Has it really been a decade? In just ten years, San Francisco post/black/avant-metal iconoclasts Deafheaven have become a genuine force in extreme music, carving out a career marked by eclecticism, innovation, and controversy.
Their sound, while not first to do it, took black metal to unexplored and personal places, subverting much of the genre’s long-standing preconceptions. 2013’s ‘Sunbather’ generated furore from the traditionalists, much of which has now thankfully subsided, and Deafheaven have gone on to produce a run of three excellent albums (‘Sunbather’, 2015’s ‘New Bermuda’, and 2018’s ‘Ordinary Corrupt Human Love’), each of which showcase the band’s strong grasp of musical technique, texture, and emotion.
‘Ten Years Gone’ manages to quite brilliantly capture this progression of Deafheaven‘s career. A live recording made to celebrate the band’s tenth anniversary, the album comes instead of a tour that, for obvious reasons, has had to have been postponed. Fortunately, ‘Ten Years Gone’ is a more than ample reminder of what a skilled and powerful act Deafheaven are.
‘Daedalus’ is the track that perhaps best illuminates their remarkable progression. One of the first songs that Deafheaven ever wrote, initially featured on their 2011 demo album, its rendition here sounds somehow more nuanced, more detailed, and a hell of a lot less muddy. This isn’t just the case of an improvement in production (though that will have certainly played a part), here the band seem to breathe new life into the track, creating something more heartfelt and glistening without losing any of the original’s intensity.
Other highlights include the sumptuous, almost-aqueous ‘Baby Blue’, the ferocious stand alone single ‘From The Kettle To The Coil’, and majestic, towering closer ‘Dream House’. This closer, the key track from ‘Sunbather’ and the song that launched Deafheaven into the stratosphere, makes for a grandiose finale, a perfectly chosen endnote to an album packed to the brim with successes and riches.
Perhaps the only, very minor criticism that could be levelled at ‘Ten Years Gone’ is that only one track from ‘Ordinary Corrupt Human Love’, the band’s most progressive and complete album, features here. However, the song that is included, the spiky and unpredictable ‘Glint’, is given such a note-perfect run out that it mostly obliterates any such petty concerns about track inclusions.
‘Ten Years Gone’ is the perfect celebration of Deafheaven‘s career thus far. It’s amazing to think of all the band have accomplished in just a single decade, and even more astounding to imagine how much left they have to give. Their live performances keep getting better, their music more diverse and experimental, and their emotions even deeper and more profound. Here’s to the next ten years.