Written by Alex
- Graven Image
- Gothic Doom
- Pennsylvania, United States
- January 31, 2020
- Via Season Of Mist
It’s so early in the year and one of my most anticipated albums is already here. Some backstory for you, I first came across Deathwhite in 2018 when they released their first full length For a Black Tomorrow. The album blew me away and I’ve been consistently listening to it ever since. I’ve been waiting not so patiently since for news of a second album and so here we are with their second full length. I think I latched onto this band so quickly because of how much they remind me of Katatonia which is easily my favourite band of all time and they haven’t put out a new album in 4-ish years. When I first heard For a Black Tomorrow I was instantly drawn in by this band’s likeness to Katatonia but I have stuck around because of the band’s talent and merit.
This is an excellent follow up to their last album, it feels like a more refined continuation of ‘For Black Tomorrow’ to me. The band seems to have mulled over their past works to hone in on what has worked for them and how to polish off the rough edges of their sound. This has made for an album that sounds cohesive and well thought out. Deathwhite is good at exercising restraint in their music and I think it’s been done better than ever on this release. I find that with slower tempo music like this, you have to find a way to keep it interesting so everything doesn’t just blend. Deathwhite has achieved this but their use of stripped-down instrumentals that contrast well with sections where all the instruments are working together. There are passages where they strip the music down to just the guitars or just bass and drums before kicking into the full instrumental again. This works to give the music varying sonic space which keeps things moving and ensures that nothing ever drags. This amount of sonic space also gives their music a large and encompassing sense to it.
The vocal performance has also been improved greatly from the last album. Their vocalist has a unique tone and feel to his voice that goes perfectly over the low-end heavy music that they play. He tends to sit in a lower register for the majority of the album, which has a melancholy gentle quality to it. It’s certainly not an in your face vocal approach and it sits in the music so well. On this record though, it sees his vocals branching out at times into a higher, more powerful sound. When he does enter this higher tone, it works at really driving home – the emotions and story the band is trying to tell. But again that expertly done restraint comes into play. The band has been careful to make sure that nothing is overdone and that everything has this beautiful subtlety to it.
The cohesiveness of the instrumentals on this work is a step above their previous albums in several ways. With past albums, I found their guitar tone to still have a rough edge to it that could seem sort of out of place with their very clean production style. They seem to have ironed that out now. The guitar tone has been changed to be clean enough that it fits in seamlessly with everything else going on and yet not lose its edge completely. As a fan of more clean sounding production, I’m happy to see that they’ve worked out all their instrumental tones to have a found a signature.
They introduced some more chugging guitar sections in this record that act as a great juxtaposition to the band’s use of very melodic guitarwork. This addition has helped to round out the sound and balance everything better than before. Much like I found with their debut album, the atmosphere that’s been built in this record is wonderful. The band manages to build a strong, encompassing atmosphere with no electronic or ambient elements. This type of atmosphere building is something that I see bands attempt but very few pull off. Because of the thoughtful songwriting and the vocalist’s approach, I think Deathwhite has masterfully created an atmosphere that’s thick with sorrow and sadness while retaining the beautiful quality their music always has.
Grave Image is a home run for me. I love everything about this record and I believe I’ll probably grow to love it even more as time goes by. Their debut has only gotten better with time for me and I suspect that this record will be no different. I imagine that this record will probably sit very high on my list of favourite records for the year, even if it is a little too earlier in the year to say that.