Eight years after Deafheaven’s breakthrough record Sunbather, their fifth LP lands on the opposite end of the sonic spectrum. Influenced by shoegaze and alt rock instead of black metal, Infinite Granite is the first album where you can actually fathom the lyrics, as clean vocals replace George Clarke’s tortured shrieks.
Like the Facebook commenters, I also went through the seven stages of grief with this album, grappling with shock and denial when it took three songs and almost fifteen minutes to arrive at the first relatively heavy breakdown. But as with their previous experiments, such as Infinite Granite’s flawless predecessor Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, Deafheaven execute the transition with such taste and grace that only the most stubborn metalheads won’t give in to it. Their loss.
Produced by Justin Meldal-Johnsen (M83, Wolf Alice), Infinite Granite is quieter and calmer, but it sounds grander and more spacious than anything the band have released before. The opener “Shellstar” conjures up imagery of paragliding over a vast landscape; this is the kind of music to lose yourself in and come out an hour later disoriented and out of breath. On an album inspired by insomnia, the instrumental “Neptune Raining Diamonds” is a particularly brilliant sonic depiction of the inability. As soon as the droning, ear-piercing buzz begins to dissolve, it resumes with more frustration and intensity.
A heavy weighting of the procession follows a similar structure, even lyrically – starting in the middle of the night and ending up referencing blue, the colour of the album artwork and the sky in the morning’s early hours. This can cause the record to seem somewhat monotonous and repetitive but so is insomnia. Given Deafheaven’s penchant for the all-or-nothing, this ties in with the idea of each track being individual nights in a long sleepless episode.
Encompassed by an ethereal wall of sound and echoes, a sense of deep longing runs throughout Infinite Granite. It either doesn’t resolve at all or does so in a relieving equivalent of finally exhaling after holding your breath for too long. Deafheaven are the masters of tension and release, and this record reinstates that less is, in fact, more.
For a decade, Deafheaven have been a gateway into heavy music for those who don’t normally partake and the stylistic transition on Infinite Granite will welcome considerably more fans than it alienates. The closing track “Mombasa” is a joyride for both. Not only does it call back to every track on the album, making this a perfect conclusion, it also rewards those stubborn metalheads for making it this far. Like on Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, Clarke’s rage collides with the music’s delicacy, and Deafheaven remain a breath of fresh air where so many of their counterparts sank into a hole of radio-band mediocrity.