Two of the most loyal groups of fans are metal fans and Star Wars fans. Two of the most aggravating fans are metal fans and Star Wars fans. If either get a whiff of something different or something going against the norm they take great pains to let the world know what BS it is.
I have an equal amount of respect and repulsion in those regards.
I respect your dedication to the music and movies you hold so dear to your heart, but nobody’s rewriting your childhood just because your nostalgia itch isn’t being scratched how you like it, okay? That goes for both the sci fi and metal worlds. For a bunch of grown men(and possibly women, though guys are the loudest when it comes to whining) that cry foul of cancel culture, they are pretty quick to hit the cancel button on anyone or anything that doesn’t fit into their tiny little crystal ball of childhood nostalgia fetishizing. Neither Metallica, Rian Johnson, or Disney could give two shits about that mess you just made in your Yoda Underoos, bub.
And I think the same goes for the band Deafheaven.
I first heard Deafheaven in 2013 with their masterpiece Sunbather. I’d never heard anything quite like that record, and especially opening track “Dream House”. It was as if Slayer were somehow morphed with Cocteau Twins, Godflesh, and early Swans with a healthy dose of This Will Destroy You. It was speed metal in an existential crisis.
I wasn’t crazy about the George Clarke’s screaming, that is until I read the lyrics. It was like reading the prose of a 20-something Holden Caufield after a stint in a homeless shelter, then rehab. Steely words, poetic intent, and an almost child-like melancholy that felt right with the crushing guitars and machine-gun drumming. Dionysus humbled and looking for some kind of meaning in it all.
Needless to say, this band checked all the boxes for me. But then there seemed to be this backlash against them. They were posers, or rich hipsters brats playing pretend, or too good-looking and not pock-marked and bruised up enough to be metal. I didn’t get it. Who cares how they look or how much money was in their(or their parents) bank accounts? They were doing the thing and doing it pretty damn well. Not only that, I felt they were doing it differently than other bands.
With each album they continued to evolve the sound. It was heavy, but melody became more prominent. The melancholy, dreamy aspects grew, as did the early 80s thrash metal influence(especially on 2015s New Bermuda). Ordinary Corrupt Human Love was 2018s highlight for me. Introspective, atmospheric, aggressive, and ultimately kind of uplifting. Just an absolute masterpiece.
So Deafheaven are back with a new album called Infinite Granite. It’s dropping on August 20th with Sargent House, and lead single “Great Mass Of Color” is further proof they’re not planning on repeating themselves. The sound is brighter and more vast, with the guitars jangling like dream pop shimmers, and George Clarke’s screams are replaced with an almost Morrissey feel. It’s an absolutely gorgeous track, that while it feels like a much different vibe, still sounds very much like Deafheaven.
Of course there’s a Greek chorus of metal fans comparing it to Coldplay and saying “hard pass”. But there’s just as many that seem to dig the sound. I’m digging it. I’m digging it very much. I hear a band that has gotten healthy and over the hump of judgement. They’ve found their voice and are using it, both in melodic touches and abrasive belts of noise. I’m good with that.
One other thing I wanted to mention, the album was produced by Justin Meldal-Johnsen. If you don’t know who Meldal-Johnsen is, then you’ve at least probably heard him play with Beck, NIN, M83, Air, and St. Vincent. The guy is a musical genius and studio wizard who’s been around and helped define the sound of 90s alternative rock. He’s not the obvious choice to produce Deafheaven(at least I don’t think it’s obvious), but I think it’s pretty genius. Justin was also a member of the band Medicine in the early 90s. And he’s currently the music director and bassist for St. Vincent’s band. He’s got music and street cred, and is sort of an L.A. music guru. He’s the real deal, and it sounds like he got along pretty well with with Deafheaven. At least from this first single.
Don’t take offense metal and Star Wars fans. Hey, I’m passionate about music and the Lucasfilm world as well. But I’m also equally passionate about evolution and creative, individual voices. That’s just me, I guess. Oh, and I’ve got a couple boxes of vintage early 80s Kenner toys in the basement if you’re interested.
Listen to “Great Mass Of Color” below.