Review Summary: The formidable Roads to Judah puts to rest any doubts as to whether Deafheaven are worthy of the acclaim that precedes them in a dense display of both passion and control
Clouds of excitement have been brewing around Bay Area band Deafheaven since the band’s inception. In discussing the five San Franciscans, subtlety has been placed on the wayside in favor of hyperbole and eager anticipation. And why not? Their first official output, Roads to Judah
, is a dizzying and dynamic affair. By juxtaposing different aspects of black metal and hardcore music alongside the brooding, ruminative aura of shoegaze or anything that hinges on atmosphere, listeners are treated to an aural overload that elicits many shades of color besides simply “black.” Deafheaven’s Roads to Judah
is a sign of the times, a genre-unifying work that’s sure to floor listeners whether they’re wearing pastel v-necks or sleeveless leather shirts. Fuc
k subgenres-- in a vehement exhibition of vast soundscapes and keen precision, Roads to Judah
supersedes them. Not only is it the most exciting of the year thus far according to hordes of listeners, but its sublime technicality and immersion proves that it’s perfectly deserving of this title, as well.
The dense release doesn’t concentrate on technical tidbits as much as it does executing complete, emotional inundation. The vocals are one of these overarching, connecting factors-- overwhelmingly desperate, awash with sorrow. Additionally, muffled beneath the more metallic influences I was surprised to find hiding a late 90’s screamo record. The surface of rough dynamism and heaviness is impressive, but peel back a few of those layers and Roads to Judah
is Gospel-esque, acerbic and grandiose in its scope. This is most striking in the reached, overwrought vocals that play a larger part than perhaps any other facet on the LP. Though, one of the best parts about Deafheaven is that they don’t succumb to drowning in their own atmosphere. Throughout, the different pieces of the music, the influences, are assembled with precision. The concoction never sounds forced, or like there’s too many chunks of certain ingredients floating around. Take, for instance, the opener “Violet.” It takes time for the track to ascertain the right momentum. The piece swells and contracts until enough pressure is built up, and it lets out an exacerbating bellow of intensity that seems not to relent during the 40-minute ordeal; only for Deafheaven to exert their control when necessary, finely tuning back particularities that amount to a well-oiled final product. Given the norms of the genre and preconceived notions, new listeners will most likely be taken aback by the multiplicity put on display by the San Franciscan’s, too. Don’t mistake their first official output as strictly black, as it wades through a wide spectrum of colors (though I can say that they’re all fairly dark).
What’s more impressive than Road to Judah’s
overwhelming intensity and finely-tuned catharsis is Deafhaven’s utter control. The band wields a heavy hand on the project, as the songs are incredibly well-structured (probably the most striking aspect on first listen). By downplaying certain moments and allowing time for the band’s more subdued, intellectual side to shine through, it casts an even stronger spotlight on the balls-to-the-wall intense sections. It’s an impossible combination of extremes, a centaur of polar-opposite influences. Yet, because of the exactness that Deafheaven exhibit over their lush, teething LP, it works. This
, this control, the intuitive brilliance that Deafheaven display on Roads to Judah
is what gives the LP such a defined footprint in the face of this year’s music, so far. It’s been difficult not to notice those clouds of anticipation that accompany Deafheaven as of late, and Roads to Judah
vaporizes any doubts that perhaps they’re unjustified. It’s a marvel what that Deafheaven have released such a tour de force already, and whether you’re a fan of metal, shoegaze, or simply superb music, Roads to Judah
is certainly worth rejoicing over.