DEATHWHITE: World at Large

Deathwhite

One of the most recent releases that I’ve been returning to a lot lately is the sophomore effort by Deathwhite, a US-based dark/doom metal outfit. Grave Image, out now via Season of Mist, channels the collective inner darkness of different personalities this band consists of, and is a beast of an album, both in terms of depth and breadth.

Thematically and musically, Grave Image is incredibly absorbing, making for an all around immense piece of work. The guitars are dense, the drums are heavy, and the vocals are completely evocative. The band works as a whole, not as separate instruments, making the band seemingly work like an ever evolving organism. Everything works together perfectly, making a really cohesive and solid sound.  The slower tempo creates a gloomy and depressing atmosphere, and allows for a very provocative tone to permeate the record.

The band members answered our questions about the ideas that informed the new album, their musical evolution, and more.

Describe the musical frameworks your new album Grave Image explores.

DW: Heading into the songwriting for Grave Image, we had the distinct goal of wanting to get heavier. Our previous album, For a Black Tomorrow, had its moments of heaviness, but sonically it wasn’t a full-on “heavy” album. We added a second guitar player in 2018, an individual who already had a shared history with Deathwhite, therefore, integrating him into the band was effortless. He helmed the demo process for the album, churning out some very professional-sounding demos that probably could have passed for an actual release if we were so inclined. Along the way, we started to add more layers in the guitar department, specifically, more melodies, harmonies and solos. That allowed the supporting guitar parts to become heavier, so, in a sense, we achieved our stated goal. As before, we are very much of a song-oriented mind. Our songs are formatted conventionally, done in a matter to bring out the vocals. That is always top-of-mind when composing. The end result is an album that is demonstrably fuller and more engaging than anything we’ve done before.

Tell me about the ideas that inform Grave Image.

DW: The “Grave Image” title stems from our view of the world at large. It appears the world is regressing when it should be progressing. We have an abundance of technological advantages, not to mention every resource available to make the earth a sustainable, safe place. This in itself should have the world in a much better position, but here we are, destroying the planet, committing numerous human rights violations and construing the truth to the point where no one really knows what it is. Hubris and greed have taken precedence, while empathy and care are now afterthoughts. There is no longer a healthy dialogue between opposing sides — you are either right or wrong, and the ability to work together to solve common problems is cast aside due to vast ideological differences. We are bemused by these developments in the year 2020. You’d think the human race would have figured it out by now.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and lessons learned during the creative process for Grave Image?

DW: We are primarily a studio band and were afforded an extra year to write and compose Grave Image, so there weren’t too many challenges. Perhaps the biggest challenge for us is whittling down the enormous amount of ideas we generate into a set of cohesive songs. Several of the songs on Grave Image underwent significant revisions before we committed them to tape. This was a result of not being completely satisfied with a vocal arrangement or how a song ultimately felt after it was originally completed. We tend to trust our own instincts when composing, and if a song doesn’t feel right, or doesn’t meet our standards, then it will be reworked or tossed altogether. At this point in our career, we are fairly organized and have quite the functional working unit when it comes to songwriting. We anticipate future albums unfolding like this as well.

Deathwhite - Grave Image

What does the title track communicate, symbolically?

DW: As referenced above, the title track is our general sentiment upon the world in which we occupy. It is about taking a look at the world at large and realizing that what is in front of us is no illusion — these destructive, self-defeating events are actually happening. To put on blinders and ignore what is going on would be a giant disservice.

To someone who hasn’t heard the album, what can he or she expect from Grave Image?

DW: Clean vocals, to start. That’s usually the starting point for people when discussing and/or reviewing Deathwhite. We use exclusively clean vocals, which, in this day and age, is not standard operating procedure. They are crucial to our sound — we put a great amount of time and effort into lyrics and vocal melodies, and to have them conveyed in a different manner would not feel right. We are heavily influenced by bands who can properly pull off “singing” — latter-day Katatonia, Draconian Times-era Paradise Lost and for a left-field choice, Tool. Our songs tend to have a darker, depressive feel, so fans of the aforementioned bands may find something of value.

How has your perspective on the possibilities of song arrangement expanded over the years?

DW: When we started in 2012, we knew we wanted to format songs in a conventional, but effective manner. Our early compositions had its moments, but we didn’t find our sound until the 2015 Solitary Martyr EP. Solitary Martyr is the first to include our current singer and drummer, so having two individuals of such significant talent made all the difference in songwriting. We were now able to realize our goal of writing songs that while formatted in the standard verse-pre-chorus-chorus format, could be impactful while working within those parameters. Since then, we’ve largely stayed the course, although some of the arrangements on Grave Image go a little off that path, namely “Words of Dead Men” and “Return to Silence.” “Words of Dead Men” only has two riffs but flows in such a manner that it’s not an obstacle. “Return to Silence” has one of our more winding and progressive arrangements, especially its middle section. We will likely stay within this framework but have been working on a few new songs that will likely stretch out arrangement-wise.

What evolution as musicians do you see across your recorded works?

DW: To our ears, at least, there has been a progression from all four of our studio works. The songs we recorded in 2014 certainly wouldn’t sound the way they do in 2020, only because we’ve grown as people and songwriters. That’s the beauty of being in a band — you naturally find ways to improve and grow, and it happens without it being realized. Of course, we are quite cognizant to not write the same album over and over — that approach works for some, but probably not Deathwhite. Going forward, it’s likely we’ll have even more expansive guitar work, emotive vocal lines, busy drum work and keyboard and synth flourishes. It seems inevitable.

What types of change do you feel this music can initiate?

DW: That’s ultimately up to the listener to decide. We have received several positive messages from people who have enjoyed listening to our music, so, hopefully, it has had an impact on them. Our music tends to be morose and melancholic, but as it has been noted with metal of this type, there is a certain “uplifting” feeling to listening to music of a dark nature. If that applies to Deathwhite, then we would consider ourselves happy.

Do you tend to follow any pre-defined patterns when composing a piece?

DW: As mentioned, we tend to write within traditional songwriting formulas. In our estimation, it’s the most effective way to get our point across while making the best use of the time at hand. There have been a few times when we’ve gone into songwriting already knowing what we wanted to accomplish. The song “Plague of Virtue” is a good example. We’ve had several Katatonia-like riffs around for a while but have never used them since we didn’t want to mimic them too strongly. However, we came up with a riff that we all liked and it felt natural to use it, so it ended up in the song. That may be one of the few times when our songwriting was pre-defined.

What non-musical entities and ideas have an impact on your music?

DW: We are influenced by not only current events but history and philosophy. We have yet to write a full-blown concept album, but if we did, it would likely include such themes. For Grave Image, many of the themes were outward-looking, meaning, we were inspired by what’s going on in the world around us. It appears, however, that these themes will continue to resonate for years to come.  

What advice or philosophy might you impart to other musicians, be it in forms of creativity, technical stuff, the business side of it, or anything else?

DW: Follow your instincts. Don’t be swayed by trends. Don’t be enticed by money. Don’t listen to other people — they will shape you in their image, not your own. Bands who follow trends will likely find themselves a few years late to the party; bands who are in it for the money will quickly learn there is little money to be made from playing heavy metal. It is one of the purest forms of music simply because it’s not driven by monetary pursuits.

Grave Image is out now; order the album from Bandcamp here. Follow Deathwhite on Facebook.

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