Bands looking to work within the post black metal milieu face an inherent difficulty: how do you innovate on a genre that’s considered an innovation in and of itself? When you’re operating in a musical sphere which defines itself as “after” something, when the very basic approach of your genre is considered a departure from the core in which it originated, it can be hard to differentiate yourself from the rest of the bands relying on just the same definition. The first wave of post rock encountered the same problem, as did post punk and all the rest of the “after” sub-genres. In post black metal’s case, there are a few interesting answers.
One can retreat back towards black metal, making post black that is heavily informed by the genre from which it originated (a good example is Ghâsh) or you can splice your post black metal with some truly out there and unexpected influences (like Asira‘s reliance on progressive/heavy rock). The latter seems to be the direction in which Deadspace chose to go on their recently released The Liquid Sky. Like the aforementioned Asira, at their core Deadspace play post black metal; there are plenty of blastbeats, the vocals focus on high pitched screaming and the guitars are dreamy and laden with effects. And like Asira, the heavy/prog rock influences are abundant. For example, “Void” introduces a guitar solo towards its end resplendent in reverb and treble, striking a decidedly unique chord in an otherwise pretty standard post black metal track.
However, Deadspace don’t just stop there. While the first five tracks (counting the intro track, petition to Stop Intro Tracks 2017) are perfectly well executed post black metal, the true appeal of the album lies closer to its end. The sixth track, “Kidney Bleach”, is where things really start to change. The hints towards rock ballads and mainstream pop anthems replete throughout the beginnings of the album suddenly burst forth on this track. The center is dedicated to a highly emotional vocal duet, with guest vocals contributed by Portia Gebauer to contrast those of the main vocalist, Chris Gebauer. The guitars serve in a backing role, heavily tinged with a Southern lull which lends the whole track a rock n’ roll attitude that’s hard to resist.
And that’s the most important thing here; it’s hard to resist because everything is executed with the same precision as the first part of the album. These experimentation are more than a gimmick. Whether the raspy approach to the verses on “Kidney Bleach” or the tensions between the whispered/clean singing and the incredibly abrasive vocals on the outro of “The Liquid Sky”, the unexpected influences and the post black metal on The Liquid Sky come from the same emotional and musical place. These weren’t just tacked on for show; the band are trying to communicate with us across different channels, to express the same emotional ideas through different musical approaches.
Thus, while The Liquid Sky won’t break apart the sub-genre, it’s another fine example of how to bake in experimentation when departing from an already pretty out there genre. You won’t find yourself at awe in the presence of the musical ideas on the album but if you let the emotional message of the melange which Deadspace display on it seep through, you’ll find a moving and convincing effort at communication. This, at the end of the day, makes for great music, music which feels personal and important to the artist, making it easier for the listener to make it just as important and personal for themselves. Maybe that’s what post black metal needs nowadays, artists who are able to use it to communicate more than just innovation but rather reconnect with the reason we consume music in the first place.
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The Liquid Sky was released on November 15th via Talheim Records. You can head on over to the band’s Bandcamp above to purchase it.