Every now and then you get a promo from an unheralded band with zero press and no buzz whatsoever and it kicks your ass all over the damn monkey farm. Deathwhite‘s debut Ethereal is one of these unexpected ass kickers, and it’s a truly impressive dose of gloomy, post-modern gothic rock. It’s works by straddling the line between the seemingly defunct and sorely missed melo-doom of Rapture and depressive post-rockers like Ghost Brigade and Aoria, with traces of Tool and Katatonia added for sumptuous emphasis. Now THAT’S a spicy meatball!
Pleasant surprises aside, as I went about this review, I was stymied at every turn by the sheer paucity of information regarding this act. Apart from the painfully vague promo spiel mentioning an unnamed lineup consisting of veterans from other unnamed bands, there’s nary a shred of topical information to be found on the interwebs (they got cute with the promo photos too). I don’t even know what fucking country they hail from, so I’m forced to guess Finland based purely on the depressive factor. Look, I get it, they want to be more mysterious than Ghost, and if it’s their life ambition to be enigmas wrapped in mystery and covered with riddle dust, so be it. But now I’m forced to make up random shit to fill in the blanks and they have no one to blame but themselves and their nonexistent PR department.
All the songs are simple, direct and richly layered with emotion and a real sense of despair without losing a post-rock sensibilty. The band achieved the proper mindset for such unhappy writing by watching constant reruns of The Last Airbender movie AFTER viewing the excellent animated series. It certainly worked for them, especially on killer opener “When I (Wasn’t) You,” which is like the best Ghost Brigade song they never wrote. It’s catchy as all get out and the occasional Amorphis-esque riffs only sweeten the glum pot of ennui. “Give Up the Ghost” is another ritualistic downer, but so catchy and so slick of writing, it makes the sadness almost addicting. In fact, the linear notes credit Elton John for inspiring the band with his classic ditty “Sad Songs (Say So Much).”
While “Silenced” is in the same somber groove, it incorporates a stronger Tool vibe to the riffing and overall mood, and “Feeding the Illusion” ups the tempo for a more lively approach featuring shades of Rapture worship drowned in an ocean of frozen lament and (possibly) Finnish melancholy. The propulsive riffing has elements of classic Sentenced, but the smooth vocals take it to more accessible plateaus and it works brilliantly in its simplistic way. Closer “A Burden to Carry” continues in the same mode, but experiments with diverse tempos and includes some smart acoustic work amid the morose pluckery.
This threesome (or moresome) has a great style and come across as true masters of introspective sanitarium music. The riffs from the man (or woman) I’ll call Dr. Assdust are simple, but ooze emotion and maintain a tasteful, poignant disposition which borrows heavily from the Rapture albums. Whomever is handling the vocals is a real find. He has a clear, fragile voice lingering on the verge of weeping, yet remaining manly enough to work in a metal context. He sounds a bit like Patrick Walker (Warning, 40 Watt Sun) mixed with Vincent Cavanagh from Anathema, but with a more traditional goth rock delivery. He makes the choruses shine, sells the material like a pro and rumor has it, he’s set to be the new singer for Coldplay while Chris Martin consciously uncouples for a while.
I suppose there’s only so much you can tell about a band from a five song EP, but if Ethereal is any indication what these unknown rapscallions are capable of, sign me up for their magical mystery tour of secrecy. All fans of goth and doom rock should hear this and then scour the Earth for clues as to Deathwhite‘s secret identity. Talent like this must be unmasked (assuming they wear masks, which they probably don’t…but might). And that’s how rumors get started.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps MP3
Label: Self Released
Release Dates: Out Worldwide on 07.01.2014