January 30, 2020 Deathwhite – Grave Image (Album Review)
Based within the dark hills of Pittsburgh, PA, the Death/Doom outfit Deathwhite are due to release a fresh album, Grave Image, on Friday, January 31st through Season of Mist.
For those unfamiliar, the band burst onto the scene in the mid-teens, wearing strong influences pegged within early 1990’s English Doom, and wasted no time releasing two quick EPs, 2014’s Ethereal (2014) and 2015’s Solitary Martyr, before their debut full-length For a Black Tomorrow in 2017. Here with Grave Image, the band rounds out their sound while also making an obvious (and quite literally stated) nod to one of their biggest influences, Katatonia.
Returning with Grave Image, which was recorded with Producer/Engineer Shane Mayer, the album was mastered by Dan Swanö and features 10 new songs. That in mind, right from opener “Funeral Ground” it is clear Deathwhite has mastered the Death/Doom palette of solo ethereal guitar, clean operatic vocals, and deep guttural snarls. A small taste of Metalcore infects at times, such as the opening bars of “In Eclipse,” and wailing Emo vocals crack through at times, notably on “Futher from Salvation” and the title track,. Though the band otherwise stay within the dank confines of the early work from Paradise Lost, Anathema, and the aforementioned Katatonia. There are calm, quiet interludes, loud, crying screams, and percussive head-banging portions sprinkled liberally throughout Grave Image.
Strategically placed in the middle of the album (and at the top of side B of the vinyl), the one-two punch of “Words of Dead Men” and “No Horizon” find the band at its height, where the mixture of all of their influences is efficiently mixed into a unique sound. The bass and guitar work within “No Horizon” set a properly dismayed tone, and the cleanest vocals lean toward the style of Mick Moss within Antimatter, the later project of former Anathema bassist Duncan Patterson. (Similar nods to this style appear later on “A Servant”.) Furthermore, the guitar outro is perhaps the most haunting passage on this work, despite its frustratingly short term.
Designed as a tribute to the legendary 1998 Katatonia opus, “Plague of Virtue” follows these two punches. Stated the band, “We have long revered Katatonia’s Discouraged Ones album… ‘Plague of Virtue,’ though, is one of the few times we have touched upon that particular sound, notably with the song’s opening riff. It is our not-so-subtle nod to a band we so dearly admire. There is a subtle irony to this song being included as a nod to a band clearly so influential, but with the result being a bit of a departure from the rest of the album. A fitting closer arrives in ‘Return to Silence.’” With its brisk drum and guitar work setting a good platform for the different types of vocals, the most prevalent vocal style used is a melancholic drone which never quite rises to a boil, but also varies just enough to keep the listener intrigued.
Then there is “Further from Salvation” which uses a rough whisper to opine “I found peace, then it became my grave, its wealth made me poor, my name now vanquished… in decay“; similar themes are penned within “Grave Image,” but the last bits of despair fall short.
For all of the pieces assembled here, Grave Image falls a bit short of eliciting actual feeling. The recipe for utter desolation has been followed perfectly, but the end result seems a bit undercooked and raw. The band has the riffs and song structures to imbue the proper feelings behind a Gothic Doom album, but the softer pieces arguably fall too flat, or worse, too “heavy” to properly offset the louder portions of the album. As such, Cryptic Rock gives their very strong efforts 3.5 out of 5 stars.