When I initially read about San Francisco’s Deafheaven, I didn’t expect to be surprised by their recordings. Anytime I see the “black metal” label, even when citing a slight influence on a band, I instantly believe that the label is misused and have no interest in checking the band out. Unfortunately I am guilty of this with Deafheaven, and their Deathwish debut Roads To Judah is my incident report.
Containing four tracks, yet clocking in at almost 40 minutes, Roads To Judah is a colliding storm of shoegaze and black metal, somehow finding a perfect balance between two drastically different genres. The album starts with the 12-minute opus, “Violet”, in which the instrumentation sways for 4 minutes, painting a beautiful picture until the song changes directions. One fill later and the song is thrust into a tornado of ambient guitars, distorted vocals, and blistering fast drums. Fading out, the song makes way for the rest of the album. The second track, “Language Games”, starts with a Jesu-like riff over more blasting drums and a scathing vocal delivery. The song then finally slows into a mid-tempo beat with more effect-laden guitar riffs, building up into a wall of atmospheric ambience that would make Explosions In The Sky jealous. The song ends with the lyrics “Put down your glass / Don’t raise a toast to your slaving bloodline now / Come to life / Walk the roads to Judah tonight”.
The latter half of the album starts with the song “Unrequited”, which starts off with clean guitar and distant drums, then abruptly jumps into a frenzy of kick drum and speed picking. The blast beats return when the vocals come in, screeching the lines “Bowing to a monolith of grief / Obsessing over discord / Daydreaming of nights that lead my staggering steps to nowhere”. The song weaves its way along, with the band illustrating the desperation of the lyrics. The final portion of the song, with the drums leading the charge, finds minimal guitar work but serves as a proper ending. The final song, “Tunnel Of Trees”, starts with whining feedback and within seconds bolts into a headbang-worthy passage full of complex chords and busy drum work. The vocals kick in once again accompanied by blasting drum beats and picked chords, lasting for a few minutes, until fading into the distance, making way for one last offering of ambient shoegaze transitioning into an emotion-fueled path to ride out the rest of the album.
If you have ever found yourself saying, “Hey, I really want to find a heavy shoegaze band that’s not shy with their metal-influenced drumming”, then look no further than Roads To Judah. Fans of the technicality and clean portions of Explosions In The Sky, the shrieking black metal force of Behemoth, and the experimental courage of Converge should buy this immediately.
7.7 / 10
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