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Hipsters Can Do Some Good to the Genre - 70%

FullMetalAttorney, May 12th, 2011

Hipsters have really been getting into black metal these days. I'm not quite sure what the draw is for them, but whatever it may be, they're finding their way into the more forward-thinking side of the genre, bringing far more major chords than we're used to with them.

When you see Deafheaven's band photo on Metal Archives, with the regular-looking guys in V-necks and button-up shirts with skateboards and a Che Guevara poster in the background, your hipster alarm should go off immediately. The cover art to their first full-length, Roads to Judah, isn't helping much either, resembling as it does the art accompanying Final Fantasy VI (formerly III in the US). Nor is the last review of it I read, which called it "extremely hip". I dared it anyway, despite my past bad experiences with post-metal, because what I heard intrigued me.

The first four minutes of the album did not bode well. Gentle drumming and pretty, shimmering guitar chords. It sounds like that crap album Anathema released last year. But afterwards, things definitely start to get better. They speed up into a full-on tremolo picking assault, with extremely aggressive drumming. The vocals are entirely in a generic (but good) black metal rasp--no clean singing here. All four songs are well-composed, with the gradual evolution, subtlety, and balance appropriate to post-metal. It's aggressive as hell, 90% of the time, but it still manages to sound pretty, like some kind of delicate flower filled with deadly poison. It gives the music a morose but still angry emotional texture. The drumming is far more engaging than most post-black metal tends to be. It's aggressive even more often than the guitar, with plenty of fills and a wide variety of blasts.

There are some downsides of course. Honestly you won't notice the bass most of the time, and since the guitars stay in the higher range there's very little heaviness to be found. The middle two songs are excellent, but the beginning of the opener and most of the closer sound like hipster bullshit, right up through the piano outro.

People you don't normally think of as metalheads can bring new blood to the genre. If a hipster is anything like the guys in Deafheaven--regular guys who want to try out some forward-thinking black metal--I'll welcome them to the fold.

adapted from an article comparing and contrasting the album to Liturgy's Aesthetica (you can read the full post at http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/2011/05/roads-to-judah-v-aesthetica.html