“Violet,” the opening track on Deafheaven’s debut album, Roads to Judah, on Deathwish Inc. Records, begins with a gentle ambience interwoven with the sounds of people and cars along a street. A softly strummed acoustic guitar leads into a song that falls somewhere between the dreaminess of Slowdive and the spacey noise of My Bloody Valentine. Deafheaven’s shoegaze influences are made readily apparent throughout the beginning of the song, as effects drenched guitars swirl and envelope. At the four-minute, twenty-second mark you quickly realize that this is not a shoegaze band like other shoegaze bands, as a pummeling blast beat is quickly followed by throat shredding screams. Deafheaven’s influences coalesce into an unlikely combination of shoegaze, black metal, and emotional post-rock. Fuzzy, immersive shoegaze melodies are propelled along by black metal blast beats, double bass, and screamed vocals. Deafheaven’s drummer pushes the songs with an impressive stamina, as the unrelenting blast beats continue on for minutes at a time.
Roads to Judah’s four songs make for a 38-minute long album, with the shortest song, “Language Games” finishing just shy of seven minutes. Deafheaven packages their shoegaze meets black metal in the long form, slow burn and build of instrumental post-rock. Blast beats give way to slow, quiet, and almost painfully pretty interludes that call to mind bands like Explosions in the Sky and Russian Circles. The third song on the album, “Unrequited”, begins with delay and reverb laden guitars that move with a meaningful, slow pace. The shift in tempo that occurs a little over two minutes into the song is jarring, and pushes the soft-loud dynamic to new extremes. Album closer, “Tunnel of Trees”, has what might be the most striking dynamic shift of the album. Noise and blast beats continue on for half the song and then drop into a slow, beautiful ambience that would find itself right at home alongside Texas post-rock practitioners Stars of the Lid and Explosions in the Sky. “Tunnel of Trees” builds again before the end of the song, but finishes with a pretty, lonely piano, giving a calming end to a dynamic and intensely cathartic album.
Roads to Judah is an impressive first album, combining seemingly disparate styles in a way that not only makes sense, but has the potential to further bridge the gap between the emotion and melody of post-rock and shoegaze, and the aggression and intensity of more extreme styles of metal.
Purchase Roads to Judah at your local record store . . . or if you must, on iTunes.
“Tunnel of Trees”