Deafheaven Tone Down the Metal but Still Hit Hard on 'Infinite Granite'
Published Aug 16, 2021Deafheaven have never been a band to shy away from their artistic vision. Their landmark sophomore LP, Sunbather, melded black metal's fury and atmospherics with shoegaze and post-rock's expansive beauty in ways never heard before. Since then, the band's continued down a path that's masterfully pushed the balancing of these elements. And with their new album, Infinite Granite, they've retained their core qualities while straying further than ever from their original sound.
Infinite Granite is markedly less metal than previous releases, but the band's restraint with their ferocity only makes those moments more impactful when they appear. Much of the record moves through momentous shoegaze and alt-rock woven together with luminous hues of blue. Vocalist George Clarke has expanded his range, often singing with elongated feather-light words that flow with soothing colour, and on Infinite Granite, screams are rare and tactically used. Clarke has said he found inspiration for his melodic vocals in artists like Nina Simone, Chet Baker and Tears for Fears, and what he's come to stylistically complements the band's new dynamics.
For Infinite Granite, Deafheaven chose to work with a different producer than on previous records. Justin Meldal-Johnsen, who's produced for artists like M83, Paramore and Metric, presents Deafheaven's heady world through a vivid frame. Clarke's lyrics still pull human dilemmas and experiences through an abstract poetic lens, like the open questions and personal truths of "Great Mass of Color," where he sings, "Do I need this affection? Do you? / Do you need this confusion? Do you? / Living trapped inside this body / Soft, haunted, waiting, wanting / Measured change evades real healing / Taking love with little reason." The clarity of Clarke's vocals make it so the lyrics play a more revealing role, and are affective in a different way – his often-wistful tone drifting comfortably amongst silvery, searching guitar lines.
Similar to many of Deafheaven's songs from previous collections, most of Infinite Granite's tracks are epic suites that flow between pensive and climactic moments, evoking emotions through evolving and immersive sonic layers. In "Shellstar" and "Lament for Wasps," guitars chime, whirl and drape roaring distortion around energetic drums. Clarke's vocals are their prettiest in "Villain" before leading into one the album's grandest choruses and the first hit of the Deafheaven that some are probably waiting for, as immense guitars blast skyward and black metal screams rip through.
Christopher Johnson's bass and Daniel Tracy's intricately broadened and busy drumwork give the album grounded versatility, while Kerry McCoy and Shiv Mehra's whirling astral guitars and waves of noise provide its dreamy radiance and add to its heft. "Great Mass of Color" packs some of the collection's most indelible hooks and melodies. "Mombasa" progresses from acoustic fingerpicking into blissful notes and swirling synth, through a subdued chorus and into Clarke's black metal vocals that flare up with tumultuous guitars and relentless drums.
Prominent on its cosmic cover art, in its lyrics and tone, Infinite Granite is remarkably blue, and beautifully so. Some fans might not appreciate the direction the band has taken towards the light, but nevertheless, the heart of Deafheaven remains. Deafheaven's fury and anguish has always had a companion in melancholy, introspection and their openness to explore. On Infinite Granite, they continue that journey, softening, brightening, and elevating themselves to shimmering cerulean skies, sometimes still pulling through storms, at home in a new world. (Sargent House)