Listening to music in a foreign language is a purity test for your taste. Though they are often neglected in these circles, lyrics are undoubtedly an important part of music. Otherwise they wouldn’t be there. Still, as a critic I appreciate the challenge of not having the option to fall back on text when I can’t find a way to tackle the music itself head on. This is why I try to go out of my way to listen to music that is incapable of appealing to me with empty platitudes. A band like Sigur Ros or Ava Rocha can’t slide into my playlists on sentiment alone. Without lyrics, you have to confront the sounds head on. Do the chord changes do something to you, do the timbres of the instruments work together, does the song make sense moment to moment? As a particularly goofy Self Defense Family shirt would say, “is this good”?

Heaven In Her Arms make quick work of that question.

White Halo, their third album, is the kind of record that puts names on maps. It’s an ambitious take on a familiar form. If you’ve listened to much modern screamo, you know the basic steps of this dance, but Heaven In Her Arms don’t settle for just meeting expectations. They sprawl out, making room for organ interludes, electronic drums, and ornate lead guitar that suggests they’ve spent plenty of time studying British heavy metal. Even without extra musical context, this is memorable stuff, but the band’s perspective on their new record is illuminating. Here’s what they had to say in an interview provided by their press release.

“We also wanted to rid of the ‘dark’ image that we had…. There’s a very strong desire to express ‘Beauty’ more than in the past”

I’m going to sidestep the issue of whether dark music can also be beautiful (quick answer: fucking duh). The more important question is whether Heaven In Your Arms were successful in their pivot towards the light. Did they express beauty on White Halo?

Yes. They pass that test with flying colors.

Of course I’m biased. A Japanese screamo band named after a Converge song that openly talks about trying to make heavy music beautiful sounds like something you’d invent to make fun of my taste in music, but Heaven In Your Arms are no joke. They are overstating their move away from the darkness a bit, there are plenty of moments on White Halo that are downright mean, but the record’s closing track “Turbid Fog” more than justifies their claim. Like their countrymen in Envy, or their touring partners Deafheaven, Heaven In Her Arms make you wait a long time for the payoff, wringing every ounce of drama that they can from “Turbid Fog”’s aching build-up. But even more impressive are the moments after they’ve delivered the goods, a steady and graceful fall that ends the record on a satisfied note.

Stream “Turbid Fog” below. White Halo will be released by Translation Loss Records on July 7th.



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