You know those albums that sound just like their cover art? This is one of those. If you’re at all familiar with LLNN, one of the most crushingly oppressive voices in post-metal/post-hardcore today, that probably won’t surprise you. LLNN’s career has been highlighting by such releases as their collaboration with Wovoka or their own Loss, two bleak releases that seemed to drew from a wretched core of dejection, despair and loneliness. That latter is especially important; Marks / Traces, the aforementioned split, had a distinct sci-fi theme to it (specifically, Alien) and we’ve already discussed in the past how that genre, metal and the themes of loneliness work together.
Enter Deads, their 2018 release, and a further step forward/downwards into their own unique sound. Deads is unique for its ability to paint a picture not only with noise but with silence, with the spaces between notes. Take the second track from it, “Parallels”. After the opening track ushered in the album with a distinctly The Ocean influenced riff (specifically, Aeolian), “Parallels” is something different entirely. What if crushing post-metal was staccato, a style usually resolved for progressive metal? This is the result; crushing chords crash and then stop, leaving you lurching forward in the absence of their momentum.
One minute they’re there, engrossing you in their aggression, and the other instance you’re left alone, contemplating silence before sound erupts again. This creates the sensation of emptiness, of an oppressive void. This feeling is then built upon with the next track, “Armada”. The synths which open hark back to the sci-fi influences that have always made LLNN tick; they wouldn’t be out of place in the theme of some lunatic space villain. The heavier groove from the first track returns, transforming the album’s energy back to necessity and forward motion. But the heaviness remains, prompt by the tones of the guitar and the ponder-some nature of the riffs but also by the ever-returning, oppressive nature of the synths.
These finally break into a brooding segment that reminds us of Callisto‘s earlier works, post-metal which blends both introspection and crushing forbearance. The guitar part during this segment and, indeed, in other places on the album, is expertly executed, lending just the right atmosphere to this fake lull before a very real storm. This means that when the heavy riff finally does return, it is put in context, framed by the guitar parts which led to it. This makes the crescendo all the more pleasing and an outstandingly crushing outro, all groove, ominous synth booms and dirty bass.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the vocals when discussing the mix that turns out to be LLNN, on this album and elsewhere. They are immediately recognizable as belonging to the hardcore style of vocals but are rawer and more hurt than in other places in the genre. They’re both fed by and feed the aggression of the other instruments, working beautifully with the rest of the band to put an emotional icing on the cake. Put all of these elements and you get Deads, another fantastic album by one of the best post-metal bands in operation today. If you’re still not convinced, let me offer you one last analogy: it’s like the Inception sound design fed through a rusty meat grinder. In space.