It’s been seven years since the last Death In Vegas release, enough time for the band to have been declared legally expired. And there is something of the afterlife to Trans-Love Energies, from the cloaked figure adorning the album’s cover, heading towards the light, to the worn, desiccated vocal that introduces it. “Sid Vicious left me…/Elvis left me…” it begins, almost indecipherable, opening track ‘Silver Time Machine’ a lament for lost artists against a backdrop of swirling feedback and echoed, low-key instrumentation.
It’s a bleak and windswept start, a funeral address like a five minute sigh until it lurches, suddenly, into ‘Black Hole’, a rage of volume and anguished guitar squalls made all the more violent for the calm that trailed before it. As beginnings go it’s far from comfortable, but it sure grabs the attention.
In the main Trans-Love Energies keeps it, too, first single ‘Your Loft My Acid’ building from a melancholic drone to something damn near danceable, half-knotted nooses traded in for glowsticks around the midpoint as Austra’s Katie Stelmanis takes on the vocal duties and the track ignites. Her second performance, on the twitching, filmic ‘Witch Dance’, is better still, Stelmanis’ slight accent adding to the sense of unreality that runs through the album as flanging beats cascade beneath.
There’s no Tim Holmes this time around, nor the sweaty jostle of guests that was a mainstay of Death In Vegas’ earlier work: as with 2004’s Satan’s Circus mainman Richard Fearless (yup, really…) lends his voice to the majority of tracks here, veering from a gravelly Robert Del Naja whisper to a punkish howl. Mid-album standout ‘Coum’ showcases his efforts to best effect, Massive Attack channelled by way of a seance as quivering synths haunt familiar themes of dependency and decline.
Sad, then, that it loses it at the end, with a closing triplet of tracks – 17 minutes in total – that drag out the album until it bleeds raw. ‘Drone Reich’s five minutes of ambient nothing serve little purpose other than to hollow out the excellent work before it, ebbing away the hard-wrought energy in favour of a savage migraine, whilst the penultimate ‘Lightning Bolt’ steals away longer still without attempting to generate any kind of response at all.
Closer ‘Savage Love’ tries a bit harder, a My Bloody Valentine battery of drum pound and white noise, but by then it’s too late: our interest has razored itself long since. But hey, they can be skipped, right, scratched off and deleted, and they should be: it’s an underwhelming end to an otherwise extremely strong comeback, less a final sprint than a tortured, blood-soaked stagger. Think Miles Dyson in Terminator 2, his breaths like phased yelps as his life ekes away, but without the spectacular explosion that follows.
But then explosions never were Death In Vegas’ thing. Theirs were always the shadows clutching at the edges, the restless pulse of 4am introversion and the slight unease of a minor key. As the final gasps of our terminal summer make way for longer nights and darker thoughts Trans-Love Energies sounds a fitting note of decay, married with enough volume for the tinnitus to keep until spring.