Sparkling cool water gently thrums against a piece of driftwood. A tiny squirrel scurries through the underbrush. I sit atop a picnic bench beside the rock strewn shore of Diamond Lake in southern Oregon mulling over how to articulate my heavy thoughts regarding an album by a band with a similar name to the very lake I overlook. When asked how they got their name, melodic atmospheric black metal band Deadwood Lake‘s response is simply “we just thought it sounded cool.” It turns out that there is in fact a body of water in northern Wisconsin with the same sinister name as this relatively new yet prolific addition to the UK’s atmoblack scene. The serene surroundings helped heal my heavy heart and distill my thoughts and reaction to Deadwood Lake‘s sophomore full-length. As with their previous output, Deadwood Lake‘s new album Immortalised in Death is a cathartic release following the loss of their brother and friend due to a car accident in 2015. Raw emotion bleeds profusely through their songs exploring themes of despair and grief.
While the themes present on Immortalised in Death remain consistent with Deadwood Lake‘s previous work, this new collection of tracks is undeniably their finest musically. Not unlike The Black Dahlia Murder, Deadwood Lake demonstrate their versatility by showcasing both scathing goblin snarls and deep cookie monster growls throughout the album’s 49 minute runtime. The melodic guitar hooks on “The March Of Time” implanted themselves in my brain for days, “My Ashes Will Remain” lashes out like a tidal wave, and sprinkles of acoustic guitar and atmospherics provide time for reflection in between parts bursting at the seams with intensity. The standout title track serves up a heaping portion of slower and more expressive heaviness and sparse acoustics recounting the intense suffering death causes loved ones from the perspective of the deceased.
The ambiance depicted on the album cover of Immortalised in Death is far darker than the scene surrounding me at my tranquil Oregon campsite. The artwork, created by Misanthropic Art, in many ways goes hand in hand with the lyrical themes of Deadwood Lake‘s new material. The funeral pyre symbolizes the cremation of brother and friend Gary Powell as described in “My Ashes Will Remain,” the hooded figure before the fire is called out on “The March Of Time,” and the tall candles are illustrative of the subject matter of “Vigils.” Further, the indecipherable band logo is indicative of Deadwood Lake‘s shortage of both originality and adventurousness to explore new territory. Needless to say, this album cover would obtain a high black metal score if run through Sentynel‘s album art classification neural network. Their decision to conform to the stereotypical black metal typeface, however, isn’t all bad. The consistency with which black metal bands recycle this style has led me to initiate a conversation with a stranger by the office coffee machine simply because she was sporting a band t-shirt whose logo I could not make out. For the record, we’re now friends!
It is no easy task to be critical of an album whose content is sensitive and heartfelt, but alas, Immortalised in Death‘s failure to venture into uncharted territory is not the album’s only flaw. Noticeable from the first track onward, the mix frequently sounds bloated, and the distorted guitars sound as if they’re being played through mud. Furthermore, Deadwood Lake‘s lyrics leave no subtlety and are totally lacking of any tact whatsoever. I found the lyrics “Time will last forever, but your life will not” on “The March Of Time” to be incredibly distracting from the otherwise catchy and emotive melodic lines. Perhaps this in-your-face mentality was their north star, but their extreme bluntness just didn’t rub me the right way.
Yet as I soak in the evening alpenglow and wrap up this review surrounded by placid lakes and beautiful forests, I can’t help but feel sincere gratitude for bands like Deadwood Lake who pour their overflowing emotions into their music to produce a poignant album people all walks of life can relate to and sympathize with. Deadwood Lake have come a long way from their meager beginnings a mere three years ago and on every release sound more and more like the woodsy black metal akin to Woods of Ypres or Amiensus that many fawn over and cherish. Though I can’t promise I will return to this album regularly in the future, Deadwood Lake‘s brother and friend will live forever through the songs of Immortalised in Death.