Metal is a genre that strangely enough, considering its dynamics and intensity, can lend itself to stagnancy and inertia. The problem is that sometimes no matter how theatrical and ferocious (or if you’re so inclined, fast and furious), it ends up just an echo of the same tricks that you’ve heard numerous times before. It’s the kind of feeling you might be familiar with after watching generic summer blockbusters year after year. The mere act of showing an explosion on a screen is not enough to sustain even passing interest for some people (for fuck’s sake, Michael Bay–how could you make giant robots fighting each other so boring?!).
So when a band uses Metal not as an endpoint, but as a pivot into a new direction, I’ll take notice. Guilty of Everything, the debut album of Nothing, does exactly that. Nothing combines the power and heaviness of metal with the vocals and lush textures of shoegaze. Yes, you read that correctly. True, other bands have been able to mix loud and soft dynamics, intertwining gorgeous vocals with thundering guitars and crashing drums before Nothing, but not necessarily to this extent. The Deftones have made a career of this, and thankfully have seemed to have influenced a new generation of bands.
Deafheaven received a lot of deserved acclaim last year by mixing black metal with elements of shoegaze and post-rock, and Nothing follows a similar approach, though perhaps working in reverse. The vocals are incomprehensible on both albums, but while Deafheaven goes in the loud direction with shrieks and howls, Nothing relies on the traditional shoegaze style of breathy vocals buried within the haze of guitars. The tempos and drumbeats on Guilty of Everything also are more in line with traditional shoegaze and rock, though I advise against making any assumptions based purely on that description. In one of the best moments on the album, Nothing recalls the epic breakdown from the Sigur Rós song “Popplagið”, as the drums go nuts underneath a gorgeous wall of guitars in the last two minutes of “B&E”.
The mixture between metal and shoegaze doesn’t always work, but when it does, like in “Somersault” and the title track, Nothing produces some of the most gorgeous music you’ll hear this year. The heaviness of the guitars combined with the whispery vocals that despite the inherent tension have an almost intoxicating effect, and it’s amazing that instead of working against each other that they blend so seamlessly. And while you’re enjoying the music, it’s worth reading up on the unusual story of the band.