Music, like most art, exists through a series of phases. Genres rise and fall in popularity; bands can be the hot new thing, only to one day become passé. Of course, whilst this more often happens at an industry level, if an act is around long enough they’ll go through phases of their own. For some this is a conscious choice. Acts like David Bowie, Sonic Youth, Björk and more have evolved and experimented with their sound to maintain decades-long careers, but not every act is successful at negotiating these changing phases. Canadian duo Death From Above are now two albums into their second phase, and it’s becoming clearer that they are not the band they were a decade ago.

When Death From Above returned with The Physical World in 2014 it was hard not to feel disappointed with the end result. The duo’s 2004 debut, You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine is a cult favourite; a blistering mix of heavy bass, clattering percussion and synths that landed at a time when 00s dance-punk was really beginning to hit the mainstream. The duo’s split just two years later subsequently coloured the record’s legacy with the sense of artistic friction giving birth to something truly wild and raw. On The Physical World, however, the band felt like a pale imitation of themselves - that wildness had been tamed, that raw sound lost in studio sheen.

Outrage! Is Now doesn’t fare much better, and suggests that whatever spark the band had back on their debut was either a one-off or lost in the ten-year hiatus. The album might make nods to the duo’s debut - plectrums scratch along bass strings on album opener ‘Nomad’ recalling the same effect on ‘Romantic Rights’ for example - but these only seem to highlight the gulf of difference between the two albums. Where once we had a guttural, industrial intro to a danceable blend of synthwave and punk, now we only have an adopted affectation on a rock song that is as by-the-numbers as they come. There might not be many rock acts built solely from bass and drums, but there really isn’t much here to separate Death From Above’s latest album from an act like Royal Blood.

There are times when the band shifts focus away from just the rhythm section. A piano introduces ‘Freeze Me’ and is the main instrumental hook for the verses, but it’s presented with this faux-vintage tone, like it’s been sampled from a saloon scene in a Spaghetti Western. The album’s title track meanwhile uses a deep bass synth, but it’s so muddy that it’s hard to really discern any kind of melody. These experiments with other sonic textures feel half-hearted though, simply used as a softer verse backing than Jesse F. Keeler’s growling bass in order to allow Sebastien Grainger’s vocals come to the fore.

Unfortunately, this only serves to highlight another weakness of the album; that the band rarely have anything interesting to say. In a sense that’s always been true of Death From Above, but the lyrics have been wrapped in catchy hooks and infectious riffs that have led to the likes of ‘Romantic Rights’, ‘Blood On Our Hands’ and ‘Sexy Results’ being indie disco staples despite their sometimes questionable content. Without interesting instrumentals, you’re left to ponder lyrics like “Are we outside in space/ so cold, so cold” on ‘Freeze Me’, or the idea of two forty-year old white men complaining about supposed “hypersensitivity” on ‘Outrage! Is Now’.

Back in 2004, it seemed as though Death From Above were a reaction against the sound of New York’s indie scene. They were still dispatching danceable grooves, but they were mixed in with loud, dissonant sounds that made you really stop and take notice. Whilst their original contemporaries have evolved or else ceased to exist, Death From Above seem stuck in place. Sure they’re louder than ever before, but that abrasiveness and that sense of the unexpected has gone. Since their reformation it’s become clearer that they are not the band they once were, and that really is a shame.