If you just look at the album artwork of San-Francisco based black metal band Deafhaven’s sophomore effort you miss a lot of details. First you miss the fact that it’s a black metal album. The album artwork for other black metal bands are normally…well black. This looks more like something Beach House might release. The second thing you’ll miss is that it’s one of the biggest albums of the year. Not necessarily big in commercial success or even critical acclaim (though it has been almost universally loved by critics) but shear scale of sound.
As John mentioned in his June rap-up, the basic structure of the album is 4 tracks that are about 10 minutes long sandwiched between 3 shorter instrumentals. The songs have various parts that seem to follow the same life cycle as a star: they burn brighter and harder until they explode releasing the material that will eventually lead to the next one. At first this might seem like a daunting and jarring experience, and I would have to agree with you. In the same way that new technology opens up a realm of possibilities both good and bad these guys force you to look at the sound for what it is, and its equal parts scary and amazing.
Not only does this LP not look like a black metal album, but it also doesn’t behave like one. Certain elements of the genre like heavy distortion, screeching vocals, and rejection of conventional song structure are still there. However, the album feels more like a post-rock and shoegaze record in many ways. Instead of rigidly following the black metal archetype these guys have managed to make an album that is one of the better examples of black metal in songwriting and instrumentation.
One of the cool things this album establishes is a range of sound. Some metal bands will do a constant bombarding of sound trying to pack every second with intensity. While this route is certainly…intense it can desensitize you to the sound and make it tedious. When the piano part of “Irresistible” moves into the title track you are very, VERY aware of the journey they have just taken you through.
Finally, and most importantly, the music is just really Damn good. Everything on this album from the instrumentation, the vocals, the production, and the songwriting is just so tight. It’s an album that you don’t have to know or even really be a fan of the genre to appreciate because the music is just that well done. If you’re looking for an album to play while burning up in the atmosphere of some unexplored planet then look no further.
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