Monday, November 28, 2011

deafheaven- Roads to Judah(2011)

deafheaven- Roads to Judah

This is not Black Metal.

I hate to break the news to deafheaven's supporters, or vindicate their detractors for that matter, but in my time with Roads to Judah one of my dominating thoughts was simply: "This is not Black Metal." Nothing about Roads to Judah fits the genre for which it is most commonly associated with, no matter how much justification their fans may try to provide. This is not about the bands appearance, their ideology or their "kvltness": from a purely musical standpoint, any Black Metal that might be found here is negligible at best. The bands over-arching sounds hems much closer to the progressive Sludge of Neurosis and the melodic intensity of Defeater(not to mention the shoegaze-y elements of bands like My Bloody Valentine) than anything Black Metal.

Which is not a bad thing: while not Black Metal, Roads to Judah is still a fantastic record. Haunting, technical and at times very beautiful, Roads to Judah is as fine a progressive Metal album as to be released this year. At times, like the absolutely gorgeous intro of "Violet," Roads to Judah is an emotional experience, one that does not evoke feelings of cold grimmness, but almost a hopeful tone. This in an of itself might be enough to disqualify deafheaven as a Black Metal band, but more likely it is the moments of obvious Melodic Hardcore influence, like on "Language Games," when the band enter a low-key section, complete with clean guitars and a drumroll that would do Defeater proud. The vocal attack is the closest thing to Black Metal here, and I actually find it a bit disappointing, considering how amazing Kerry MecCoy and George Clark were at them with Rise of Caligula, a fantastic Technical Deathgrind band you should check out post haste.

There is something about this shoegaze-ified, people-call-it-Black-Metal-for-some-reason Progressive Metal that keeps me from completely getting in to it: at times, riffs and sections run together, and I lose entire sections of songs, committing them to the Recycle Bin of my memory as soon as they enter my brain. Roads to Judah does not evoke that same feeling in me anywhere near as often as many of these other bands, which makes it such a joy to listen to. It still happens: about a 3rd of the way into "Violet" I had completely tuned the song out on pure instinct, only to be drawn back in later, but compared to say Litugry(a review is... forthcoming), deafheaven maintain a level of interest that few acts within this sub-genre can match. I should not be surprised, considering the connection to Rise of Caligula, but after reading much of the haters perspective on deafheaven, and similar bands, my expectations have been consistently skewed to the negative.

I can't really explain where the band picked up the Black Metal label: maybe it is self produced(in which case, I would recommend the band change their perspective), maybe others are forcing it on them. What I can say is this: Roads to Judah is a damn fine record. For what it is, this album is an emotional, musically complex and consistently interesting. For those looking for some progessive, thought provoking Metal, I would recommend Roads to Judah in a flash.

Rating: 8.5/10

Encoffination- O' Hell, Shine In Thy Whited Sepulchres

Encoffination- O' Hell, Shine In Thy Whited Sepulchres

Lurching from the mist, each step a belabored and murderous endeavor, O'h Hell, Shine In Thy Whited Sepulchres is in no hurry. Much like Death itself slowly creeps upon us all, so too does this album, unabashedly fearless in its sheer slowness. And if a slow and painful Death is what you seek, than Encoffination are more than happy to provide it, so long as you don't ask many questions or have a preference on how you wish to die.

By the logo alone, one can assume Encoffination are influence greatly by Incantation, and sure enough you can find those mighty New Yorker's fingerprints all over this record, mostly in the mostly tremolo picked riffing style and Ghoat's guttural vocal attack. But among Incantation's obvious influence, one also finds Thergothon and to a lesser extent disEMBOWELMENT. So if you are imagining punishingly slow Incantation worship songs with the occasional use of things like bells, organs and ritualistic chanting and moaning, you have imagined O'h Hell, Shine In Thy Whited Sepulchres.

And that is all you can expect from it as well. Each track sounds pretty much the same as the other(which would have been fine if they did not have breaks between each song), with the only distinguishing factors being the use of other sounds. If not for the occasional bells or chants, each song would be mostly indistinguishable from each other, often following similar patterns(slow intro, a slight pick up in speed near the middle, a lurching outro). The album might be slow, but it falls into a rut quickly and never bothers trying to escape: like Death, Encoffination will never stop doing what they do... slowly.

O'h Hell, Shine In Thy Whited Sepulchres is a massive step up for Encoffination, a band I have never been crazy about. The production, and the album in general, absolutely demolishes the paper thin, bedroom kvlt shit-fest of Ritual Ascension Beyond Flesh, and at times the band can evoke some truly nasty atmosphere. But riff for riff, there is just not a lot going on here, and while the bands commitment to their sound is admirable, the lack of any unique ideas makes it hard to sit through this record multiple times. Death is coming for us all, slowly and surely, but in my time here on Earth, I don't imagine I will be spending too much of it with O'Hell, Shine In They Whited Sepulchres.

Rating: 7/10