The hype surrounding San Francisco quintet Deafheaven is quite remarkable considering the band’s most identifiable genre is Black Metal, a sub-genre of loud music often maligned by music critics and critical listeners.
While the harsh, acidic screamed vocals are certainly a Black Metal trademark (even showing some influence from more recent Death metal and ‘Deathcore’ acts), it’s in the band’s accessible instrumentation that non-metalheads can find something to enjoy.
Like some other American black metal groups that have penetrated the mainstream lately (see Liturgy), Deafheaven seem entirely disinterested in adhering to expectations of a band within the genre, melding the abrasive aggression of black metal with the sweeping atmospherics of shoegaze and the slowly building song structure of post-rock bands like Mogwai. Even their bright pink album art is intentionally different from the traditional dark and gothic imagery that is usually associated with Black Metal.
From The Kettle Onto the Coil, a one shot single released as part of a promotion with Adult Swim, fits snugly into the mould of Deafheaven’s debut LP Sunbather while tugging in a slightly more traditionally metal influenced direction.
The 6 and a half minute track starts out dark with the rapid and aggressive drumming laying down a foundation for the tremolo-heavy guitars. Frontman George Clarke’s vocals are louder now than on Deafheaven’s LP, with low growls layered over the acidic high-pitched screams.
As the song progresses through it’s multiple chord progressions the melodic guitar work is given the opportunity the shine before the song breaks into a soft, atmospheric interlude. The song’s triumphant climax is classic Deafheaven, closing out the track with atmospheric sweeping chords, favouring a slightly more melancholic tone than tracks like Dream House or The Pecan Tree. Lyrically, Clarke stays fairly close to the themes touched upon in Sunbather, namely aesthetic beauty, desire and isolation.
This single doesn’t really blow away expectations quite so much as Dream House did, only because Deafheaven’s style is now established. However, the slightly faster progression of this track hints at interesting new directions the band’s songwriting could take in their upcoming records.