It's hard to believe bands like Placebo, Saturday Night Wrist-era Deftones, and even Pitchfork aristocracy like Explosions in the Sky could be counted as influences on black metal, but here we are, in the midst of some new genre continuing to evolve.
The tendency for most arbiters when a band's songs run consistently longer than the time it takes to get the corpse paint right just before heading off to the Carpathian Forest show is to use a crutch and call the music post-whatever or progressive. Building on a style that began, arguably, in the first years of the 21st century with the Olympia, Wash.-based Wolves in the Throne Room, Deafheaven's debut LP, Roads to Judah (Deathwish Inc.), owes just as much to the likes of Placebo and Explosions in the Sky as it does to black metal classics like Bathory's 1990 release Hammerheart or Burzum's 1992 slayer, Aske.
Though it may be the last coffin nail for the purists who prefer the auditory nihilism prevailing in many raw black metal recordings, Roads to Judah--engineered and co-produced by Atomic Garden Studio's Jack Shirley--with its unrestrained melodies and gleaming, astral guitars counterbalanced by devastated vocal agony, makes for quite a beautiful listen.
Deceptively, perhaps ironically, Roads to Judah is not a biblical reference. It is actually a reference to the most heavily trafficked line of the San Francisco transit system, the North Judah train, where the San Francisco-based Deafheaven has noted that much of the inspiration for the album was conceived as they rode it to and from home. And much of Roads to Judah's glory is how it listens like those moments spent sitting on a bus or train, glazing over at all the humanity rushing by outside the window, as you slip into your own fleeting self-reflection and occasionally succumb to a flyover through your memories--sorrows, joys, pleasures, pains and more.
The four tracks on Roads to Judah--"Violet," "Language Games," "Unrequited" and "Tunnel of Trees"--take up a grand total of 38 minutes. But they are all-encompassing minutes and that is the appropriate verb: It is possible that as you consume this album, it will consume you. No bullshit. Listen to Deafheaven.