Album Title: Grave Image
Label: Season Of Mist
Date of Release: 31 January 2020
The previous album from Deathwhite was one hell of a frustrating listen for me. The band cited a who’s who of my favourite bands as inspiration but ‘For A Black Tomorrow’ fell way short of reaching the quality of those artists or of meeting my expectations. To quote my review of ‘For A Black Tomorrow’:
“It may sound like I’m being overly harsh on Deathwhite and their debut full-length ‘For A Black Tomorrow’. And maybe I am. But I just find it intensely frustrating when a band chock full of potential simply doesn’t deliver…I won’t give up on Deathwhite because I know there is something much better buried deep inside them somewhere. But if album number two also fails to deliver, I might get really cross.”
True to my word, here I am nearly two years later, throwing myself into Deathwhite’s follow-up sophomore effort, ‘Grave Image’, hoping that my instincts were right and that I won’t have to get really cross.
Firstly, to deal with the housekeeping, I can confirm that once again, the protagonists that make up the American band have chosen to remain anonymous. So nothing has changed there and as such, I am unable to offer praise or chastisement to any specific individual. And that’s a shame because by and large, ‘Grave Image’ is an improvement on their debut as far as I’m concerned. The music is oppressive, depressive and somewhat melodic dark metal, which will almost certainly appeal to fans of bands like Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and, most obviously, mid-era Katatonia.
Conceptually, ‘Grave Image’ explores the fallibility and the wilful ignorance of mankind, especially when it comes to depleting the Earth’s natural resources. It is a topical album then, and is blessed with a subject matter that is most certainly bleak enough to dovetail with the music on the album, whilst providing something slightly different to the normal topics of human grief, lost relationships, and inner turmoil that often litter this genre of music, not to mention the occasional Gothic overtone or two.
By now, you may have already heard the track, ‘Plague Of Virtue’, that was released earlier in the month. The enigmatic band made no bones about the fact that they hold ‘Discouraged Ones’ by Katatonia in high regard and this track is something of an homage to the Swedes’ third studio album. In fact, it sounds very similar, right down to the tone of both the lead and rhythm guitars, the formation of the riffs and the pacing of the track. And, whilst the clean vocals aren’t a carbon copy, there’s a similarity for sure.
However, importantly, whilst Katatonia are undoubtedly a huge influence on Deathwhite, and a fair few inescapable echoes can be heard throughout, the remaining nine songs are nowhere near as blatantly inspired by Nyström, Renkse and co. Additionally, the compositions, with careful listening, feel richer, more enveloping and perhaps also heavier than ‘For A Black Tomorrow’.
‘Funeral Ground’ is a strong opening to this record. The clean vocals add a lovely layer of melody over the sedate and sombre riffs, whilst the injection of a semi-gruff word here or there within the chorus adds a touch of aggressive intent which I really like. I’m also a fan of the increased light and shade that the song is able to negotiate and in so doing, convey more than just a single emotion; there’s anger, frustration and lamentation at various points within what is actually a starkly beautiful metal composition.
If aggression is what you’re fonder of, look no further than the immediate follow-up, ‘In Eclipse’, which opens with a forceful and fast-paced drum beat as well as a jagged riff. The bass that emerges when all else falls away is dirty and full-bodied, lending the riffs a satisfying bottom end that rumbles nicely. The chorus is one that really grows too, becoming quite addictive with repeated listens. ‘Further From Salvation’ delivers another gorgeous grower of a chorus whilst introducing an appreciably greater symphonic element, injecting a certain elegance in the process.
The clean lead guitar break at the heart of ‘Words Of Dead Men’ is a lovely touch, adding a touch of sophistication to proceedings, whilst the closing composition, ‘Return To Silence’ is a beautifully executed finale, full of subtle melodies, sombre leads, and powerful riffs.
‘Grave Image’ isn’t perfect however, and I do find my mind wandering at points as the album hits the mid-way mark. I’d have liked to have heard just a little more in terms of variety within the ten compositions if I’m being brutally honest. And even though the clean and emotive vocals are a big draw and something of a unique selling point for Deathwhite, the music itself isn’t the most original – I’d still like the anonymous Americans to develop more of their own identity.
Still, I’m perhaps being overly critical. In the cold light of day, I must concede that ‘Grave Image’ is a quantum leap forward for Deathwhite, an enormous improvement on their previous output and it means that my faith in the band has been repaid in spades. I enjoy listening to ‘Grave Image’ and genuinely believe that, with repeated listens, it may get even better.
The Score of Much Metal: 85%
Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: