Sixteen years after releasing their debut album, Antibalas remain a singular band, a group that has embraced the sound and fury of Afro-beat, playing it with faith and fire, while infusing it with an American sensibility that makes it clear they are not simply copying Fela Kuti and his contemporaries. Despite a multitude of personnel changes since they started out, Martin Perna and his bandmates still lay down lean, furious grooves, brought home by some tremendously skillful players, and 2017’s Where the Gods Are in Peace shows that they haven’t lost a bit of their strength or their skills. Lyrically, the album is dominated by recurring themes of corruption and plunder, as outsiders rob cultures of material and spiritual wealth. One can see a certain irony in a group of Americans expressing these thoughts while playing music rooted in African traditions, but the opening track, “Gold Rush,” makes it clear this is an outrage that’s relevant to America’s past (and present) just as much as the Third World. Musically, these three extended compositions (one, “Tombstown,” is presented as a three-part suite) are dance music at its toughest and most muscular, with the layers of percussion laying down a solid foundation as the horn section sways above it all, and the spectral organ lines and gritty guitar solos add pithy punctuation to the tunes. Duke Amayo’s vocals are inspired and spirited enough to stand out in such a strong ensemble, and the vocal contributions from the members of Zap Mama on the “Tombstown” cycle are the icing on a richly flavorful cake. There aren’t many current groups that do what Antibalas does so well, especially in the United States, and Where the Gods Are in Peace reminds us that they take their art and their message seriously, even as their music generates an impressive degree of joy.