“Art has something to do with the achievement of stillness in the midst of chaos” said the Canadian-American novelist Saul Bellow, which has seemed akin to Deafheaven’s philosophy since they released their first album, 2013’s classic ‘Sunbather’.
The five-piece’s output is akin to one coarse, existential howl – swathes of black metal fury are seared atop the searching sprawl associated with shoegaze (incidentally, the ugliest of musical monikers) and there’s little deviation from the blueprint here on this, their fourth, the title of which is taken from the 1951 Graham Greene novel, The End Of The Affair.
True, there is more piano. Opener ‘You Without End’ sees the instrument sparsely lay a bed for the considered spoken word of the guesting Nadia Kury, who takes a passage from the pages of Oakland author Tom McElravey, weaves it into the encroaching Deafheaven roar, and somehow manages to make the words “a flock of geese burst from the darkness” sound like the most hopeful thing anyone has ever said.
In fact, the guest musicians offer the record’s hardest hitting moments. ‘Night People’ features the vocals of the great Californian doom metal nusucian Chelsea Wolfe and her long-term collaborator Ben Chisolm. It sounds like the last fever dream of an anxious life. It’s also very pretty.
This juxtaposition is fitting, because Deafheaven’s brilliance has long been hung upon the pursuit of a truth, like documentarians before they hit the edit suite. These songs are filthy, dank, often devoid of light, but like a weed emerging from a pavement’s crack, there’s something resembling hope there. A suggestion that maybe there’s something more. And to be honest, isn’t that the only reason any of us keep going?