There will be debate, of course, but to these ears there hasn’t been a single artist of the last decade that has produced the kind of sweltering atmospheres like Deafheaven.
There are numerous examples. Tunnel of Trees (2011’s Roads to Judah), Dream House (2013’s Sunbather), Luna (2015’s New Bermuda). There are many other moments, but these are examples where Deafheaven have cultivated the kind of intense, searing lighting bolts that illuminate the darkest corners of the earth.
On Infinite Granite, the band’s fifth long-player, things won’t make sense at first, but with the finest art produced, it never does.
Historically, the metal community may not be the hardest to offend, however Deafheaven are outliers in this particular pantheon. Castigated as hipster metal by the lifers, and too intense for snivelling hipsters, Deafheaven have always manoeuvred between the lines of beauty and brutality, despite merging the two so majestically throughout their previous works.
With Infinite Granite, Deafheaven may well have proven that annihilation and despair can be just as stunning via gliding melodies as opposed to sheer malevolent force.
Enlisting Justin Meldal-Johnsen, the producer responsible for the sheen on later M83 albums, and Wolf Alice (cue the red flag), it’s fair to say Deafheaven have reached for the reset button.
Reset or not, the Meldal-Johnsen/Deafheaven alliance is a winner. With the potential of alienating their most fervent followers, one can’t argue that Infinite Granite is Deafheaven‘s most heart-felt record yet. While the crunching flange of Kerry McCoy and Shiv Mehra‘s guitars may be somewhat tamed, Deafheaven hone in on other aspects of songcraft that may prove to be their most valued treasure yet.
The major shift comes via George Clarke‘s vocals; his murderous call to arms largely M.I.A here, with the singer favouring saccharine dream-pop melodies. His voice, now riding on riffs instead of bursting through the tidal wave of flange and acerbic noise.
On opening song, Shellstar, Old and New World Deafheaven collide, with Clarke‘s voice floating and coiling around the atmospheric blusters of the band’s past. Deafheaven have always produced music that captivates, but here, instead of shoving us into the maelstrom, the band gently guide us there instead.
The ’90s emo-inspired reverie of In Blur and Great Mass of Colour is like the pop maximalism The Armed showcased earlier this year with Ultrapop. It’s moments like these that see Deafheaven morphing into a new beast, moving closer to their blood brothers, Touché Amore. On Lament for Wasps, they just about rub shoulders with them, too, as riffs swirl, reaching for the sky, the driving rhythms from Daniel Tracy and Chris Johnson proving dynamic.
Then there’s Villain. Head and shoulders the album highlight and a song that would emphatically make its way onto a Deafheaven best-of. With a melody American Football‘s Mike Kinsella would be proud of, the band reach for the roaring pillars of menace of their past. Together, it’s a thing of majesty.
While the glittery blasts of noise during The Gnashing hold firm to the band’s shiny new aesthetics, Other Language is a band truly immersed in the world of dream-pop reverence, with clear echoes of The Cure and Cocteau Twins shining through.
Deafheaven have always finished records as strong as they start and with Mombasa, the theme continues. A song that transcends after catching the sparks of the preceding Villain, it draws time, confirming a band completely shedding new skin.
Yes, this is not Deafheaven of yesteryear but it’s still Deafheaven at their core. A band that has dramatically shifted the needle, and on Infinite Granite, one could argue that it’s one of the boldest artistic leaps since Radiohead‘s Kid A.
There may be as much delight as there is disgust. A band forever marginalised, however Infinite Granite sees Deafheaven rewriting their own script.
Ironically, it feels like a band at their most self-effacing, creating what they want with little concern for those outside of their realm. In a world filled with individuals hell-bent on attention by any means possible, Deafheaven‘s attitude is about as refreshing as the sounds they’ve produced on Infinite Granite.
Infinite Granite is out via Sargent House. Purchase from Bandcamp.