Blaqk Audio - Bright Black Heaven (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Blaqk Audio

Bright Black Heaven (2012)

Big Death / Superball Music

With their main project, AFI, Davey Havok and Jade Pudget have established a reputation of constantly shifting their style while remaining decidedly punk. Indeed, Blaqk Audio, the pair's electronic side project, could be interpreted as an offshoot of AFI's Decemberunderground, a record that fused hardcore and techno without sucking. BA's first effort, Cex Cells, was actually a commendable set of dance floor ditties. It was a mixed bag for sure, blending sexy stompers with maudlin ballads, but it worked overall, and proved yet again that these were artists willing to experiment.

Which is why it's disappointing that follow-up Bright Black Heaven should feel so safe. It's a solid continuation of the Cex Cells sound–dance beats + Havok's wail–but it doesn't resonate the second time around. Sure, at it's worst, Cex Cells sounded like MIDI mall emo, and Bright Black Heaven is wise to avoid those pitfalls. But it can't match its highs either. The dark lyricism, reminiscent of Depeche Mode at their most sexually provocative and rendered all the more threatening/enticing by Havok's delivery, seems watered down a bit here. It's like they were pursuing a more mainstream pop approach (not unlike Crash Love in a way), but it just makes the work feel impersonal.

There are still flashes of success, however. Opener "Cold War" has all sorts of ideas ‘n' hooks dancing around. "Everybody's Friends" and "With Your Arms Around You" pack a whole mess of catchy keyboard lines and a big chorus, proving that all that talk about David Guetta wasn't just a bit for credibility. But the album has a haze of homogeneity around it. It doesn't even feel like an album, really. Cex Cells had its weaknesses, but at least it flowed. Bright Black Heaven feels like a collection of halfhearted singles. Blaqk Audio's first effort was strong enough to stand on its own, but this time out, the act really does feel like a placeholder for the next AFI album.