The Black Angels: 21st Century Psychedelia

Black Angels

“The pictures on my walls all started turning different colours and breathing.”

Ask Christian Bland a psychedelic question, and you get a psychedelic answer. But then Bland is something of an expert in this field. Apart from his day job playing guitar in Texas’s leading purveyors of head-spinning psychedelia, the Black Angels, he’s one of the founders of the Levitation Festival (formerly the Austin Psyche Fest), perhaps the world’s foremost celebration of all things psychedelic. He’s the kind of man you could trust during a trip.

Five albums in, and the Black Angels are getting trippier. New album Death Song has captured the Black Angels at their mind-warping, apocalyptic best, and current single Currency builds from gentle beginnings to a frothing, blood-twisting climax.

Currency has quite an ominous sound. Does it reflect the way you feel about the world, and how?

Most certainly. The world’s bearing down on us and we’re fighting to push back against it.

What did producer Phil Ek bring to the recording process?

I think he captured our live sound perfectly, while adding his magic touch of thick, layered lushness. We set our amps and effects and he captured it very organically. He didn’t rely on post effects, it was all captured beforehand then he sprinkled his magic dust.

How is the new album different to Indigo Meadow?

This record had more time to marinate and I feel like the songs reflect that in the richness of their sound. The songs have more relevance to what’s going on in the world right now than the songs on Indigo Meadow did, which were more open-ended and dreamy. Death Song is more focused on exposing the confusion of our times directly.

What can fans expect from your forthcoming tour?

Sheer sonic and visual pandemonium with The Black Angels partner in mind bending, The Mustachio Light Show.

Describe the most psychedelic experience you’ve ever had.

DMT experience #005: Alone in my room with Pet Sounds: I was doing an experiment where I put the album on, then sat down in my recliner and smoked some DMT to see how time would stretch. My arms were on the arm rests and my skin started to melt off while Mayan/Aztecan type symbols engulfed my bones. Wouldn’t it Be Nice literally started slowing down and a high piercing sound took over as these woman-like beings greeted me with, “Hello Christian, we’ve been waiting for you”.

They showed me a world of kaleidoscopic colours and things I can’t even express in words. It was like I was sitting in my chair but my body was out floating around looking from the outside in. The pictures on my walls all started turning different colours and breathing. It felt like an hour had passed. Then the beings said, “Until next time Christian…”. Then I came back to our dimension and Wouldn’t it Be Nice was still playing and just nearing the end as it sped back up into real time.

The Levitation Festival returns in 2018. If you could get anyone to play, who would it be?

Syd Barrett.

Death Song will be released on April 21. The band tour the US in April and May, and will play some European dates in June before performing at the Liverpool Psyche Festival in September. All dates listed below.

Death Song Track List:

  1. Currency
  2. I’d Kill For Her
  3. Half Believing
  4. Comanche Moon
  5. Hunt Me Down
  6. Grab As Much (As You Can)
  7. Estimate
  8. I Dreamt
  9. Medicine
  10. Death March
  11. Life Song

Black Angels US Tour (with A Place To Bury Strangers)

Apr 26: The Basement East, Nashville, TN
Apr 27: The Mill & Mine, Knoxville, TN
Apr 28: Variety Playhouse, Atlanta, GA
Apr 29: The Orange Peel, Asheville, NC
Apr 30: 9:30 Club, Washington, DC
May 02: Brooklyn Steel, Brooklyn, NY
May 04: Union Transfer, Philadelphia, PA
May 05: Paradise Rock Club, Boston, MA
May 06: Danforth Music Hall, Toronto, Canada
May 07: St. Andrew’s Hall, Detroit, MI
May 09:n The Woodward Theater, Cincinnati, OH
May 10: Newport Music Hall, Columbus, OH
May 11: Thalia Hall, Chicago, IL
May 12: First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN
May 13: Majestic Theatre, Madison, WI
May 15: Delmar Hall, Saint Louis, MO
May 16: Madrid Theatre, Kansas City, MO
May 18: White Oak Music Hall Downstairs, Houston, TX
May 19: Granada Theater, Dallas, TX
May 20: Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, Austin, TX

Black Angels European Dates

Jun 01: Primavera Festival, Barcelona, Spain
Jun 03: La Sirine, La Rochelle, France
Jun 07: Latteria Molloy, Brescia, Italy
Jun 08: Locomotiv, Bologna, Italy
Jun 11: This is Not a Love Song Festival, Nimes, France
Sep 22: Liverpool Psych Fest, Liverpool, UK

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Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.