It’s nearly impossible to put a genre on this record, and strict genre interpretations are for poseurs anyway, but if I was pressed I’d say… black and psyche? Even that undersells the noise rock inspired frenzy of blast beats, shrieks and expansive and progressive composition on display here, but as the album unfolds it becomes obvious that whatever pigeon hole you try and put them into, firstly they aren’t going to fit, and secondly, they’ll only defy your expectations in 30 seconds time anyway.
Opener Sinking is a fantastic example of why, as garage rock gives way to blast beats, but with a major key post-rock arpeggio and chord structure, without the pomposity that you might expect after reading that phrase, informed as much by the black and roll of Kvelertak as it is Deafheaven. As the blasts subside, the track takes a turn back towards savage, ferocious and raw noise rock and garage punk, all without letting the urgency the band capture so well slide away, all while sporting some of the best fucking guitar tones I’ve heard on any album all year…
Second track Watcher keeps the intensity up and the initial incongruous mix of influences rolling on. Another of the band’s strengths is the ability to keep things (relatively) simple and to the point, keeping the tension and release of tracks and the joy that build ups while crescendos bring the listener intact, without stretching everything out over seven unnecessary minutes. When the blastbeats inevitably come back in they sound natural and like they should be there, which, let’s be honest, a lot of the bands who’ve decided to try their hand at blackened *genre* just can’t manage.
It’s pretty obvious I love this album… anybody who loves Sonic Youth oriented noise rock or black metal without being a dick about it is probably going to love it too.
It’s probably testament to how good the first two tracks are that when the wonky noise rock properly kicks in around track three, that I, a long-standing metalhead who’s never knowingly listened to Dinosaur Jr. in his life, didn’t even bat an eyelid, and if you’ve ever thought that that sort of thing could be improved with vocals from the “tortured howls of a wounded animal” school, you were absolutely right.
Track five, Silent Running, has a languidly threatening, sparse bass and guitar line serving as an anchor, while the rest of the band build around it into a powerful yet succinct climax that a lesser band would milk to death, before it veers off into psychedelic nirvana. Track six Afloat builds from another restrained intro before taking another about turn back into black and roll territory and both just make me appreciate their restraint not to take the obvious path, and not to allow any one element to overstay it’s welcome. The euphoric climaxes are there, just like you want them to be, it’s just that the path to the top of the mountain isn’t as direct as you expected and it’s all the better when you reach it.
Album closer Residue at first had me thinking that this would be the bit where I write about the one thing I was disappointed by, and that the last track on an album like this should go out on a bigger bang but again, with the twists and turns, I won’t ruin the surprise.
So how do I conclude? It’s pretty obvious I love this album, it’s probably going straight in my top ten for the year, and anybody who loves Sonic Youth oriented noise rock or black metal without being a dick about it is probably going to love it too. If you’re unadventurous and prefer to stick to what you know, like your heavy metal technical and pure, or you’re just an uber boring kvlt-head, you might want to give this a miss, but I’m a firm believer that all the best rewards lie off the beaten path.
Scribed by: Chris Wood