Worried about the grave state of the world, “the fallible nature of mankind”, “the unrelenting depletion of the earth’s resources”, and the fact that truth, once an absolute, “is now fluid, twisted and contorted”, American “dark metal collective” Deathwhite have made an album that thematizes all of the above, trying to reach out to and connect to people with a similar frame of mind.

I must say that the band bio really spoke to me, especially the bit about truth today being increasingly twisted and contorted. People who dispute and disregard facts or try to bend the truth their way should be avoided and kept out of public office at all costs. But do similar world views translate to similar tastes in music? Let’s find out!

Grave Image, the band’s second full length album, starts out strong and heavy, with mighty riffs building up gradually and slowly from the void. Straight from the beginning, the atmosphere is sombre and serious; the album does its name justice. However, things mellow out a bit towards the end, and there are passages here and there, with spoken word bits or soaring guitars, that add a touch of drama and theatrics, and I find that somewhat counterproductive.

Deathwhite have two guitarists and the sound they create together is certainly one of the album’s defining aspects. The other thing that immediately sticks out and is picked up by the listener’s ears are the clean vocals. Disillusioned, dreamy and weary, they go very well with the lyrical themes, but lack the aggressiveness that usually shines through throatier styles of singing, and that one would expect from a band that flirts with black metal (if that’s a thing at all).

The album’s track structures are complex but melodious and energetic, displaying sophisticated musicianship; the production is top notch and crystal clear. Altogether, Grave Image is an enjoyable listen. My favourite track is the second one, In Eclipse. On this track, the band’s concept of sophisticated heavy music with clean vocals works best. But although every track is a fine piece of music all by itself, the album would have profited from being more compact, a track or two shorter, since the listener is not offered anything new towards the end.

As you might have noticed, I haven’t mentioned a genre so far, and that’s because the band is sending mixed messages. Deathwhite’s imagery and aesthetics definitely show a liking for doom and black metal or the darker styles of music, the band photo, for example, shows hooded figures, dimly lit. The video to the album’s first track Funeral Ground has the singer decorated in face paint. The band’s music, however, is neither black metal nor doom. If I had to pin it down, I would call it dark prog rock.

I’m certainly not someone to engage in nit-picking about genres, nor am I opposed to the mixing of musical styles or to tuning down the machismo in metal, but everything has to fit together. Because the danger in metal showing its less aggressive side lies always in losing its edge. And that is what I’m missing here: an edge, despite this being objectively great music and an enjoyable listen.

So, to conclude: Whether this will appeal to you or not depends exclusively on your musical tastes and not so much on your world view. If you like progressive rock, clean vocals, sombre and serious lyrics, then this might well be something you should check out.

(7.5/10 Slavica)