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Deafheaven trades post-black metal for beautiful, unfiltered shoegaze on ‘Infinite Granite’

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AUGUST 23, 2021

Grade: 4.5/5.0

Known for its atmospheric shoegaze mixed with elements of black metal, Deafheaven is a pioneering band constantly pushing the boundaries of heavy post-rock. The band’s genre, although characterized as entirely harsh and rugged, has always had moments of softness — as much as you can really get from any subgenre of metal. The thrashing melodies that accompany lead singer George Clarke’s normally screaming vocals are oddly comforting at times.

While these bursts of stunning vulnerability hadn’t yet found a center stage in Deafheaven’s discography, the band’s latest album Infinite Granite aims to change that. Released Aug. 20, Infinite Granite finds the band shifting away from the doom and gloom of its blackgaze beginnings and taking on a more conventional, wholly shoegaze sound.

“Shellstar” begins with a light, droning melody before bright but subdued guitars take over. The guitar soon melts into a washed-out buzz during the chorus, reminiscent of the quintessential stylings that have held shoegaze in a graceful chokehold since the genre’s conception. Fans will immediately notice one major shift: Clarke has traded in his piercing vocals for an unfamiliar, surprisingly gentle croon. It suits him just as well as his usual screech, yet it entirely changes Deafheaven’s sonic dynamic from one of mayhem to one comprised of lulling — but still punchy — waves of sound.

Though the album does fall into the territory of more mainstream shoegaze and post-rock, the artist hasn’t fallen prey to the trap of mediocrity. Infinite Granite is just as powerful and majestic as the rest of the band’s work, with each song perfectly crafting an emotional landscape that conveys the group’s woes and dreams.

“In Blur” features excellent drum work by Daniel Tracy, and the dual guitars of Kerry McCoy and Shiv Mehra create an enveloping environment of rich sound. The breakdowns and harmonies satisfy by finding a way to burrow themselves into listeners’ souls before wrenching through them with a subdued ferocity.

The cohesion across Infinite Granite is impeccable, with all tracks sounding as if they are inexplicably connected on some spiritual, musical plane without sounding anything like its predecessor. While “Great Mass of Color” feels like a trip through galaxies unknown, the tasteful distortion on “The Gnashing” is like a heavy reprise to the more bright, hopeful songs on the album. The two songs, along with the rest of the record, feel like parts of a meticulously crafted story both lyrically and instrumentally.

“Mombasa,” a song about the freedoms of death, ends the album with a slow-tempo ballad — at least, in the first half. Then, as if newfound rage has possessed the band, the song descends into the heavy chaos and raspy vocals Deafheaven is known for, a slight nod to listeners confused or worried that the band had lost its edge. “Travel now/ Where they can’t let you down/ Where you can’t fail them now,” Clarke screams, ushering Infinite Granite into a brief moment of familiarity before fading out.

Infinite Granite is like its name: It elicits a never-ending stream of emotions from listeners, yet it still keeps Deafheaven as solid and grounded as stone. There has always been a distinctive beauty to Deafheaven’s music; from the charged breakdowns to the fervor felt in every note of the growling vocals, the band’s furious aura intermingles smoothly with ethereality.

The album, however, is not meant to match the vicious energy or madness of Deafheaven’s other releases. The record highlights the band’s versatility, and it’s refreshing to see how the group handles the shoegaze part of blackgaze so well.

Infinite Granite is far from a lapse in identity — Deafheaven, if anything, is more sure of itself now than ever. It’s a stark shift in sound for the seasoned band, and though it could take die-hard listeners some time to get adjusted to, the payoff is more than worth it.

Contact Pooja Bale at [email protected]. Tweet her at @callmepbj.
LAST UPDATED

AUGUST 24, 2021


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