DIIV - Deceiver - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

DIIV - Deceiver

by Tim Sentz Rating:8 Release Date:2019-10-04
DIIV - Deceiver
DIIV - Deceiver

I’m going to be very transparent with you. When Zachary Cole Smith and his band of shoegazers announced a third album, I shrugged. Nothing about DIIV has disappointed me in the past mind you. Oshin was a great debut, and they followed it up with the just-as-good-if-not-better Is the Is Are. The exploits of Smith and his rampant drug use, tumultuous relationship Sky Ferreira - even the hocked Kurt Cobain image - nothing really was deterring me from DIIV. But in 2019, another shoegaze record just doesn’t sound all that appetizing.

The year has already blessed us with some solid, if not predictable, shoegaze albums: Ride’s second reunion album This is Not a Safe Place, Swervedriver’s Future Ruins, and let’s not forget the just-okay debut of the Soft Cavalry (a “Rachel Goswell” project). As a huge fan of the genre’s heydays, as well each reunion album to some extent, I must admit a bland response is all I can muster these days for the repeated mimicry of the “big 3” and no discernable qualities for most of the new bands that come out. 

Thankfully, DIIV don’t fall prey to the burnout the greats before them often suffered by their third album (yeah, RIDE, no one wants to remember Carnival of Light). Instead of maintaining that hazy aesthetic paired with gorgeous guitar melodies, DIIV’s third outing opts for a more hard-rock approach. This isn’t pathetic nu-metal or radio-friendly cock-rock though. DIIV’s strengths are on full display here as they veer in and out of a grunge induced hangover - such as on the opener “Horsehead” which comes barreling out of the gate with strong rhythms and punching grooves. Smith’s never been a glorious wordsmith, but his vocals are paired perfectly as “Horsehead” navigates familiar, but still enjoyable territory. 

It’s not that Deceiver is all that original - it’s not, but what DIIV have mastered is the molding of a more sophisticated band, one that adores its predecessors and wear them proudly. A lot of the heavy-hitting Deceiver delivers may come from the co-headlining tour with metal darlings Deafheaven, who have screamed their way into the hearts and ears of metal and shoegaze fans alike, thanks to the aptly titled genre “blackgaze.” But DIIV aren’t going full screamo here either, more so the guitars sound more thrilling than the dreamier chords on their debut. “Skin Game” pairs the two approaches together, and it pays off with pop-sensible choruses but still drilling it home with those 90s-gaze crunches. Sure, Smith sounds like Andy Bell at times, but it’s forgivable as Bell’s iconic vocal delivery pretty much dominates modern shoegaze to the point now that Ride sound like a Ride-cover band at times. 

After the gargantuan Is the Is Are, clocking in at over an hour, Deceiver scales things down to ten direct and in-your-face shoegaze rockers. There’s nary a misstep on Deceiver, it’s start to finish a worthy successor to Is the Is Are, and another great entry in DIIVs catalog. While it might deliver thunderous applause for its mostly 90s-influenced grunge/gaze body, Deceiver lives up to its title with a non-traditional ending for DIIV and shoegaze in general. “Blankenship” is one of the more driving DIIV tracks, up there with “How Long Have You Known?” and “Dopamine” as one of their best cuts to date. Employing a near-Strokesian intro, but then spiralling into some Surfer Rosa-esque guitar work that just screams “play me as loud as possible.” “Blankenship” condenses the four decades of shoegaze into four glorious minutes of throwback and progression. 

Deceiver closes with a mammoth track, a 7-minute epic that draws the listener in with a slow-building pluck. Spiralling into some dark and brooding chords, “Acheron” is one of the most progressive tracks to come from Smith in any band. Over its length, “Acheron” teeters between melodic foreboding and blistering My Bloody Valentine-esque noise. If Oshin was DIIV just getting warmed up and Is the Is Are was them perfecting pop, Deceiver is the necessary third step to elevate them to more than just a shoegaze revival band, but even more, a band primed for radio takeover. It’s not the pop that does it, it’s the clean production that gives the noise room to breath, and DIIV have potentially topped themselves with each release, and Deceiver is further proof that they are not going away any time soon. 

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