Dear Chester, I only realised a few days ago that it’s nearly been a year …
Sometimes bands are so pretentious you hate them for it. Then there are bands that are enjoyable, despite their music being PBR-soaked Foucault-quoting Pitchfork bait. I am not sure Deafheaven are in that latter category any more.
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Opener You Without End is exhausted Brit rock (think Coldplay) with growling and a bit of a poetry reading. I mean, is there some kind of hidden meaning I’m not getting? The whole track radiates this huge ironic “if you don’t get it, you’re an idiot” vibe. “But it’s music about BOOKS,” doth protest the bald and bespectacled Twitterati. So is Iron Maiden and Blind Guardian; what’s your point?
It’s like hipsters falling for Apple’s marketing.
Deafheaven’s “brilliance” is a sacred cow in the metal world, and at this point, I’m fucked if I know why. In this, their fourth album, they’re not doing anything “revolutionary” beyond threading together shoegaze and black metal growling. Katatonia did it 20 years ago and no one fell to their knees in worship. (Glint echoes the claustrophobia of the gloomy Swedes’ 2001 cut, We Will Bury You, even.) I mean, it’s fine. Just don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining. It’s like hipsters falling for Apple’s marketing. They truly believe Adobe Photoshop runs faster on a Mac, even if you whip out a stopwatch and prove it doesn’t. That doesn’t matter; it’s the cultural cool we project on to it that counts. For example, lead single Honeycomb sounds pretty. Really pretty. But that’s it. If you like pretty, lush guitars and some more growling, this is your jam. What’s that? It didn’t cure cancer? Shocking, I know.
Canary Yellow moves on to hulking big riffs and a bit more growling, sort of like how Oceansize used to do it (minus the growling). Oceansize were a great prog band. They lived and died just before the Spotify-Industrial Complex swept through the music biz. Due to a lack of Deafheaven-grade hype machine, perhaps. I can visualise the band standing around on big Persian rugs, Orange amps behind them. They’re plucking away at guitars, stomping on effects pedals at just the right moments. (see also: Near, or the Stone Roses on even more valium.) It lacks any substance beyond that, it seems.
Of course, it’s emblematic of the times. Joy Division influenced a whole new underground sound copied a million times over, just as mass culture was about to explode into a thousand channels with nothing to watch. Nirvana was the flannelette emblem of Generation X, a final flickering flame of frustration before a decade of unbroken economic boom in the United States. Deafheaven reflects our obsession with authenticity in a world that’s completely full of shit. Where all our motives are questioned by everyone else. A world fractured by blind adherence to preferences framed as demands. A world where everything is incredible and no one is satisfied.
Is Deafheaven pretentious, revolutionary, or somewhere in between? I think they’re somewhere towards the middle. If you don’t agree, you can always find someone else who does.
STANDOUT TRACKS: Canary Yellow, Honeycomb, Glint
STICK THIS NEXT TO: Oceansize, Alcest, My Bloody Valentine