Deafheaven — Infinite Granite
Released: August 20, 2021
George Clarke // Vocals
Kerry McCoy // Guitar/Synthesizers
Shiv Mehra // Guitar/Synthesizers
Chris Johnson // Bass
Daniel Tracy // Drums
Deafheaven didn’t invent their shoegaze/blackmetal/post-rock hybrid sound, but boy did they ever put it on the map in 2013. Having successfully bridged the extreme metal and alternative rock divide with their all-conquering sophomore album Sunbather, the American five-piece have ridden a wave of critical acclaim and underground success on the back of that release and it’s two equally impressive follow ups. However, with the passing of time can come the want, or need, to expand boundaries and change things up. This is something that Deafheaven has wholly embraced on LP number five, Infinite Granite.
With almost all of their previous black metal elements brushed away, it would be a stretch to call Infinite Granite metal at all. Aside from the excellent final three minutes of closing track ‘Mombasa’, gone are George Clarke’s tortured screams and shrieks, the whirlwind blastbeat drumming and tremolo-picked guitar work. In their stead is a mostly more restrained sound; with the sole use of clean vocals being the biggest difference, as to the more reeled in rhythm section and reliance on reverb and delay soaked guitars.
Long time fans shouldn’t really be shocked by this stylistic divergence, as the previously mentioned post-rock and shoegaze elements have always been an important component of Deafheaven’s music. Their prior album, 2018’s Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, undeniably began to show signs that a change was possibly in the horizon. It’s not to say things dully float by though, with the band turning up the volume for the big choruses of first singles ‘Great Mass of Color’ and ‘The Gnashing’. Both tracks perfectly show off Deafheaven’s new approach to songwriting; balancing intricate musicianship, melodic passages and memorable hooks, whilst building to powerful climaxes. The underlying emotions of melancholy and sadness of their earlier works have been noticeably toned down a few notches. In their absence is an air of hope and reflection, with ‘In Blur’, ’Villain’ and album opener ‘Shellstar’ being positively uplifting.
Justin Meldal-Johnsen’s (Beck, Jimmy Eat World) production is organic, lush and powerful. It manages to sound large and commanding though a Hi-Fi system or car stereo, whilst deep and dense enough to indulge in with headphones. The synth instrumental interlude ‘Neptune Raining Diamonds’ could be lifted straight from a forgotten 80s sci-fi soundtrack, harkening back to the works of Tangerine Dream and Vangelis. ‘Lament for Wasps’ and ‘Other Language’ are drenched in effect-driven guitars, acoustic strumming and keyboard atmospheres, with repeated listens required to fully appreciate the tracks. That being said, with none of the band’s trademark ten minute epics to be found, it’s the most immediate collection of songs that they have released so far.
Deafheaven have created a great alternative rock record, one that can easily compete with the modern-day dream pop/post-punk groups like Beach House, DIIV and Interpol. Though ultimately they have sacrificed what made them originally standout from a vast majority of their peers, and it’s hard to not be a little disappointed by its lack of visceral intensity. To judge it solely as a singular body of work, Infinite Granite is a bold, impressive album that has the potential to take them from being critical darlings to alt-rock heroes. Only time will tell if their already devoted fanbase will go along with them for the ride.
Deafheaven – Infinite Granite tracklisting:
2. In Blur
3. Great Mass of Color
4. Neptune Raining Diamonds
5. Lament for Wasps
7. The Gnashing
8. Other Language