Fires in Heaven by Salem, album review by Jahmeel Russell for Northern Transmissions

Decent Distribution

8

SALEM

Fires In Heaven

After a 10 year wait, SALEM finally releases their sophomore album and all that time has resulted in songs with a strong atmosphere that pulls you into their world… not with big hooks, but with a cohesive vibe that will keep you coming back for repeat listens on a dark rainy night.

The band, which is now just the duo of Jack Donoghue and John Holland, began early sessions on the album in a northern Michigan cabin before recording the bulk of it on Louisiana’s Gulf Coast. It was completed in Los Angeles with Henry Laufer (Shlohmo) and mastered by Mike Dean who is perhaps most well known for his frequent collaborations with Kanye West.

Often credited with pioneering the “Witch House” genre, the group’s first album made an immediate impact when it was released influencing many other artists in its wake. Fires in Heaven easily reaffirms that influence while at the same time progressing beyond it and in the process creating their strongest material to date. With Fires in Heaven SALEM build upon the sound they started with 2010’s debut, King Night. Having spent time in the interim collaborating on mixes with Gucci Mane, Charli XCX, Atari Teenage Riot, Rotterdam Terror Corps, Lil B, and Wolfgang Tillmans, as well as contributing production work to Kanye West’s Yeezus, you get the feeling they may have gained some inspiration back from these artists and used it to further strengthen their own ideas.

Opening with a sample of Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet, Ballet, Op. 64: Montagues and Capulets”, Fires in Heaven announces its arrival in grandiose style with album opener “Capulets” . From there, a melancholy atmosphere permeates in tracks like “DieWithMe”, “Starfall” and “Sears Tower” while “Braids” sounds as though it’d be right at home on a soundtrack to one of Nicholas Winding Refn’s films. In fact, many of the tracks have a cinematic feel to them. SALEM also takes time to incorporate a healthy dose of hip hop but the delivery of the vocals ensures that the overall vibe of the album remains intact, somehow balancing between isolation and connection. Very apt for the times we are currently living in. “Not Much of a Life” closes out the album on what could be perceived as a negative tone, but it actually seems more like the duo’s acceptance that sometimes you have to just surrender to your own reality and just own it.

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