In dark times, make “A New Friend” with Heele

The tension between finding yourself in a dark place and finding yourself in a dark place drives the exuberant mystery of “A New Friend,” the latest single from Heele, the rock-metal-industrial project of New Haven’s Michael Henss. From opening bars that spiral down a rabbit hole to the beat of a frantic heart, the song has the enigmatic chiaroscuro of Joy Division or Sisters or Mercy, where you might be an international spy or you might be the monster at the end of the book.

“If you lost your mind, would you even know it?” was the line to strike me to the heart, as it’s the central question of the pandemic era. Ask that question outside a song, and your peeps will go into a frenzy of pitying suggestions for afternoon walks and bread recipes–which is why we need songs to ask it. “A New Friend” pushes back against positivity culture, emphasizing shared and traded pain and loneliness.

The intensity of the drum line makes the listening experience angsty yet energizing: a dance around the fire to summon some ethereal sense of community and connection. “In the end, the saviors and prophets were all absurdists” has the ring of political cynicism, but also of a radical freedom to reimagine our choices.

I’d considered asking what the song is meant to be about, then decided part of the magic of music listening is finding your own path through the world the songwriter offers. The part of me that’s a fan of light Netflix horror wants it synched over the sort of scene that has one well-placed ray of light, where the hero might be a vampire, might be an angel. The part of me that flirts with creativity–“sideways glances as they walk away” is my relationship with so many plot bunnies–hears a call to dig down to fundamental emotions that can be bartered for some kind of affirmation.

Take a listen, then go buy it for your collection on Bandcamp.

Disclosure: I was given an advance listen in return for a fair and objective review.

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