On their fifth album, Deafheaven has pretty much excised all the metal from their sound. Gone are most of the heavy guitars and George Clarke’s screaming is pretty much absent, replaced by a multi-octave singing voice. What’s left is an epic, post-rock. This is fine, except there are many, many other bands doing this. Shellstar opens up on Kerry McCoy’s trebley guitars, launching into epic chest-beating earnest rock. In Blur is a bit more immersive and engaging, like a downbeat Simple Minds. The likes of the seven-minute Lament for Wasps is one of the most relaxed things they’ve ever done.
It’s not all slumber, Great Mass of Color builds gradually to an explosive coda, while The Gnashing sees the welcome introduction of heavy guitars stomping all over the track from the midsection on. Clarke puts in a fine vocal performance on Villains, finally letting loose towards the end of the song. Later, he unleashes his bloodcurdling screams towards the end of the final track Mombasa. The penultimate track, Other Languages is downbeat and moody. Some of McCoy’s finest, textured guitar work is here, and it’s excellent, but not what you’d expect from Deafheaven.
A definite departure for Deafheaven, though there were signs of this direction on previous albums. It will be interesting to see what they do next, if they keep going like this they won’t be troubling the likes of Kerrang for much longer.