Posted: 25th August, 2021 by The Editor
Deafheaven has always had one foot planted firmly outside the realm of metal. Part of what propelled their breakout Sunbather to such heights was its mix of black metal with shoegaze and post-rock. Their last release, 2018’s Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, saw them straying further than ever before from their earlier black metal trappings. George Clarke began singing cleanly, and songs like “Near” and “Night People” featured no screaming whatsoever. Other songs, even those with screaming, still embraced shoegaze and post-rock more than ever before. The record opened with a four-minute piano crescendo –– this was something beyond blackgaze.
So their decidedly not-metal new album Infinite Granite shouldn’t come as a terrible shock to listeners. There’s still vestiges of that old sound here, like the final relentless minutes of “Great Mass of Color” or “Villain,” but they’re treated as climaxes, points to which these songs need to build. They aren’t, in any case, particularly heavy either; they’re merely some of the only moments on the record to feature unclean vocals. It’s a good thing, too, as they help to break up the album a bit –– the LP occupies a very similar space and a similar mood for a good deal of its nearly hour-long runtime.
The closest Infinite Granite gets to the black metal of previous releases is its very last minutes; the second half of closer “Mombasa” finds the return of the blast beats and harsh shrieks of the band’s earlier material. Here again this aggression feels like a climax, the end of a journey. Tucking the album’s heaviest moment away in its final moments feels like a send-off to that era of the band; make no mistake, “Mombasa” proves that Deafheaven hasn’t lost their edge, and it’s a highlight on Infinite Granite.
But most of the album’s best songs are the ones that would’ve stuck out on previous records. Opener “Shellstar” is a prime example; it’s among the softest tracks the band’s ever put out, but it’s nonetheless one of the most colossal. Dreamy, spacy riffs pile atop one another until George Clarke comes in, trading his signature wail for a breathy clean singing style. Even though the vocal stylings have changed, their treatment is the same; this might be a slightly hookier Deafheaven –– indeed, “Shellstar” has a wonderful chorus –– but the vocals serve the same role here, still far enough back in the mix as to serve as merely another layer of the song rather than a focal point.
Other songs do get more explicitly pop-forward. It’s clear why “Great Mass of Color” was the album’s lead single; its hook is as straightforward as any dream-pop song can get. Or strip away some of the fuzz and “Lament for Wasps” or “The Gnashing” could be the next alt-rock radio hit. That the band pulls all of this off as well as they do shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone paying attention. Since their debut it’s been clear Deafheaven could excel at any sound they attempted. It shouldn’t take Infinite Granite to demonstrate their talent, but what a masterclass it is.
Disappointing / Average/ Good / Great / Phenomenal
Zac Djamoos | @gr8whitebison
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