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Album Review: Deafheaven - 'Roads to Judah'

5 May 2011 | 10:31 pm | Staff Writer

An interesting take on things.

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Contrary to South Park's claims that San Francisco is the 'smuggest' city in America, it is equally a hot bed of creativity that has fostered and magnified musical ambition for many years. Bay Area thrash, anyone?

2011 has already been signposted by a host of impressive releases from equally impressive bands. Think Protest the Hero, Darkest Hour and Born of Osiris. However, it is arguably the little gems, those undiscovered treats generating the most interest and enjoyment for us listeners. Like the March released Scale the Summit album, this debut offering from Northern California quintet Deafheaven entitled, 'Roads to Judah' is a release which offers way more than its quiet buzz suggests.

It's probably not the most accessible release. Four tracks totalling close to a collective forty minutes clearly suggests this. Similarly, there's not many moments to get your ninja on in the mosh pit or prolonged and repeated doses of 'core' inspired breakdowns. Rather, 'Roads to Judah' is atmospheric, moody and at times decisively bitter, with an emotional tone.

Yes, there are strong periods of black metal throughout. The funny and endearing thing though is that while the music would suggest the band deck themselves out in malevolent, ghoulish corpse paint and large spikes, the members resemble more closely a couple of indie kids getting ready to attend a Bloc Party concert on a dreary Friday night.

There are, whether deliberate or subtle, traces of Enslaved-type prog infused black metal and there are also balanced moments of light, instrumental ambience that provide considered contrast. Picture Enslaved merging in a musical melting pot with early ISIS.

Beginning with the twelve minute marathon number, 'Violet', Deafheaven create brooding difference that sees the sonic range move between beautiful, soft listening tranquility and abrasive, blast beat inspired european intensity. 'Language Games' is a little more consistently heavy while 'Unrequited' is another blueprint, which draws on the group's mixed influences. Closer 'Tunnel of Trees' is assertive and bodes well for whatever Deafheaven has planned next.

It's an individual taken on things. There are plenty of bands thinking outside the square currently, just as there are many bands content with following tried and true approaches. Both applications are fine as long as there is some originality and attempts at progression present. Thankfully, Deafheaven do both. Highly recommended.

'Roads to Judah' is yet another album plucked from the anonymity of 2011's musical pile. Justifiably, Bay Area debutants Deafheaven present an album that will generate deserved interest. A hypnotic journey that packs black metal, elements of hardcore and atmospheric, alternative rock into a four track musical odyssey. Hey, if Jacob Bannon was smart enough to sign these guys to his label, you should be proactive enough to have a listen.

1. Violet

2. Language Games

3. Unrequited

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4. Tunnel Of Trees