Photo of band standing with a Plague Doctor

Experience: Black Heart by Palps

Move over Beyonce, queen of the visual albums, it is time to let the boys of Palps shine.

It’s hard to write an album review when one has an album experience, but that’s what Palps has done with their latest album, Black Heart. They have given fans an experience that will surely stick with them for a very long while.

Palps is Alex Gray (vocals, guitar), Liam Kelly (guitar), Dan Chapman (bass), and Hayden Crease (drums) and Black Heart is the band’s follow up to their 2020 debut EP Letters to You (That I’ll Never Send). The eight track album puts a spotlight on mental health with raw and visceral lyrics that hit one straight in the gut.

Alex says this about Black Heart:

At its core is about how traumatic events and mental health struggles can leave you hardened, no longer able to express love in the same way that you used to and can often lead to you hurting those closest to you, without you even realising.

As someone who has struggled with their own mental demons, Black Heart, was hard hitting. It reminded me of my own struggles, but also comforted me, allowing me to see how far I have come and I think fans will resonate a lot with the album if they haven’t already. It will allow them to see that they are not alone and it will no doubt be a saviour for many and that is what makes Black Heart even more special.

Opening with the anthemic “AVA”, Palps goes straight for the jugular. “AVA” is a bold and beautiful song about the loss of an unborn child (my interpretation of the lyrics and video) but behind that boldness and beauty is a heaviness and intensity that sets the pace for the record.

“Love, Always” opens softly before it kicks one in the teeth. Like its predecessor, the chorus is anthemic. This will easily be a live crowd favourite to sing along too.

The third track, “Consequences” is a stand out track. The song is heavy from start to finish but it’s the bass that hooks me. It’s slick and dirty and plays wonderfully with the guitars. Lyrically, the song just has this zing about it. They’re catchy and infectious. It also features vocals from Kirstie McEwen and she offers a feminine emotional balance to the music and compliments Alex’s vocals.

By now, I’ve noticed that Palps loves a good sing along moment. I’ve gotten it the last three tracks and “Messages” also includes that same great chorus sing along but the song truly showcases all the band’s talents: catchy lyrics, infectious riffs, drum and bass rhythm for days, and insane guitars. The breakdown (can be seen in the video) gives me Dredg vibes and I can’t get enough of it.

The guitar intro to “In My Head” hits and it hits hard. It’s crunchy, aggressive and then softens as Alex sings. There’s a consistency with Palps that I like. The songs stick to a formula (catchy lyrics + great sing along chorus) and it works without making the album boring. The drum and bass in this song are some of my favourite on the album.

With “Imprint”, the band explores the idea of being someone’s soulmate when they aren’t yours and how difficult it can be when they seem perfect for you but it isn’t what your heart wants.

The penultimate track “Before the Black” could be the most lyrically hopeful song on the album. Musically, the song is wonderfully heavy, loud, and in your face. The lyrics and music are a nice juxtaposition of how not all heavy music is angry or how all hopeful lyrics are filled with unicorns and rainbows.

From the lyrics to the music, the final track, “Dead” is fucking brutal. It has some of the most visceral and raw lyrics of the entire album. The spoken word within the song is thought provoking and haunting. It includes one of my favourite lines from the album, “..If someone tells me they love my songs, is my pain beautiful? Or my legacy be reliving my traumas over and over in four minute bursts…” This song is the perfect ending to an absolutely beautiful and gut wrenching album.

What I really enjoy about Palps is that their sound takes me back to my 2000’s Warped Tour music memories. For me, the band ranks up there with the likes of The Used, Taking Back Sunday, and Story of the Year. They create anthems, great sing alongs, and music that people can connect with emotionally and mentally.


MUST LISTEN TO TRACK: “Messages”, “Before the Black”, “Dead”

Black Heart will no doubt be an album that sticks with me for quite some time.

Now, let’s dive into the Black Heart experience.

I suggest one listens to the album first. Sit with lyrics and music and interpret them for your own.

Listen to the album below.

After you listen to the album, it is time to watch the visuals. In the music videos for each track, we are introduced to the following characters: Matt, the story’s protagonist, Rose, Charlotte, and the lurking Plague Doctor. With each single, the story of Matt grows. The room in itself, neat and decorated or a hot mess, represents Matt mental state while the Plague Doctor represents his suicidal thoughts.

If you don’t have time to listen and watch, then I suggest jumping straight into watching the videos. Like a great drama, you will be invested in the storyline and will want to know what happens next.

Watch Chapters 1 through 8 from Black Heart below