ALBUMS REVIEWS

ALBUM REVIEW: Black Honey – Written & Directed

The anticipation of Black Honey’s latest album has been building since Summer 2020. The deletion of all their posts on Instagram defined a new era of Black Honey: a musically diverse yet consistent sound stemming from Izzy’s vocals. Written & Directed has been two years in the making for the Brighton band; from being recorded on tour, to the first single Beaches being released in July 2020, the completed work in its wide ranging composition and multiple detailed perspectives on feminism and female empowerment is now ready for everyone to listen to.

The singles I Like The Way You Die, Run For Cover and Disinfect were three of the five singles released prior to Written & Directed’s release and it is clear that Black Honey have a strong, overwhelming intention to rewrite people’s knowledge of them, with these three tracks being the most energetic on the album. Black Honey have supported bands like Royal Blood, Queens of the Stone Age and At The Drive In on tour since their formation in 2014. The influence of these bands hard/indie-rock style (and their live performances) has influenced Black Honey into writing material with similar intent. The overdrive used in these tracks (and other parts of later tracks) is beautifully saturated; the distortion is not your basic guitar bleeding timbre, its rich, smooth and one of the defining elements of Black Honey’s signature sound. The heaviness of these tracks cannot be mentioned without tying in Izzy’s message – female empowerment. Run For Cover, with its risqué setting, is borderline satirical of the juxtaposing worry that men possess when intimidated by strong women. Disinfect takes a slightly different take whilst still being critical of the anti-feminist opinions that circulate; “disinfect the disaffected” is a social commentary of the blindness to inequality between women and men.

Photographer: Laura Allard-Fleischl

Written & Directed is massively versatile in its combinative visual and sonic relationship. Praise has to be given to Izzy B. Phillips (lead vocals) who carries the significance of these elements from their heavy, ‘moshable’ tracks all the way to the more delicate songs. The transition as described largely follows the linear progression of the Written & Directed track-list order, with Believer and I Do It To Myself sitting right in the middle of these two identities. Blending these theoretically contradicting styles, whilst retaining a recognisable tone and projecting ideas of the same theme, is impressive. I Do It To Myself comes across as an answer to Believer, “my heart was at war with the rage inside my mind” and “I was born right here, on the outside looking in” (lines from Believer) are points cutting through Izzy’s instant recognition of inequality and the exposure that women are faced to. Despite understanding this, I Do It To Myself is a self-critical track with its spaced-out reverberant vocals alongside the knowledge of committing to points raised in Believer; Izzy is still “a walking contradiction”.

The introducing single of the album, Beaches, and Summer 92’ create a unique tone to this album by delving into this American hard-rock element. Both tracks and their prevalent horn sections create a visual of something from ‘Tender Is the Night’. Although it is almost cliché that the most noticeable musical progression Black Honey have made is by adding in a brass section, its use defines the setting of each song and is executed perfectly in the context of its use. Black Honey have been able to write an album including multiple genres and perspectives, yet, all songs are strongly rooted to one musical and political theme throughout.

The vocal production is certainly the most defining and recognisable feature of Black Honey, including the melodies executed by the vocals. Izzy is always the forefront of each track – they are haunting, windingly complex yet smooth, unpredictable and enticingly psychedelic with the reverb spanning stereo field and saturation. The concluding track does not abandon this. Gabrielle further creates such a strong visual-sonic image from this refined instrumentation (merely a classical guitar and Izzy’s vocals) with the back-drop of this vinyl-hiss, again, reinforcing this style that Black Honey are stemming from classic rock. Gabrielle is slightly ironic in its message, creating this setting of some burlesque club, with the tone of the song implying this set-up of a woman crying because her heart is broken. The content of lyrics: “oh Gabrielle, you have him underneath spell” is the line that is most predominant: there’s a mesmerising, deceiving nature to how ‘Gabrielle’ tricks her lover, running parallel to the style of music adopted.

Black Honey are a unique band, with a major part of the cohesion of Written & Directed coming from Izzy B. Phillip’s vocal production. Having such a defining vocal has allowed Black Honey to stretch Izzy’s capabilities across different contextual styles and settings that can be visualised from every song. With the vocal having such a predominant role, the content of lyrics can be justified to have equal effect.

★★★★☆

You can listen to Written & Directed here.

Follow Black Honey on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Spotify & Apple Music. Visit their website here.

Featured Image: Laura Allard-Flesichl

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