The Black Heart Procession has a reputation for being one of San Diego’s most stylishly evil bands. So, it should only make sense that their sixth album, titled Six, would be their most evil recording to date. Mark of the beast or no, the band has a history of dark and devilish music, from the goth pop of their first two albums, to the funereal drones of ghostly peak Three, to the harder rocking recent favorite The Spell. After ramping things up a bit, however, Pall Jenkins and Tobias Nathaniel have toned down some of their more incendiary tendencies of late to create an album that’s more quietly ominous, but still quite eerie.
More than any Black Heart record since Three, Six is the sound of the band at their most spectral and bleak. There’s only a slight hint of the haunting to come in the minor key opening ballad “When You Finish Me,” but when “Wasteland” queues up, the band’s M.O. is laid out on the cadaver table. Backed by a plodding death march, scratchy guitars and otherworldly backing vocals, frontman Pall Jenkins gently croons, “I hear the ghosts calling me down to the grave.” Yet he faces even bigger demons, quite literally, as he sings, “I’m not leaving until the devil is dead.”
In spite of its ghoulishness, Six isn’t without its share of upbeat, even catchy tunes, starting with “Witching Stone,” a head-nodding goth rocker that juxtaposes dramatic piano against a quasi-danceable rhythm. First single “Rats” is likewise a memorable tune, with clanging percussion and whirring organs, as Jenkins paints a vivid picture of “rats with blood in their eyes.” “Drugs,” meanwhile, is simultaneously the album’s gentlest and most devastating track. Over little more than a somber piano melody, Jenkins laments “I took your poison to see how you suffer.” The Latin-flavored all my steps is a notable standout for adding a bit of exotic flair, while “Suicide” is a Morricone-esque gem, spacious but abrasive and altogether fantastic.
Combining The Black Heart Procession’s affinity for withered and bleak ballads with scratchy and jittery pop tunes, Six is a grand addition to the San Diego duo’s catalog. And with Halloween coming in just a few weeks, it makes a great addition to your haunted house playlist. Just don’t be surprised if you end up with a few nightmares of your own afterward.
Video: “Witching Stone”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.