Words by Russell Carstens

It’s safe to figure that the title of DIIV’s third album, Deceiver, speaks to Zachary Cole Smith’s perspective on the substances that led to his very public downfall in the past few years. However, the album carries a sense of remorse and cautious triumph over his battles. The mournful “Horsehead” opens the album, with vocal moans over oceanic waves of distortion, recalling some of Deftones’ less brutal, more crooning moments. This time around the mix is more traditional, with vocals upfront. It’s a refreshing change from their earlier, more vague work. This is more like it. It ends with a wicked squeal of feedback that sounds as if it were sampled from In Utero. It would take several close listens to decipher Smith’s lyrics, but it only takes a first impression to tell that they’re delivered sincerely.

The intro of “Skin Game” is a nod to Rather Ripped-era Sonic Youth guitar interplay. Smith sings, “I can see you’ve had some struggles lately … I can’t live like this anymore.” It’s as if he’s ready to dust himself off and say, “OK, lessons learned!” But he is cautious about getting overconfident, as any addict attempting recovery knows the battle is ongoing. After all, on “Between Tides,” he’s “just waiting for the storm to die.”

“For The Guilty” features very Loveless-esque, yearning tremolo bends that mimic anguished wails, reflecting Smith’s remorseful perspective. Conversely, “Blankenship” is speedy, manic, frantic, dissonant…the soundtrack to a terrified and desperate human trying to outrun their demons in a hall-of-mirrors nightmare, with temptations jumping out at them at every corner. The standout track “The Spark” boasts the optimism of a youthful summer day, with beautiful, nostalgia-inducing guitar melodies. You can tell Smith is feeling redeemed, that it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. It’d be a treat to hear more work like this in DIIV’s future.

On Deceiver, DIIV get much closer to reaching the potential they’ve aimed for since the beginning. Here’s wishing Smith all the best in his recovery, as Deceiver is all the proof he needs to be assured that one’s life doesn’t have to be in shambles to create a foundation for great music. He’s determined to not be deceived by that fallacy again.

© October 4, 2019

TheWaster.com | Deceiver