2+2 Reviews: Summer Kickoff Edition

Welcome to the Summer Kickoff edition of 2+2. We have an A1-batch of tunes for you this week, and couldn’t be more excited to review the latest from Deafheaven, Scale the Summit, Light the Torch featuring Courtney LaPlante, and White Ward.

Deafheaven- Great Mass of Color

GF: Wednesday morning of this week, I listened to this song about four minutes after waking up.

Brandon had sent me the link in the wee hours of the morning, asking for my thoughts. Seeing his message upon rolling out of bed, I couldn’t contain my excitement, as I plugged my headphones in.

I loved this song the first time that I heard it, and that love has only grown upon repeated listens.

Off the rip, it’s clear that Deafheaven is switching lanes, and doing so with confidence.

This was something I expected, based on the interviews that I’d read with them over the last couple of years. I was excited to hear what it sounded like when they were making music from a generally, happier place in life, and what would carry over from their old sound.

I feel like Deafheaven’s appreciation for Cocteau Twins music has always been fairly upfront, but here, they marry that with some Duran, Duran, flavors, and it’s a magnificent thing.

George Clarke has a legitimately wonderful singing voice, and while that’s unsurprising, as we heard it on the last album, it’s especially cool to hear him fully lean into that here. His backing vocals are incredible too– tasteful, and ethereal.

Listening to this for the first time, I found myself thinking, “alright, when is this going to explode, and when is he going to scream?”

When that moment comes, it’s one of the most powerful moments in Deafheaven’s catalogue thus far: the guitars go full-sledge hammer, oozing molten tone, below Clarke’s stereo-panning howls. This leads to the song’s closing moment, a repeated vocal figure that calls to mind, Glenn Danzig’s vocals from, “Mother.” This section has brought me chills in a couple of instances– it’s just that powerful.

Brandon, I know you were a little unsure of this at first, so I’m curious to better understand the trajectory of your appreciation. Were you expecting the band to shift gears like this? What was most jarring for you upon your first listen, and now that you’re on board with it, what do you like most?

BH: I have now given this song about 6 listens since it dropped and I’ve got to say it has grown on me a lot.

I think initially I was kind of not sure what to make of it because this wasn’t a little shift into a new direction. This is a massive change and I definitely found it shocking.

I mentioned this earlier to you but for me this shift is along the lines of what Ulver did back in the 90’s. They went from an incredibly raw black metal album called Nattens Madrigal to the very experimental and electronic album Themes from William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. And they never looked back, continually evolving over the years. Actually, the sound of Deafheaven 2.0 could fit nicely on a tour bill with the latest incarnation of Ulver.

Anyhow, I digress but yes there are still “Deafheaven”-isms throughout, though if I didn’t already know this was Deafheaven, I honestly wouldn’t have realized it off first listen.

I think the opening of “Great Mass of Color” is really hooky and the song has a kind of dream-like 80’s new wave vibe to it. There’s also a really beautiful moment that hits just before the two minute mark. I love hearing the acoustic drums and haunting vocals from George. The fascinating thing is even though there’s some darkness here, the song does feel genuinely happy in places.

I also have to mention the final minute, which is just incredible. This is where I’m fully engaged and think Deafheaven has really knocked it out of the park. The build up to the quiet screams from George is unreal and one of the best moments on any song I’ve heard this year.

I wasn’t expecting quite this big of a change BUT this is the band that gave us the pink Sunbather cover on a shoe-gaze black metal album, so I guess anything goes. And I’m here for it.

Scale the Summit featuring Courtney LaPlante- The Land of Nod

BH: It seems this is the week of songs from bands that are in the middle of evolving their sound.

Scale the Summit has been doing their brand of majestic instrumental music for awhile now and with the new release, they’ve decided to add a new component: vocals.

And not just any vocals but some of the best vocalists around that include Ross Jennings from Haken, Joseph Secchiaroli from The Reign of Kendo and Courtney Laplante from Spiritbox.

Courtney is featured on the “Land of Nod” and I’ve got to say I really dig her vocals here. I’m familiar with Spiritbox but just wasn’t sure how vocals would work on top of Chris’ riffage. Turns out they work quite well.

At about the two minute mark, there’s a really gorgeous passage where Courtney takes center stage and Chris plays an airy riff underneath. The interplay is top-notch.

Scale the Summit is also releasing an instrumental version of the album so fans can have their cake and eat it too. I listened to both versions of this track and both are as epic as I had hoped.

Also, how cool is this new LED guitar that Chris is playing in the music video?? Can’t wait to see him jam on this live.

Light the Torch- Let me Fall Apart

GF: Oh, man.

Can we get sainthood for Howard Jones yet?

We must protect him at all costs.

While this is a group effort, Mr. Jones is running the show here, treating us to both his nigh-operatic vocals and signature screams, and we just might not be worthy.

More so than perhaps any of his peers, Jones knows how to throw down an epic chorus, and make it sound sincere, as opposed to silly.

He sings with every ounce of enthusiasm, conviction, and joy in his bones, and listening to that come to life is just such a delight.

This reminds me of a late-era Iron Maiden effort, and I mean that as a compliment. While Maiden has slowed down their tempos in recent years, their music is just as epic as it was back in the 80s.

I feel like I’m going to run out of superlatives to throw at this, so I’d encourage your simply to listen. Here’s hoping the rest of the album from these fellows is just as good!

White Ward- Debemur Morti

BH: Kind of love that we have new tunes from both Deafheaven and White Ward to explore this week. I discovered White Ward when they released “Love Exchange Failure” in 2019 and the first thing that sprang to mind is how much I wanted to hear them on a tour with Deafheaven.

They share some similarities, or at least did before the massive change in sound for Deafheaven. Anyhow, White Ward has been hard at work on their third album and decided to release a new EP and titular song dedicated to their badass label, Debemur Morti.

What continues to impress me with this group is how they meld saxophone into their socially conscious black metal. It works so damn well every single time.

With their latest song, they’ve also added some really great clean vocals. The clean vocals actually caught me off guard simply because it was so unexpected but they work seamlessly within this track. I’m curious if they’ll continue to explore clean vox on the upcoming full length too.

In any case, I really appreciate how many different roads White Ward travels on during the span of nine minutes. There’s a slow build for about a minute before the song erupts into beautifully controlled chaos.

Beyond the clean vocals sections, I think my absolute favorite section might be the gang vocals bit which just works so well here.

I’d be remiss to not mention how damn good the drumming from Yevhenii Karamushko is. Great fills and dynamism.

George, I know you’re new to the White Ward camp. What are your first impressions of the band and what’s your take on this song? Did any particular section stand out for you?

GF: I was super stoked when you sent this to me. There’s so much to love here, and I think you’ve highlighted most all of what I also enjoy.

The saxophone found within is truly inspired, and I didn’t know how much I needed to hear that instrument over a blast beat, until I actually did. That last bit of blasting towards the end of the song let me both impressed and humbled. I want more sax solos in a black metal context.

As a whole, I feel like the band has created something fairly epic here, without overdoing it.

There’s intensity and energy to spare here, but even in the balls-to-the-wall segments, there’s control– their playing strikes me as intentional.

The clean vocals did throw me a bit, but once I came to understand their place in the music, I was with it.

I’m really glad you put me on to this song, and I can’t wait to dig into the rest of the EP.

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