Deafheaven

Roads to Judah

01. Violet

02. Language Games

03. Unrequited

04. Tunnel of Trees

[04/26/11]
[Deathwish, Inc.]

While black metal is still a bit of a foreign genre to me, the fledgling post-black metal movement has fascinated me since I first discovered Alcest‘s Écailles de Lune last year. The idea of this seemingly disparate collection of influences isn’t as absurd as it sounds; the dark and violent nature of black metal clashing against the melodic crescendos of post-metal and introspective ambiance of shoegaze makes for one of the most cathartic experiences that extreme metal has to offer. The two styles were almost made for each other, and it’s surprising it took until recently to catch on. Riding on this current wave of up-and-coming post-black artists is Deafheaven, who turned the online buzz generated by the release of their self-titled EP into a signing with Jacob Bannon’s Deathwish, Inc.

Their debut album Roads to Judah is a fine addition of the genre and its sound. Despite the short tracklist, the album comes close to approaching 40-minutes of music, with opening track “Violet” just crossing the 12-minute threshold. Opening with a lush melodic environment and the stumming on acoustic guitars, we eventually see the rise of the familiar sound of reverb and delay laden tremolo picking that eventually lulls to a stall before the vicious screams and blasts come into play and turning what could have been seated comfortably an Explosions in the Sky album into something much darker. Somehow, this juxtaposition of styles is quite beautiful. The album continues on in this fashion, channeling bands like Lantlos and Wolves in the Throne Room in the process. Just listen to “Tunnel of Trees” and try to not feel a sense of optimism as the song winds down to it’s piano-driven collapse.

The production work on Roads to Judah is much better than expected. While still sounding raw and organic, it still sounds good and isn’t overbearingly stripped back like a lot of black metal tries to be. Despite being blackened at its core, Roads to Judah sounds quite smooth. Deafheaven have attained the black metal sweet spot with production—being too perfect misses the point, and being too raw makes it a chore to listen to. Roads to Judah hits it just right, which should prove as a selling point to those interested in exploring black metal when combined with the post-rock aesthetic.

The only downfall is that Roads to Judah doesn’t offer up enough variance or a wide dynamic despite the sprawling song lengths, especially with the homogonous black metal sections. Songs do meander through rushes of blackened blasts and shoegaze segues, but these two main styles don’t differentiate themselves enough as to make each different movement unique from the last. This causes quite a bit of the music to blur in memory, despite how touching it may become at times. We at Heavy Blog like to shovel a lot of cerebral music your way; we’re used to stuff that requires active thought and participation on behalf of the listener. Roads to Judah differs in that it works best as a backing and passive listen—at least at first. That’s the glory of art, I suppose; different works need to be looked at in different perspectives. If you’re looking for some emotional and colorful movements, Deafheaven certainly satisfies with Roads to Judah. If you happen to be looking for a gateway into black metal, here’s a great place to start.

Deafheaven – Roads to Judah gets…

3.5/5

– JR

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