Deafheaven – ‘Infinite Granite’

By Ash Bebbington

Deafheaven have never been a band to take the easiest route creatively, and ‘Infinite Granite’ sees them take another bold step forward. Over the past decade, they’ve established a reputation as one of the leading lights of the ‘Blackgaze’ genre, blending black metal with shoegaze – with this record, they’ve shaken off the shackles of expectation, leaving behind the black metal sonics to focus on a more shoegaze approach and the results are absolutely staggering. ‘Infinite Granite’ is easily the best record of 2021 so far, and it’s near impossible to see how any other artist will top it in the next four months.

The biggest talking point here is the lack of black metal sounds both musically and, most notably, in the vocals. Deafheaven’s previous releases were characterised by lush soundscapes, overlaid with vocalist George Clarke’s demonic shrieks. This was one of the things that made Deafheaven stand out on their critically acclaimed earlier records, but bizarrely, you won’t miss it at all. They’ve taken a huge gamble and it’s paid off; somehow, they have reinvented their sound completely while still sounding like themselves, and without sacrificing an ounce of quality.

The vast majority of vocal lines on ‘Infinite Granite’ are sung completely clean, with only the occasional harsh vocal thrown in for effect. Considering this is largely uncharted territory for Clarke, both his vocal range and the quality of his performance is astonishing. You’d think he’d been singing in this style for the band’s entire career. Deafheaven’s previous work has been divisive, and there are some who enjoy their work but can’t get on board with the screamed vocals – if that sounds like you, now’s the time to give them another go.

Sonically, the album leans into the warmer sounds Deafheaven teased on their previous album, the exceptional ‘Ordinary Corrupt Human Love’. As ever, the guitar work of Kerry McCoy and Shiv Mehra is absolutely sublime, laying down hooks and melodies at every twist and turn. On previous Deafheaven records, the guitars would be the sole focus in terms of melody, with Clarke’s vocals providing gritty texture. However, on ‘Infinite Granite’, both the vocals and the guitars provide the melody, making the music more dynamic and multilayered than ever before.

The band also tentatively foray into the world of synths, with minor electronic flourishes used throughout the record. These are so subtle you may not even notice them on your first listen, but they add an extra dimension to the songs that couldn’t have been achieved with guitars alone.

Ultimately, the record sounds truly gorgeous. Its undeniable rhythm and groove make it so easy to get lost in, and the 53-minute runtime flies by in no time at all. From front to back, it’s an expansive and luscious soundscape that you’ll want to dive into feet first over and over again.

It’s hard to identify standout tracks on a record like this, since all of them come together to form a greater whole. Yes, individual tracks are magnificent, but they are made many times better by being part of the record. If you’re not sure whether this record is for you, we’d strongly recommend listening to it all the way through to find out, rather than picking out individual tracks.

Deafheaven are a truly special band. Following their critical and commercial breakthrough in 2013’s ‘Sunbather’, they’ve continued to grow and evolve, changing their sound with each passing release. Only the very best bands can do that while keeping the level of quality absolutely sky-high, as Deafheaven have consistently done.

‘Infinite Granite’ is the best record of the year so far, any competition falling so far behind it’s barely worth them taking part.

ASH BEBBINGTON

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