Review Summary: Eat your heart out Deafheaven.
To anyone who has been paying attention over the last few years in extreme music, it comes as no surprise that both the popularity and frequency of black metal records with a post-rock candy coating have been on the rise. Never before had the demand and acclaim for music of its variety been so prevalent as it had been with last year's album from Deafheaven
. With its brightly colored artwork, uplifting melodies and polar opposite aesthetic to the soul of black metal proper, it stood as an unabashed beacon for black metal-lite amid a sea of gray-scale art and predictably derivative, safe records in a genre that is largely stuck in the past when it comes to image and message. Whether or not Sunbather
will have a lasting impact or effect on black metal as a whole remains to be seen, but it's undeniable that the gates have been opened, albeit slightly, for a form of music that has been mainly in the shadows until it was thrust onto its perch in the musical spotlight. Other groups like Les Discrets
among a handful of others have been doing this style of hybrid music for the better part of a decade now as well with varying degrees of success and with a bit of experimentation here and there (which sometimes loses the metal element completely - we're looking at you Alcest
). However, there has yet to be a perfect adaptation and execution of melding both genres seamlessly that captures the cold, dark, raw emotion of black metal with the soaring, explosive, and climatic post-rock atmosphere. Picturing a Sense of Loss
just might just be the album everyone has been waiting on and the first to see this style executed in a fully realized manner that takes the best of post-rock and black metal while managing to make something that is greater than the sum of its parts. It might seem to the outsider that those two genres on paper offer conflicting attributes by nature that can't be resolved effectively without comprising the integrity and structure of each sound, but Deadwood are out to prove you wrong and they most certainly will.
This debut record from the German quintet is about as impressive as they come in every facet from production, to songwriting, instrumentation and beyond. Deadwood manage to deftly build tension and emotion extremely effectively and with more grace and aptitude than anyone in the business. Picturing a Sense of Loss
an oxymoron of an album that is both cold and warm, distant yet personal, and bleak yet full of hope; it has a frigid exoskeleton that isn't afraid to let you hear the vulnerable spirit it's protecting underneath. The post-rock side of this offering is nothing short of breathtaking and stands as a fully captivating adventure made even better by the howling and pained black metal vocals that often tear through the ethereal atmosphere and explode into tremolo strummed riffs and blisteringly paced fulminent black metal passages. The group effortlessly weaves these two genres together throughout its nearly hour long run-time making for a varied and dynamic experience that doesn't slingshot the listener back and forth between post-rock and black metal, but instead transitions purposefully and eloquently into one another. As massive and epic as Picturing a Sense of Loss
can be, it never never delves into an overblown grandiloquent affair; it's a lofty album yes, but it is always grounded and inviting.
Where groups like Deadwood have failed in the past is that they attempt to be excessively artsy to a fault, or they have used components of either genre as a crutch whether it was black metal for extremity's sake or post-rock for a dishonest foray into emotive song-writing. In stark contrast to many of Deadwood's peers, Picturing a Sense of Loss
stands above the genres they are rooted in, reaching skywards for greatness instead of being stuck in mud among those who never even tried to reach up. While this record is a nearly flawless feat of excellence, it wouldn't hurt to see the groundwork they have laid down built upon slightly with just a bit of experimentation taking this into a realm all their own that would separate them from the aforementioned groups altogether letting them truly defy rudimentary sonic classifications on future endeavors. Deadwood don't necessarily break the mold here, they just do what everyone has been trying to do for the better part of a decade so much better. This is an absolute must hear record that will likely go largely unnoticed to a community that desperately needs a kick in the r(ear) due to the nature of this being a self-released album with no marketing team behind it. With some luck and a little cosmic justice, Picturing a Sense of Loss
will see its own time in the limelight and knock Sunbather
from its pedestal of mediocrity while it towers onward to glory.