greep’s menacing accent adds more fuel to the mysteriousness of the track. A well-rounded introduction that hooks the listener immediately, making them eager to see what’s next.

The track “Sugar/Tzu” follows next, a frenzy of fast guitar and saxophone playing. Greep shreds his guitar at lightning speed on this track, tossing the listener into a blender of existentialism.

After the end of the last verse, the music suddenly drops and Greep plays a quick dissonant chord progression. Greep plays the riff one more time before the track explodes into loud saxophones and blistering drum work by Morgan Simpson. The first time I heard the coda I couldn’t believe what I was listening to.

The track immediately segues into “Eat Men Eat,” a song about an owner of a mine who poisons a gay couple with eternal stomach pain. The song has a flamenco vibe to it, bringing in acoustic guitars and lots of castanets.

The song sees bassist Cameron Picton take up vocals, who sounds more elegant and ethereal than Greep’s harsh accent. The song’s composition sounds calm at some points before falling into a more Phrygian sound.

The next track, “Welcome to Hell,” starts with a guitar riff similar to “John the Fisherman” by Primus. The track’s odd chromaticism is juxtaposed with Greep’s eerie narration.

The song eventually turns into a section I can only describe as “avant-thrash.”

The tempo suddenly picks up, Greep flails his arm across his strings and Simpson decides he is playing for Metallica all of a sudden. The track sounds like a deep dive into the horrors of war atrocities.

While all of the best tracks are at the immediate beginning of the album, that is not to say that the other tracks are solid. “The Race is About to Begin” is some of the most complex math rock I have lent my ears to and “27 Questions” is a great closer. Black midi only gets better after every release, which begs me to question if they will drop a perfect 10 on their next one. The band has truly cemented itself as the king of music in 2022.