With their debut EP People thought my windows were stars marking a stark contrast to their peers in London’s DIY landscape, deathcrash placed themselves snuggly into the role of the scene’s gloomy, mysterious cousin.
The 2021 release coincided with quite a moment – both locally and globally. As the world remained incarcerated by the pandemic, listeners became rich in time and short on freedom; the perfect conditions for slow-burning tracks which roam without time limitations whilst bubbling with frustration.
Provincially, deathcrash offered an alternative sound to the London music community around them. Whilst artists like Black Country, New Road and black midi opted for a chaotic mixture of wonky riffs and in-your-face character narratives within their music, deathcrash pursued a more muted vocal delivery, sat atop a fuzzy guitar bed that is more true to the 90s post-rock movement that each of the above hark back to.
Return sees the quartet continuing to lean into these influences, whether it be the moody mumblings of Duster, or Slint’s ability to stretch a track into the most colossal final product that it could possibly be. This US post-rock, with pepperings of the Midwest emo exports of same period, are melded with a distinctly London outlook to make deathcrash an anomaly in the current climate – the longform converse to the frenetic punk energy around them.
“There is a reassurance in pain, a familiarity in its narrative.” The band say of the new LP. ‘Return asks when things heal, where does the wound go?’
This complicated relationship with pain comes to the fore from the off. Track number one ‘Sundown’ (the first of two opening songs which clock in at over 14 minutes) is a gradual build; an inquiry into a relationship that has suffered at the hands of sadness. This opening number is an trusty signifier of what’s to come, as the protagonist’s pain soon evolves into a perverse nostalgia for the gloom. “I wouldn’t change a thing // I’d try it all again”, frontman Tiernan Banks reflects towards the seven minute mark.
The first single to be released from Return, ‘Horses’ (which, at just shy of four minutes is somewhat of a pop banger by deathcrash’s metric) allows space for a nuanced evolution in Banks’ vocal delivery. A more whispered, almost ASMR approach to his singing pairs with less intense instrumentation to pack concentrated wistfulness without overdoing it.
Album highlights ‘Matt’s Song’ and ‘Metro 1’ also highlight the sonic possibilities available to deathcrash when they step outside of their standard vocal practise, giving periods of respite that are valuable in an album that hits the hour mark. ‘Matt’s Song’ – primarily an acoustic guitar solo played over two minutes – teases the listener with only muffled voicenotes, conjuring a home-video-recording sense of retrospective. ‘Metro 1’ features a long monologue from a narrator who sounds like Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo (who leant spoken word to The Cribs’ ‘Be Safe’).
It would be remiss to overlook how indebted deathcrash are to their influences. Be it the hypnotic My Bloody Valentine-esque instrumental on ‘American Metal’, or the more meandering American Football-style guitar work audible in ‘Slowday’ and ‘What To Do’. But it’s the way in which the band curate these influences and leave their own fingerprints upon the result which makes Return an album worth listening to – an album unlike anything else that has made an impact in the UK music sphere for a long while.
Music’s most supernatural quality is its ability to cultivate organic emotion through sound alone, and deathcrash are as capable in this regard as any other artist. This is a debut LP that faces sadness and pain head on and forensically examines every inch of that space – a charming exercise in catharsis.
Return is out 28th Jan via Untitled (Recs)
Photo Credit: Kaye Song