Deafhaven album ‘Infinite Granite’ subverts expectation

John Cantwell | staff writer


In 2013, the musical landscape of Pitchfork hipster sounds was shaken to its core by the tremolo picked (yet atmospheric) guitar sounds, pummeling blast-beat drums and banshee shrieks of Deafheaven’s sophomore LP Sunbather: An album that, upon release, gifted listeners with tracks heavily inspired by the shoegaze-y, dream-pop sounds of English rock band Slowdive, as well as the cacophonous black metal tone of Emperor alike. It was easy to see how Deafheaven left heavy metal elitists and indie rock yuppies both scratching their heads and dazing off to the euphoric and monstrous crescendos of tracks like “Dream House” and “Vertigo” off of the sophomore LP.

Since this release, Deafheaven’s sound and compositions continue to embark in new sonic territory, with each album sounding uniquely different but without losing their signature “blackgaze” moniker.

However, with the release of Infinite Granite on August 20, it appears that they have since abandoned (mostly) the iconic screamed vocals of George Clarke and blistering black metal inspirations in place of even more reverb-drenched guitar progressions and more conspicuously clean vocals.

Infinite Granite is a drastic departure from the group’s previous escapades, substituting the vile throat-abusing screams in exchange for more soft vocal inflections and even more glimmering guitar tones that still showcase the band covering unorthodox territory, whether it makes the metalheads happy or not.

The album’s exposition begins with “Shellstar,” as an ambient synthesizer chord leads directly into a gentle guitar arpeggio by Kerry McCoy and Shiv Mehra, with lyrics (as George Clarke puts it) that “allude to isolation and the attempt to rationalize traumatic and emotional events.”

The song then crescendos into a distorted (but not too heavy) chorus exhibits the band’s sonic qualities without overdoing it, all while showcasing that the songs can still hit without it being traditionally “heavy.”

“In Blur”, the third single the band released, gives the listener a warm feeling of summer bliss, which is perfectly encapsulated with the accompanying music video which features the band playing tunes with their label mates. The chorus almost sounds like an Oasis track, with McCoy’s reverb-drenched guitar taking the forefront alongside Dan Tracy’s sporadic drum rhythms that showcase how tight the band’s sound is, even when they are not playing their traditional, black metal infused sound.

Although the high points on the album really hit, the constant crescendo-building in almost every one of the tracks can sometimes be a repetitive formula, as every song appears to start with a soft, gentle guitar arpeggio that leads into a booming climax.

The final track, “Mombasa,” is the only track on the album that sees Deafheaven return to their roots, as the last three minutes bring back the cacophonous, yet triumphant black metal sound that brought them to the mainstream. The screams and blistering beats that fans know and love are all present within this final composition, illustrating that although the band ventured into a new direction, they haven’t totally forgotten where they came from.

Although it is by no means a perfect album, Infinite Granite will find itself to be a staple within the Deafheaven catalog.