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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.
originally posted at: http://curseofthegreatwhiteelephant.blogspot.com/