Review | DIIV - Deceiver
Deceiver finds DIIV in a reawakening of their identity after several years of hardship and sees their sound turn to a richer and fuller approach.
Ever since their inception in 2011, DIIV have had a difficult career. Formed in Brooklyn, and initially named after the Nirvana song ‘Dive’, the band changed the spelling to DIIV due to clashing with another band of the same name. In 2014, original bassist Devin Perez was under heavy scrutiny due
to sexist and racist comments made on 4chan, which eventually led to his removal from the group in
2017. Coupled with drug addiction from lead singer Zachary Cole Smith and drummer Colby Hewitt,
DIIV’s activity after their second release Is The Is Are have been minimal, with Smith disappearing
from social media completely. However, the day before the official release, Smith reappeared on his
Instagram account, posting several photos across the past two and a half years. Through the build-up
to Deceiver, DIIV have slowly re-emerged with a refreshed approached to their songwriting. Unlike Is
The Is Are, which felt bloated due to the number of tracks spanning the record and lack of cohesion,
Deceiver feels focused, complete and a cathartic release to aid the next stage of DIIV’s career. After
what feels like a lifetime in a band’s lifecycle, DIIV realign their sound into a fuller, more cathartic
style, pulling influences from all over the alternative rock and shoegaze scene.
Running through the entirety of Deceiver are heavier, effect-led guitar riffs, similar to My Bloody
Valentine’s 2013 release ‘MBV’. Tracks like ‘Horsehead’, ‘For The Guilty’ and ‘Like Before You Were Born’
reflect a shoegaze foundation at the root of Deceiver, a stark contrast to the singles released in the lead-up. Lead single ‘Skin Game’ possesses jangle-pop guitars which would not be amiss in an early
Mac Demarco track. Reflecting on Smith’s past drug addiction and living with fellow addicts during
his rehabilitation, it feels earnest and genuine; “I can see you’ve had some struggles lately / Hey man,
I’ve had mine too” is a personal, honest thought process that shows growth and wanting to help.
Although Deceiver presents a stronger focus to their shoegaze origins, third single ‘Blankenship’ is a
post-punk rocker, with a focus on the current climate crisis. One would consider this a similar track to
‘Doused’ off DIIV’s debut, Oshin, due to their difference in nature compared to the rest of the album they are on. ‘Blankenship’ is a sharp left turn that provides the listener something new in DIIV’s arsenal when it comes to songwriting, and is one of the best tracks DIIV have put out to date.
Deceiver also shows a level of craftsmanship invoking a range of artists, such as The
Smashing Pumpkins, Slowdive and post-rock outfits like Sigur Rós. Whilst Deceiver possesses great songwriting, its mixing lets it down throughout. Looking at its compression in terms of “the loudness war”, it is shockingly compressed across the entire record, meaning certain parts feels restricted in their impact. ‘Between Tides’ is a great example of this, where its Siamese Dream-infused
progression is lost in the mix due to the low contrast of dynamics within the song. These progressions are also seen on ‘Lorelei’, which has a post-rock essence flowing through the entirety of the track,
albeit feels under-explored and a slight misstep in the tracklisting. Closer ‘Acheron’ starts with a
brooding bassline that explodes into a cacophony of swirling guitars and thrashing drums,
showcasing DIIV’s evolution from the three to four-minute tracks they released on Oshin. At just over seven minutes long, ‘Acheron’ is the longest track DIIV have written to date, and one of their most unique. This new attitude toward writing longer, more complex pieces is a success across Deceiver,
where blooming instrumentals flourish alongside soft-spoken vocals from Smith, that play a small but impactful role in the emotions evoked.
After an incredibly rocky few years, DIIV take a gamble on Deceiver and it pays off with great success. What feels like a true successor to Oshin, Zachary Cole Smith finds redemption and solace through diligent crafting of instrumentation across the record. Whilst having a high level of consistency, Deceiver finds itself slightly lost in terms of building it together, and a few missed opportunities in exploring different genres and themes. Live performances of the record will provide fans with a refreshed approach to DIIV’s sound, and how they have grown as individuals as well as a
group. Deceiver is a record that shows that DIIV are home and safe, ready to take on the world and refocus on their career ahead. The next step looks to be filled with untapped potential.
Best Track: 'Blankenship'
Worst Track: 'Lorelei'