This is something special. Records that can be classified as cathartic escapism are rare, causing such a stir that one cannot help but have a peek. So is the common story about one of Deathwish Inc.’s many gems. Deafheaven is a seamless blend of bombastic, airy blackened shoegaze edged with surreal intimacy. I do my best not to succumb to hyperbole, but believe the hype surrounding this Bay Area outfit. Deafheaven followed the simply titled Demo with their Deathwish debut, Roads to Judah early last year to acclaim and mass touring. Demo is as ambitious as Roads, matching it stroke for stroke in emotion and grandeur. Its quality belies its status as a demo, presenting the listener with over twenty minutes worth of sprawling gloom.
“Libertine Dissolves” opens like a windswept anthem to its Scandinavian forebears, taking measured steps to reveal its elegance. The vocals are at a comfortable ethereal distance, carrying these tracks like a springtime storm. The track ends with monumental despair that sends you reeling until its gentle departure, leading into the delicate instrumental “Bedrooms.” Demo’s high point comes in the fluctuating “Daedalus”. Anger frolics into joy. Joy swells to desperation. Desperation releases into a bloom of muted melody before bringing each together into a surging culmination. The whole feeling at this moment is exalting, a wonderment. ”Exit: Denied” opens with solemn delicacy that gives itself to metallic exposition. The bracing calm is broken by a thunderclap, drawing your attention to one last sweeping taste. Deafheaven brings itself to near halt with a parade of muffled echoes until taking one arduous final reach for the sun. Each participating instrument intertwines, producing a dream-like quality. Crooning melodies race headlong with an endless and precise battering, conjuring a maddening state of schizophrenic bliss. Demo is tangible. A piece of somber grandiosity, Deafheaven produces exemplary results as both black metal and shoegaze. These poignant efforts are of the most honest and unique in recent memory. Listen with awe.
Demo’s original cassette form is long gone but is available in digital format where most Deafheaven goods are found. The record is getting a beautiful 12″ vinyl treatment courtesy of Sargent House and is available for pre-order here. Also check out their Deathwish store.