HEALTH- DISCO4 :: PART II (Album Review)

April 6, 2022


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Their 2007 debut may have been a chaotic mix of noise rock and electronic music, but over time Los Angeles based HEALTH has morphed into so much more.  Even early on the band was releasing remix albums that emphasized industrial, electro, and other electronic styles, but their ethereal and repeated vocals became a hallmark of their sound.  In between full lengths and soundtrack work, HEALTH has frequently released material in the DISCO series which showcases remixes and collaborations with other artists.  Over time these collaborations have been with bigger and bigger names and the approach has evolved, with this year’s DISCO4 :: PART II offering original material with a wide range of collaborators spread across heavy and alternative music.  While not every track reaches the same peaks and some sometimes feel like they don’t stray far enough from their guest artist’s other work, the amount of variety here has the potential to bring together a broad audience that enjoy everything from industrial and metal to hip hop.

Since this is a collection of original material that HEALTH has worked on with a wide range of artists, don’t expect DISCO4 :: PART II to flow seamlessly as there are a few jarring transitions between the extremely heavy and softer end of the spectrum.  It does feel like the group has put the metal and rougher edged beats on the first half though, with the second half transitioning towards some lighter instrumentation that still has some darker tones.  Most likely those of you that heard about this album prior to this review were drawn in due to some of the better-known guest artists (at least for our audience) like Nine Inch Nails, Lamb of God, Perturbator, The Body, and Poppy.  Those tracks generally don’t disappoint and have some strong hooks that fuse elements of metal, synth rock, industrial, and up the noise levels appropriately.  Poppy and The Body are the ones that stand out for me out of this batch, as Poppy’s ethereal singing flows well with HEALTH’s similar pitch and creates a dark and dreamy soundscape that gets shaken up towards the end with her abrasive screaming while The Body collaboration sounds like the soundtrack to a snuff film.  The other two I like but it doesn’t feel like they push too far outside of what you would expect from either artist, as “Isn’t Everyone” has the trappings of a mid-period Nine Inch Nails song while “Cold Blood” comes across as a standard Lamb of God track with some occasional HEALTH interjections.  It works but compared to what else the album has to offer it didn’t have the same impact I was initially expecting.

What surprised me the most about DISCO4 :: PART II is how some of the collaborators I knew the least about offered up the songs I returned to the most.  These are ones that aren’t straight-up metal, hip-hop, or industrial but instead mix elements of all three and HEALTH mixes well with this fusion.  “Murder Death Kill” is the type of track you want to crank the volume up for, as Ada Rook’s speaker tearing screaming and PlayThatBoiZay’s smooth rapping merge with HEALTH’s ethereal singing and huge beats for a quick blast that had me instantly hitting repeat.  “Pagan-Iconz” offers a similar vibe with Backxwash and HO99O9 offering up a similarly dark and heavy fusion that pulls in some gothic and horror vibes into the music.  I also personally liked the sad shoegaze and indie vibes of the Ekkstacy collaboration “Still Breathing”, though some people may bounce off it due to the repetitive nature of the vocal performances.  Admittedly with HEALTH covering this much ground some of these tracks do feel like they end too abruptly or don’t quite reach the peaks listeners are waiting for, but there’s still so much here that has remained stuck in my head for weeks.

Considering every track except “These Days” is a collaboration it’s impossible to cover every single guest and keep this review a reasonable length, but HEALTH has put together a diverse roster that span the full spectrum of heavy, dark, and alternative music.  Some of the songs feel like they were hinting at greater peaks or exploration than they reached and there are also a few that just don’t really stand out over repeat listens, but the strongest moments have kept me coming back frequently to get another blast of pulsing beats or metal and electronic combinations.  It’s also exposed me to some artists outside of my usual styles that I may not have been exposed to as part of reviewing either and that’s a win in my book.  DISCO4 :: PART II is available from Loma Vista Recordings.

-Review by Chris Dahlberg

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