Deafheaven's Infinite Granite: fifth album struggles to hold up

San Francisco’s blackgaze champions Deafheaven attempt a leap into the big leagues with Infinite Granite

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After infusing their metallic fury with melancholic shoegaze and post-rock for the better part of their career, the question wasn’t if Deafheaven would go all in on their softer moments but when, and most importantly: how good the outcome would be. The answer is, well, a bit disappointing.

The band quickly became the biggest fish in the blackgaze pond, and it’s understandable that they’d grow restless. But now, they’re swimming with giants. From legends like Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine to a whole army of young revival bands like DIIV, Greet Death and Beach House, a lot has already been said in the realms of shoegaze. In light of this competition, Infinite Granite struggles to hold up. Remember the rush of blood to the head you felt when Dreamhouse kicked in? That won’t happen here. And it’s not because George Clarke switched from his trademark shrieks to clean vocals and whispers – a bold, if not necessarily always a good move. It’s because somewhere along the way, Deafheaven have lost some of the intensity that had previously made them irresistible.

The wall of sound built out of catchy riffs, piercing vocals and ferocious drumming has made way for a more subtle, synth-laden sound; the push and pull between harshness and beauty has been transformed into a softly flowing stream of dreaminess. There’s a burden in setting an almost impossible standard with nearly perfect albums like Sunbather: it makes every merely good album after that – and Infinite Granite is a good album in terms of songwriting and production – seem like a letdown.

The record does have its highlights, though, with Great Mass Of Color, constantly ebbing and flowing between silky-smooth verses and sweeping singalong choruses, being one of its moments of glory. There is beauty to be found in the details of Infinite Granite. But is that enough?

Infinite Granite is out August 20 via Sargent House. Pre-order the album on Amazon now.