24 Aug 2021 - Simon
shoegaze/dream pop | Sargeant House | Release date: 20 Aug 2021
Metal musics most talked about band return with a majectically beautiful album which will surprise as much as it delights
Deafheaven are one of the most divisive bands in the whole of metal music. You either buy into what they do, in which case they are brilliant, or you cannot imagine why they dilute their black metal gnarliness with such emotional pop sensibilities. Part of the reason why they are so well known is their single mindedness in always doing what felt right for them, not pandering AT ALL to what was expected of them. It’s this single mindedness which produced one of the most talked about metal albums of the past 10 years in Sunbather. That album dragged black metal musicality into the mainstream, because they melded it with beautiful dream like sections which were full of emotion, the black metal purists hated it, everyone else, devoured it.
Each album since then has almost been a reaction to their previous one, Sunbather follow up New Bermuda was the heaviest the band has ever been (all that negativity directed their way must have stung!) and this was followed up by the much more shoegaze leaning Ordinary Corrupt Human Love so in one way, this new album should not come as a surprise if you follow the bands trajectory, but saying that, it is still a massive shock.
With a very few exceptions, this new album has jettisoned their black metal side almost entirely, and fully embraced their shoegaze dream pop sensibilities. It’s no secret that front man George Clarke is a huge Slowdive fan and this album showcases that to an almost reverential degree. Take first song “Shellstar” for example, it sets it’s stall out for all to see and generates the tone for the rest of the album. It’s a gorgeous, wistful song built around a dreamy guitar lick and almost ethereal vocals. It also features some quite restrained drumming from the superlative stick work of Dan Tracey, who it must be said does some of the best work he’s ever done on this album (the imaginative beat of The Gnashing springs to mind here).
The whole album positively revels in it’s dream like nature and is always reaching for the stars, but when it does deploy the heavier elements, such as in the mid section of the dissonant edgy track “Lament for Wasps” it doesn’t sound out of place or forced in any way, it’s simply in just the right place to lift the whole song into the stratosphere. The whole album is nothing short of brilliant, it’s effortlessly beautiful and majestic in it’s execution. However, if there are any issues, they arrise with the comparisons to their older material. Moments like the last couple of minutes of final song “Mombasa” where the fire of their black metal ying to the shoegaze yang make a triumphant, glorious bellowing return before returning form the void from whence it came are a reminder that this band play the heavier sounds better than most people so it’s quite bitter sweet pill to swallow that there are not more example of this because they are masters at it.
This album will almost certainly bring a whole new legion of fans to the band and it should do, because it’s superb and I have no reservations in telling everyone I know to listen to it, the older fans however, will most definitely be split and the live shows will start to be very interesting for them in deciding what they choose to play, but like I said at the start, this is a band who have never compromised on anything they do and for that they should be rightly proud. Highly recommended.