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Music Review: Angel Eyes – Midwestern

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Chicago’s Angel Eyes aims to provoke with its four-part Midwestern. The record really is an “album of moral indignation,” swelling with rage and acidic fury. Times are hard all over, and Angel Eyes has no intentions of neglecting the worrisome realities many face.

As desolate as Angel Eyes sometimes imagines things, they leave room for a thin sliver of golden hope on the horizon. The four pieces here may thunder with the usual trappings of post-hardcore/post-sludge/sludge/pre-sludge/post-rock/hardcore/rock/post-whatthefuckever, but the band’s desire to drive the process further helps defy singular categorization.

Midwestern is the band’s second full length. Recorded by Greg Norman at Electrical Audio and mastered by Bob Weston at Chicago Mastering Service, the record’s concept carries weight and feels like a cataclysmic storm.

Since playing their first show in 2003, Angel Eyes has been busy. They released a demo in 2004 and followed up in 2005 with their first full length, Something To Do With Death. After that, the band whose name comes from Lee Van Cleef’s ruthless character in Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, released a few more EPs. They’re fresh off a split with German spazzers A Fine Boat, This Coffin.

Midwestern, it could be argued, is the inevitability of those years spent toiling in the industry.

The album is part Godspeed You! Black Emperor post-rock and part Neurosis sludge. The punishing, throat-shredding vocals fit strangely but beautifully with the dazzling, starry atmospherics and rolling guitar. The clattering, insistent drums add accent points.

I’ve always been reluctant to do a play-by-play on what is essentially a four movement composition. Needless to say, the four tracks on Midwestern tell a complete tale of hardship and hope.

Best of all, there’s not a drop of pretentious bullshit to be found on this record. Too often bands coat concept albums in needlessly high-minded concepts that betray their intentions to tell the tale of the Everyman. Midwestern finds Angel Eyes describing real struggles and real pain, so it fits that the language of the lyrics would be gritty and fundamentally honest.

All in all, Midwestern is an immense piece of work. Its depictions of cultural and economic decline are infused with the realities of the working class and its honesty ties its subject to consequences, both tragic and hopeful. While there are moments of true grace to be found, the declining, gritty spiralling guitar that closes out the record suggests that we might be doomed after all.

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