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Deafheaven - 10 Years Gone (Album Review)

Wednesday, 09 December 2020 Written by Matt Mills

Photo: Bobby Cochran

June 1, 2020 marked a decade of Deafheaven. It was on that date 10 years ago that the experimental black metal darlings made their first dent, emerging with their shimmering, untitled demo. Little did anybody know that their grassroots debut was the dawn for one of the 21st century’s most important metal bands.

Just three years later, the vibrant ‘Sunbather’ brought them such acclaim that they exploded into the mainstream. While predecessors like Wolves in the Throne Room tamed black metal with post-rock segues, this was instead a post-rock album with the distortion and screaming cranked up. And thus, the wider world was forced to acknowledge not only extreme metal’s existence, but also that it can be a truly intellectual, progressive force.

Deafheaven’s new live recording ‘10 Years Gone’ celebrates a career of such transcendence. Its existence compensates for the cancellation of Deafheaven’s 10th anniversary tour, capturing the quintet as they play their would-be setlist with longtime collaborator Jack Shirley at his Atomic Garden studio.

If hiring the man who’s produced every Deafheaven album doesn’t demonstrate the earnestness of this decade-spanning recap, then the selected songs certainly do. Alongside proven favourites like Dream House and The Pecan Tree are deep cuts in Daedalus (the first song the troupe ever wrote) and Vertigo.

Despite these left-field inclusions and the fact that all four of the band’s full-lengths are represented, there’s remarkable fluidity to ‘10 Years Gone’. The chosen tracks all have the ability to connect seamlessly, united in their desire to explore the complete spectrum between soothing shoegaze and screeching, blastbeat-laden extremity. As a result, the album is an alluring dreamscape, enveloping and hypnotising with echoing chords and distant shrieks.

Every riff, every verse, is stretched to its full potential, and they evolve so gradually that the stylistic shifts between harsh and quiet never feel jarring. Even the standout moments (like Baby Blue’s Kirk Hammett-like guitar solo and the breakdowns in Language Games) come off as organic and well-integrated as opposed to reeking of a musician shoehorning in avant-garde touches for their own sake.

‘10 Years Gone’ is the kind of journey you can feel yourself getting lost in, as you’re immersed in Deafheaven’s worldbuilding. By bringing together gems from the entirety of their tenure, it demonstrates the maestros’ appeal is the same now as it was a decade ago: using a rock solid backbone to find beauty even in the most dissonant of styles.

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