Black Angel – Live! was recorded in concert at the Espy in Melbourne back in May 2000. On this occasion Death In June was Douglas P on vocals and acoustic guitar, and John Murphy on drums and percussion. At first glance I thought this would be one strictly for hardcore Death In June fans. It’s a no frills live recording, shorn of the overdubs and treatments you would expect on a DIJ studio release. However on closer inspection of the tracklist, it strikes me that this is almost a defacto Greatest Hits album. A lot of DIJ’s most celebrated songs are here, including singles such as ‘To Drown a Rose’ and ‘She Said Destroy’. The album is short, clocking in at just over 30 minutes, and yet it feels complete. In these live versions the songs are all concise and to the point.
The set opens with the brief, punchy ‘Ku Ku Ku’, in which Douglas P enjoins us to “Open up your mind…” For the next half hour we’re taken on a journey through the DIJ universe. The mood is sombre, pensive – and thoughts are of the eternal verities of love, life, death etc. The language of the songs is poetic and anachronistic – one could almost imagine some of these songs being sung around a campfire 200 years ago – or 200 years hence. ‘Runes and Men’ is one of Douglas P’s most famous songs, and it encapsulates what makes Death In June special. The lyrics describe a deeply personal, dark reverie – like something out of Baudelaire. A lesser band would be content to limn such a scene, and perhaps wallow in their dolour. But here DIJ diverge from the norm – with a deft lyrical twist, the singer takes the song to a different place:
“Then my loneliness closes in, so I drink a German wine
And drift in dreams of other lives and greater times…”
It’s this consciousness of other lives and times, an awareness of something more than the humdrum and quotidian, which makes DIJ special, and raises them above the common herd of bands. This perception of eternal truths is something which runs through a lot of DIJ’s lyrics, and it’s one of the reasons they are so treasured by discerning music lovers around the world. In the absence of a currently available Best of collection, this album serves as a fine introduction to the world of Death In June.
[NB This album is released as a limited edition signed digipack. Apparently it is now sold out, but there may still be a few copies left in odd nooks and crannies. A vinyl release is to follow later this year.]