American Black Metal or "Blackgaze" outfit Deafheaven from San-Fransisco have been both critically acclaimed and at the center of hate fueled controversy with Black Metal elitists and keyboard warriors of the web who believe the bands music taints the supposedly puritanical nature of Black Metal. Jokes aside I never find myself offended by music, which is what many comments, articles and online ramblings would suggest fans of traditional BM are when it comes to this band. Their breakout record "Sunbather" in 2013 was one I cared little for and despite its praise I found myself somewhat puzzled to what the "magic" was, however this time around its hit me like a firm slap across the face. I don't care much for the debate as to if this band is "true" or not, I came here to enjoy some filthy dark music.
The bands sound is somewhat deceptive, harsh, threatening screams penetrate the pummeling, rattling blast beats and menacing guitars that glaze through darkness at a racing speeds. In the bleak, cold and unforgiving sound there is a sense of something warmer that steadily emerges with each passing phase of the song, blossoming into a gorgeous Post-Metal soundscape of transcending serenity. This was my experience of the first song. In breaking it down I felt a lot was to be learned about what makes this record tick and much of the same can be said for the following four songs that make up the record.
Aesthetically the relentless drumming, dark distortion tone and vocalist Clarke's sharp, sinister screams create a harrowing black accent but the guitar work transforms them with Shoegaze and Post-Metal / Post-Rock ideas, techniques and song structures. They create quite the enigmatic experience as the dark and light are held in a unique, original balance. They toy between one another, stretching, elasticizing as songs themes move back and forth in a singular progressive motion. Not all the songs move on the same path. "Baby Blue" starts with acoustic guitars, shadowy blues in color and cuts rather immediately into its dark counterpart. I especially like the mysterious synth at the end with a woman making an announcement about the George Washington bridge. Its eerie and unsettling, seemingly because the message shouldn't be? Its odd and I like it.
The record sounds fantastic, the guitar tones are especially dense, magnetic and immersive. My only quarrel were the vocals, although fitting and powerful, the cut like a knife and never let up, sometimes it felt a little much with a singular delivery style. The five songs have zero filler and take us on a unique journey that fades out with a satisfying melodic climax. The heart of this music is traditional Black Metal and I see how it gets some fans up in arms but that attitude of elitism and "true" is only holding a listener back from an expanded experience. A stunning record which I've barely put down in recent days.