Lest you’ve been living under a rock, you know Wintersun has spent the past few years hectoring long-suffering fans into paying for their personal recording studio and spa-works, cynically holding back their albums as aural bargaining chips. We are AMG are much more reasonable folks with pragmatic needs. If we could just get a crowdfunded CSI lab unit, we could finally prove conclusively it was Doc Grier who put ghost peppers and Quick-Lax in the office Mayonnaise supply, thereby setting in motion the Great Bathroom Destruction Derby of 20151. With that ugliness finally behind us, we could then turn our attention to the other great mystery of our time – the identity of the members of Deathwhite. With two slobberknocker EPs of excellent goth-doom under their invisible belts, we still have nary a clue who they are or what they’re trying to hide. All we know is that the band features members from better known acts and likely hails from the Massachusetts/Pennsylvania region. Given this light evidentiary trail and their carefully cultivated enigma status, I wasn’t even surprised when their first full-length appeared out of nowhere, only to be pulled back a week later and held from release for almost a year. Now that For a Black Tomorrow has finally re-appeared, it raises more questions than answers, but the music is once again really good, blending elements of Katatonia, Aoria, and Tool with glum alt-rock and loads of sadboy gothic glory. Mysterious bastards, we hates them!
These reclusives certainty know how to open an album. “Grace in the Dark” is a near perfect goth song, leveraging downbeat riffs against the gloomy vocals of whomever sings for them (Mystery Guy X). Here he sounds a lot like Lars Eikind (ex-Before the Dawn, ex-Winds), and his clean, heartsick vocals resonate while reminding me of a slightly harder Impure Wilhemina. The key to this kind of music is finding the proper balance between heaviness and emotion, and Deathwhite nails that perfectly, with riffing intensifying and backing off at just the right moment to segue into somber doodling. The best example of this dynamic comes when “Grace in the Dark” ends on a soft note only to lurch abruptly into the much heavier riffing of “Contrition” for one of the album’s most memorable moments. What’s also interesting is the strong Only Living Witness vibe that creeps into the vocals around this time.
The real strength of For a Black Tomorrow is how consistent it is from song to song. Every cut has a satisfying dose of glum mope rock with slick riffing and poignant vocals. “Eden” sits halfway between H.I.M. and alt-rock like Alter Bridge and it works exceptionally well. “Dreaming the Inverse” drags out Opeth, Tool and Soen influences and uses them adroitly for a somber, brooding tune that peaks late in brilliant fashion. My personal favorite, “Prison of Thought,” also treads into alt-rock territory but with enough melancholy and goth sensibility to keep you feeling pleasantly grim, and the chorus is great.
It’s only the very Tool-ish closing title track that feels less impactful, though it’s far from bad. It is unfortunately though, as a stronger closer would have put this album over the top to greatness. At a trim 43 minutes with most songs running 4-5 minutes, there’s no real padding or fluff. It’s a tightly written album with a strong flow and a consistently bleak mood.
The vocals are the shining star for me, and though Mystery Guy X reminds me of several other vocalists, he has his own style and I love his performance. He conveys a great deal of emotion without every oversinging or getting too dramatic. The guitars by Who the Hell Knows are also a big success, with riffs ripped from goth, alt-rock, and even melodeath. They/he have a subtle sense of phrasing and restraint, making the harder moments in each song pop.
It’s almost like Deathwhite want to be the Zodiac Killer of goth-rock, taunting us with impressive songs instead of creepy letters, daring us to catch them and end their musical rampage. Mystery aside, this is a band with real talent and a deft hand at songcraft, and For a Black Tomorrow is another consistently very good release with moments of true greatness. In lieu if a sad unicorn, I’m running this silly photo the band sent us in hopes someone might recognize the woods or the hoodies and help unravel the secret of Deathwhite. The metal public deserves the truth!