Deathwhite – Grey Everlasting


Does anybody write funereal rock music like Pennsylvania’s Deathwhite? As with Katatonia, their roots as a gothic-tinged doom band help them to produce a forlorn musical concoction that could appeal to Joy Division nostalgists as much as Pallbearer’s fanbase. Now releasing an album written just before the start of the global pandemic, Grey Everlasting is the band’s third effort and second for Season of Mist. It’s also their best yet.

There’s nothing melodramatic about Grey Everlasting. Deathwhite’s music is too sombre and resigned to the way the world is rather than how it should be. “The human race has had more than enough time to figure out how to coexist properly, but still cannot get it right…and it never will,” say the band in their press release. The ringing doom metal of ‘Earthtomb’ is the perfect audio communication of this message with its heavy distorted guitars and dissonant chords giving way to a brief flurry of double-time beats. Those chords throb like an infected wound sizzled in vinegar. Only when they pull back from the noise and into a slower and broodier verse, do we hear the trademark sound of the album. Here, singer, LM, uses a baritone head voice stripped of a recognisable American accent but steeped in the spiritual resonance of a Gregorian monk and the foreboding of Ian Curtis. This and follow up, ‘No Thought or Memory’, exist in an accessible dark rock paradigm, like The Gathering or Anathema but with clearer metallic guitar techniques.

It’s easy to overlook the complex subtleties of this record. That’s understandable because the band subordinate everything to the poignancy of the vocals. The title track employs the dual voice harmonies of Depeche Mode’s classic Black Celebration album with a compelling chorus refrain of “In crimson haze/ Then shades of grey/ Everlasting” repeated with an emotional turbulence that becomes more fragile with each utterance. You can shed a tear as you feel your body floating towards an inevitable void. It might even be a painless death. ‘White sleep’ is the opposite. Blast beats and discordant guitars give way to a slower dirge of palm-muted doom metal. Did Anathema ever sound as good as this? It lacks the intensity and hostile aggression to match My Dying Bride, but that’s not the goal here. Deathwhite strip things back to reveal the ugly nakedness of human needs in a world that will always value self-preservation over everything else.

You’d struggle to guess that the band hail from America if you knew nothing about them. Type O Negative appear with a sporadic gusto, but Tool are more recognisable in ‘Immemorial’, with LM occupying a similar range to Maynard James Keenan for the only time on the album. This might even remind you of ‘The Patient’ from Tool’s masterful Lateralus effort from 2001. Like most songs, the expressive chord-picking and melodic doom progression of ‘So We Forget’ has a distinct European feel to it. The haunting keyboard strings illuminate the aching chords like a dentist’s torch zooming in on a dead molar nerve. There’s no shame if you close your eyes for the pensive sadness of the descending chord formations of ‘Blood and Ruin’. You might still be clenched of jaw for the final message of album closer, ‘Asunder’, with its prophecy that “Desolation is only one breath away.”

A dark and quiet room with no distractions is all you need to connect with Grey Everlasting. Think of it as musical therapy for your inner pessimist. Those days when the glass is half-empty rather than half-full can be tolerable. This is the panacea you need.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 10/06/2022

Record Label: Season of Mist

Standout tracks: Earthtomb, Grey Everlasting, White Sleep

Suggested Further Listening: Anathema – Alternative 4 (1998), Inner Missing – Dead Language (2022), Katatonia – Brave Murder Day (1996)