Ah, Deathwhite is back to antagonize music reviewers who expect to know things like: who’s in the band, what do they play, where are they from, who is their daddy and what does he do? Yes, Deathwhite scoffs at such outdated formalities, opting to exist in complete secrecy like goth-metal’s answer to those masked marauders in Ghost. You may recall my glowing review of their Ethereal mini-LP last year, which won me over with its killer mix of Rapture, Ghost Brigade and Aoria. In the course of researching that EP, I came up with bupkis about the band except that they may hail from the United States. In my time of need, I reached out to you, the loyal AMG readers, to help me uncover the truth and expose this shadowy group. Well, here we are a year later with a new EP and I don’t have a single shred of additional information. To be clear, I failed because you all failed me, and now I can kiss the Pulitzer Prize goodbye just like I did the Emmy, Grammy and Fifth Grade Good Citizenship Award. All that’s left to salve the wounds of a ruined journalism career is a positively snot-knocking EP called Solitary Martyr.
The mysterious ones lash out from the shadows with lead track “Pressure,” which is a strong candidate for Song o’ the Year. It’s like a wondrous marriage between prime Katatonia and Dan Swanö’s Nightingale project, walking the line between wrist-cutting sadness and rich, emotional prog with a foot in the 70s. The mood is full of the downcast melancholy heard on albums like Viva Emptiness, but the writing is so crisp and sharp, it makes the song impossibly accessible, like lobster wrapped in sizzling bacon. It’s the kind of tune you must immediately replay several times before you grudgingly move on to the next track.
And when you eventually do, you’re rewarded with more of the same wonderfully engrossing music in the form of “Suffer Abandonment.” This one features a strong Peter Murphy vibe and keeps the listener enthralled with the depressive weepery. The chorus is huge and bears traces of Swanö’s Witherscape opus, minus all the deathly hallows. “Vein” has a more upbeat vibe (relative to a mass funeral) and again they deliver a chorus you’ll carry to the grave and beyond.
All five songs are spun gold, thick with emotion and adorned with ginormous payoffs at chorus time. The title track veers closest to recent Nightingale material, though it could have appeared on the Witherscape debut. There’s even minor elements of Threshold alongside the Rapture influences on closer “Only Imagined,” and the vocals are the big, juicy cherry on top, channeling grief and despair without sounding overwrought.
Here’s where I would normally talk about the individual performances, but since I don’t even know if this is a band or some basement dwelling one-man project living off Jolt Cola and Mom’s meatloaf, that becomes a challenge. It seems they changed singers since the debut and while I enjoyed the vocals before, the new guy is a real find who sounds a lot like Dan Swanö. Whomever he is (I’ll call him D. Swinö for our purposes), he has a perfect tweener voice that allows him to convincingly handle gloomy goth and prog-metal. Swinö could sing on Pale Communion or the next Ghost Brigade opus and do equally well. The guitar-work is also first-rate, and much heavier than last time, delivering memorable leads and harmonies perfect for when you need to weep in your wine cooler. They recall Rapture and Katatonia a bit too strongly at times, but they make the material exceedingly effective and tasty.
The biggest knock against the band is that they haven’t yet delivered a full album’s worth of this kind of killer music, but if you put this together with their Ethereal EP, you have the best goth-metal album since forever. I suppose you could also quibble with the DR 5 production, but it sounds fine and in no way hampers the material’s magic.
Deathwhite obviously enjoy playing the informational tease, but I’m here to tell them, I will uncover their secrets and expose them like a metal J. Jonah Jameson. Even if I don’t, it will soon become impossible to maintain their secret identity shtick if they keep delivering this level of excellence. FYI: I let the quasi-photo slide last time, but nowadays, when you mess with the Steel, you get the unihorn. Good day to you, sir, sirs or ma’am’s!