For Fans Of
Maybe it’s because I adore non-campy black metal of the atmospheric and melodic variety or maybe it’s because I’ve been more depressed and suicidal than I’ve ever been in my adult life during 2017 that I’ve fallen in love with Deadspace’s upcoming magnum opus, ‘The Liquid Sky‘. It’s a confronting album that I loved from the very first listen, on the tenth run-through and on whatever play count my iTunes has this album currently listed at.
Deep down in this dynamic nine-track record’s blackened core is a bleak tale of mental illness, scarring internal and external abuse, self-destruction, and a longing to die that’s closely followed by one’s own eventual demise. ‘The Liquid Sky‘ is the soundtrack to someone’s life circling the drain; a dark, eerie and at times brutally heavy score for those finding themselves at their wit’s end and for those looking skywards from the bottom of a bottle or ten.
It’s a story that begins with a growing emptiness churning within one’s self on the magnificent ‘Void‘ (“Blind me/Bind me/Find me, twitching in my skin/A watercolour smearing“), which soon morphs into self-destruction and a futile attempt to satisfy the internal with external pleasures on ‘Below The Human Scumline‘ (“Share my deep, bittersweet self-loathing/I ravage thee, my cockroach queen/While we scavenge the depths below the human scum line“). This is then exacerbated by a horrible knack for unhealthy self-loathing on ‘Reflux‘ (“My vanity has consumed me once again/Foreshadowed by ethanol and broken dreams“). This abyss then grows larger into a full-blown, crippling addiction on ‘The Worms Must Feed‘ (“I force my trembling fingers/Down my throat to purge the sickness“) and when said addiction is more or less kicked, it returns tenfold in another way plague this poor soul during ‘Kidney Bleach‘ (“The morning comes, it blinds my eyes/As I struggle to find the time to care/The smell of vomit in my hair/Cleanse my body/Today just seems so out of reach“). By this stage, living is becoming a nightmare and the longing of death after so much pain becomes palpable on ‘Comatose‘ (“Some of us were born to burn/Like a thousand suns/My soul is fucking old, an antique urn“). Which then culminates in the eventual embrace of death as one’s life finally expires on the climactic closing title track (“Farewell now/As I embrace the liquid sky“).
The narrative that runs through the icy veins of ‘The Liquid Sky‘ really is a hopeless and melancholic one. It’s like a parade of self-destructive tragedies audibly captured in a black metal/gothic/alternative/post-metal hybrid album. It’s a record deep enough that you could drown in it.
Not only that, but this new effort also remains insanely consistent in both tone and quality throughout too, and that’s in no small part to its very solid production. As ‘The Liquid Sky‘ walks this great line between sounding organic and human but also so slick, so clean and so polished. (Even with all of the band’s layers here, the tone and level of bassist’s Shelby Jansen work isn’t drowned out or forgotten). Producer/mixer Tristan Sturmer as well as the album’s master engineer, Simon Struthers, have both done a fantastic job here and hopefully, the pair returns to help build and finalise Deadspace’s future works.
When you step outside the bounds of this phenomenal record’s desolate narrative, personal pain and grand thematic touches, you’re still left with Deadspace’s strongest and boldest set of songs to date.
Sure, there’s still “trve” guitar riffs and leads present, plenty of sections of galloping double kicks and fast blast beats, and there’s more than enough guttural screams and shrieking vocals from frontman Chris Gebauer to appease the core black metal lovers out there. Of course, when the Perth band are sticking with this more familiar sonic territory, they’re still creating exceptional works of art. Though somewhat paradoxically, on their latest release, Deadspace are indeed a black metal band but at the same time are also much more than just a black metal band. For these are moments where the band unshackles themselves from black metal further so and step foot into larger arenas of gothic undertones, alternative elements, spinkles shoegaze, and post-metal and post-rock moments; creating bigger and better sections that are massive in songwriting scope and bottomless in instrumental depth.
On one such notable occasion, the band ditches their core melodic/atmospheric black metal roots for a wonderfully intimate folk-acoustic cut, ‘Kidney Bleach‘; a highly emotive track about metaphorical sickness and even real-life heartbreak (with some beautiful guest vocals from Gebauer’s sister, Portia). It’s a touching song that I think many would never expect to hear from a band such as Deadspace to suddenly dish out mid-way through an album such as this. And yet here we fucking are, with one of the group’s best songs to date outright rejecting distorted guitars, screaming, and blistering drums altogether. Surprising but solid wildcard songs aside, the band still delivers on more blackened fronts, as they skirt into realms of shoegaze, post-metal, goth-rock, and show off some strong instrumental tendencies.
The delay-tinged, shimmery guitars of instrumental album opener ‘The Aching…‘ moulds and transitions perfectly into the record’s sweeping, melodic and almost-shoegaze epic, ‘Void‘; a sprawling and deeply layered composition that needs to be heard to be believed. Seriously, this piece gives me goosebumps and it gives international black metal heavyweights like Deafheaven, Envy, and Heaven In Her Arms a run for their money. Plus, that blast beat is executed so goddamn well – trust me, you’ll know it when it happens. (Drummer Herb Bennetts is a fucking beast behind the kit and this song is testament to that). The Western Australian quintet creates a different tone and pace for themselves from their past works with the new energy found on the galloping lead single, ‘Reflux‘. It’s an unrelenting emotionally abyssal journey that continually builds across its three-minute runtime, mainly thanks to the killer interplay of guitarists Thomas Major and Oliver Royer. Elsewhere, the swirling ambience, driving guitar solos, touching cleans, brooding death metal growls (courtesy of former bandmate Drew Griffiths), and creepy melodies heard on the various movements of ‘Comatose‘ makes for a beautiful yet brutal piece. It all helps to create this sublime feeling akin to plunging your head into a well of watercolour murk and screaming until your lungs give way in the surrounding blackness. Whereas a track like ‘Below The Human Scumline‘, arguably the vilest work in Deadspace’s catalogue what with its dissonant riffs, piercing screams, deep bellows, an imposing sense of dread throughout, an evil sounding middle-eight section, and these violent, sexually frustrated lyrics of lust and fleshy undoings.
The haze and encroaching darkness heard on the album’s penultimate interlude ‘Only Tears‘ – what with its reverb-heavy guitars and softer, restrained drumming – is like living in some kind of waking dream. In far less pretentious terms, it’s an effective and engrossing composition to say the very least. And one that also sets up the record’s climax in fine fashion, the glorious eponymous track. It’s a seven and a half-minute monolith where Deadspace cram all of their eggs into the basket; acting as a summarization and echoing of the journey (both narratively and musically) that themselves, the listeners and this doomed character have just gone on. Electronic drum beats underpin spatious guitar chords and Gebauer’s soft singing voice before the band suddenly erupts into a pummeling metal assault; followed by a haunting acoustic mid-section; a distant heart monitor that beeps like a metronome; one of the heaviest sections of music of the whole record; and then a mezmerising outro choked full of Bennetts anchoring drums and these lush, well-defined layers of beautiful clean vocals and tremolo melodies.
For where this record first began with a faint growing whisper in the shape of ‘The Aching…‘, it ends in a gorgeous roar come the title track’s end.
With last year’s killer ‘Gravity‘ EP and their solid split with Happy Days last month both disappearing in the rearview mirror, Deadspace have taken their biggest, boldest and best leap forward with ‘The Liquid Sky’. This is an exceptional record by black metal standards but also that of the other genres that Deadspace have adapted to and flirted with; a sonic variation that makes this album all the better and more memorable. ‘The Liquid Sky’ is a record guided by a macabre, often morbid yet always emotional and cathartic narrative, one that while poetic in nature and dramatic in tone, reflects many of our own worst moments, our own worst truths. And it’s this stunning symbiotic relationship between Deadspace’s depressively bleak lyrical narrative and their better-than-ever songwriting that makes ‘The Liquid Sky’ something very special.
Finally, to cut the review shit and talk straight from the heart for a second, this new Deadspace record found me at just the right time in my life. It’s a record I cannot help but love dearly, and funnily enough, for all of this album’s discussion of life’s various pains and of death, this is one of those special releases that helps to make life feel bearable.
1. The Aching…
3. Below The Human Scumline
5. The Worms Must Feed
6. Kidney Bleach
8. Only Tears
9. The Liquid Sky
‘The Liquid Sky’ is out Wednesday, November 15th via Talheim Records. Save the date, this record’s great. Be sure to check out our sneaky premiere of the record’s mammoth title track below as well!