Blackened shoegaze wasn’t exactly an unknown concept before Deafheaven came onto the scene. French group Alcest had been producing such music since at least 2007’s Souvenirs d’un autre monde; fellow countrymen Bosse-de-Nage’s debut self-titled predated Deafheaven by at least a year. So when Roads to Judah dropped on Kurt Ballou’s Deathwish label, there wasn’t really too much of a shock in underground heavy metal circles, especially where songwriting was concerned.
Roads to Judah demonstrates Deafheaven’s earliest professional studio effort at creating the post-rock/shoegaze/black metal hybrid for which they would become famous on Sunbather and New Bermuda. In context of those albums, Roads to Judah lacks on the songwriting level. There are crescendos, soft passages, and breaks, but they sound cut and pasted together to make a long song rather than coalesce into a gestalt that makes tracks such as “Dream House” from Sunbather or “Baby Blue” from New Bermuda positively entrancing. Now and then, little bits of genius that would make Deafheaven a household (and controversial) name in the heavy metal scene pop up – such as the wavy guitar fade three-fourths into “Violet” – but these moments are few and far between relatively boring riffs that repeat rather than compound.
One can get by on their black metal/blackened shoegaze experience without this album. Check out “Language Games” if you’re interested, but by no means is the full album necessary. Roads to Judah belies the group’s mastery of heavy metal and rock forms that came out on their later works.
1. Violet – (12:19) – ★★★☆☆
2. Language Games – (6:47) – ★★★★☆
3. Unrequited – (9:31) – ★★☆☆☆
4. Tunnel of Trees – (9:45) – ★★☆☆☆
1… something that pops up on every Deafheaven album.