Black midi Delivers Punishing Dynamics & Edgy Prog On ‘Cavalcade’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

It’s hard to call anything progressive-rock these days. The term carries with it more baggage than just about any genre, evoking elaborate costumes, giant drum sets, and armadillo tanks. Even during its resurgence in the 90s, bands like The Mars Volta and Porcupine Tree pushed against those stereotypes enough that it was hard to even consider it a development of the same classification. Black midi however, is prog-rock in the truest sense of the term. They are a rock band, more so than most, and more importantly, they are genuinely progressive. It’s hard to imagine a band doing more to further rock’s sound right now than Black midi, even without songs about spaceships. 

By all accounts that might leave some disappointed in Cavalcade, a riveting and impressive outing that’s just as good as its predecessor but for all the same reasons. For many that’s a triumph, after all, Black midi’s debut Schlagenheim was an inventive tour de force that sounded unlike any other group.  heir newest album doesn’t carry with it the same wow factor; listeners knew what to expect before listening. The band has changed their outlook though, where Black midi’s first record was built on improvisation, their second has been gestating for over three years, a process of trying to craft stronger more succinct tracks.

In that respect, the album is a rousing success, standout “Slow” provides fans with the brutal and mathy dynamics that define the band’s genre. It acts as a great centerpiece for the album, even if it may not push hard enough against the group’s distinctive sound to bring in any new fans. Luckily, it’s followed by one of the Cavalcade’s more subtle tracks. “Diamond Stuff” finds the band refining themselves to a measured and beautiful build, realizing what a Black midi track can sound like when distilled down to its most integral parts. Then there’s the loungey detour “Marlene Dietrich” a beguiling song that especially given its subject matter feels surprisingly natural amongst the tracklist. Inclusions like this push the album into more exciting territory, but not as far as it needs to go.

Cavalcade, much like its title suggests, is the sum of its individual parts, a great collection of songs, but still, exactly that. Schalgenheim on the other hand functioned as a whole, a statement from a young band that they could create something broadly new and invigorating. While both albums are truly great for separate reasons, after their first album, we expected the mold to be broken, and it turns out it wasn’t.

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