Record Label: Sargent House
Release Date: 20.08.21
For Fans Of: My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, The Cure
After pissing off black metal elitists with the sun-soaked blackgaze of second album Sunbather, Deafheaven have since shown that they have far more to offer than they were originally given credit for. While that record may have brought them to the masses, the band have since gone on to refine their sound. Songs like the undeniable ‘Black Brick’ saw Deafheaven firmly step out of the box they had been rather unfittingly confined to and demonstrated the full potential of their dreamy attack. Now with fifth album Infinite Granite, the band will be making the elitists squirm once more as they make almost a complete break from black metal.
Instead, Deafheaven have embraced the full range of shoegaze; from the ambient soundscapes of My Bloody Valentine, to the more pop focused elements reminiscent of Disintergration-era The Cure. From the opening notes of ‘Shellstar’ it’s clear that this is a far more relaxed and ponderous Deafheaven. George Clark’s vocals rarely creep above speaking volume, and rather than the driving riffy tracks of the past, all the emphasis is placed on creating textures and sounds to really let the listener sink into.
This does mean that songs still take time to really soak in despite their sweet and breezy approach that makes Infinite Granite feel perfect for a warm summer evening. ‘In Blur’ feels like it could soundtrack an indie coming-of-age film in places and yet never once feels mawkish. Closer ‘Mombasa’ could even be considered a ballad in places even though it is one of the few tracks where we hear Clark screaming and Deafheaven crank up to full power.
Yet, in spite of all this the band have continued with the same approach they have always had at their core since Sunbather. Everything is built on a principle of build and release, and dynamic interplay, just utilising more tools in a slightly different way than before. While tracks like ‘Great Mass Of Colour’ do still build to a dramatic crescendo with soaring guitars like the Deafheaven of old, more often than not this time round, the band instead focus on shifting gear in a subtler way that brings their sound much closer to prog-rock. Perhaps the best example of this is to be found in ‘The Gnashing’ which at first harks back to the band’s classic sound with a more driving, riff-centric approach before completely transforming into a more ambient and subtle affair. The real achievement though is how the band have managed to make these moments flow so naturally without taking away any of the complexity.
This is used to its greatest effect on the album’s centerpiece ‘Lament For Wasps’ and preceding track ‘Neptune Raining Diamonds’ which acts as it’s overture. Here it becomes clear just what Deafheaven are capable of as they manage to morph a spacey, synth-led, cinematic instrumental into a track which is equal parts indie-rock and shoegaze, featuring airy Dave Gilmour-esque guitar passages, and squeezes in blast-beats that are somehow so slight you might even miss them. It doesn’t quite hit the same highs as the aforementioned ‘Black Brick’ but it comes damn close and casts its net to a much wider degree.
Infinite Granite represents both a dramatic shift for Deafheaven, and brings into focus their true strengths. This is a band who excel in creating an ocean of sound to bathe in. While previous efforts have seen them achieve this by overtly blending the extreme with the luscious, here they take a far more subtle route but one that on the whole is far more effective. Some will no doubt be disappointed at the scaling back of the black metal, but by bravely casting off those shackles Deafheaven have shown they still have far more room to grow than anyone initially thought.