11 great shoegaze albums for metalheads | Revolver

11 great shoegaze albums for metalheads

From 'Sunbather' to Swervedriver
nothing Dominic palermo 2018 GETTY live, Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for SXSW
Nothing's Domenic Palermo
photograph by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for SXSW

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Outside of a few experimental heavy hitters — like gauzy Sacramento kings Deftones and genre-hopping Japanese weirdos Boris — shoegaze and metal music didn't have a whole lot of direct interplay until the 2010s.

That's when Deafheaven released their zeitgeist-capturing blackgaze opus Sunbather, and bands like Nothing, Cloakroom and Greet Death started revisiting the heavier shoegaze bands of the Nineties and recontextualizing those sounds in a modern light.

Since then, shoegaze has become a common sibling genre to hardcore, with bands like Title Fight, Narrow Head and Pity Sex — who either moonlight in hardcore bands, or have evolved out of hardcore themselves, as Title Fight did on 2015's Hyperview. Then there're groups like King Woman and Planning for Burial who've found unique ways to incorporate bleary shoegaze effects into their funereal doom-metal dirges.

Below, are 11 (because shoegaze is another genre where the volume is often cranked above 10) amazing shoegaze albums that appeal to the sensibilities of metal, hardcore and/or hard-rock fans.

Sure, pioneering 'gaze groups like Slowdive, Ride and Lush have made incomparably beautiful music, but these albums manage to blur the elegance of shoegaze pedal effects (reverb, delay, chorus and fuzz) with the physical inertia of a pedal-to-the-metal rock band.

Catherine Wheel - Chrome

Catherine Wheel frontman Rob Dickinson is the cousin of Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson (really!) and they named their band after a medieval torture device. As if that wasn't reason enough for metalheads to check them out, then trust us: Their 1993 opus Chrome is fucking magnificent.

Songs like the gobsmacking "Pain" and the soaring "I Confess" operate at the epic scale of Smashing Pumpkins in their Mellon Collie days, with dynamite riffs, ascendant melodies and a healthy dose of rock & roll swagger.

The production from longtime Pixies boardsmith Gil Norton gives Chrome's towering sound a gnarled crunch, clobbering Catherine Wheel's wispy, English counterparts, and setting the bar high for countless heavy shoegaze bands to come.

Cloakroom - Time Well

By the time Cloakroom came around, bands like Boris and True Widow had already embraced the intersection of sludge, post-metal and shoegaze. But Time Well, the Indiana band's world-encompassing sophomore LP, perfected the formula, and also put their own space-rocky spin on it.

Songs like "Seedless Star" find Cloakroom colliding the grungy force of Hum with the artistic flair of Failure, letting the fuzzy chorus feedback bleed into the verse, ripping a bluesy guitar solo, and utilizing chord progressions with a psychedelic twinge.

Their choice of pedal effects and Doyle Martin's weightless vocals are undeniably shoegaze, but Cloakroom deliver their lapping, pulverizing riffage at achingly slow speeds and deafening volume that ring of doom metal

Deafheaven - Sunbather

OK, yes. We get it. Sunbather isn't a shoegaze record in the way Slowdive's Souvlaki is 100-percent, no-doubt-about-it a shoegaze record. But also... it's kind of a shoegaze record!

Though groups like Alcest were doing the "blackgaze" thing before them, Deafheaven staked claim of that sound on Sunbather, mastering the precise blend of hell-raising shrieks, pummeling riffs and remarkably pretty 'gaze effects, and thereby pushing heavy music into genuinely new terrain.

Sunbather's follow-up, New Bermuda, is arguably a more dynamic record, and their (mostly) screamless, decidedly un-metallic 2021 side step, Infinite Granite, is their purest shoegaze album. But Sunbather has an un-replicable magic, a sort of purity in the performances and overall vibe, that feels quintessentially shoegaze. Ten-plus years on from its release, it still sounds brand new.

Greet Death - New Hell

Greet Death are leaders of the current wave of heavy shoegaze that came in the wake of Nothing and Cloakroom. Their 2017 debut, Dixieland, is crushingly beautiful in its own right, but 2019's New Hell is a modern landmark for the genre.

Co-vocalists Logan Gaval and Sam Boyharti take turns trading the most depressing admissions imaginable over music that evokes the ornate poignancy of the Cure — except twisted together with torrential post-metal explosions and stifling layers of shoegaze fuzziness.

Cuts like "Do You Feel Nothing?," "Entertainment" and "Crush" highlight their considerable melodic chops, which come through clearer on their twangy 2022 EP, New Low. But "Strange Days," "Strain" and the twin nine-minute mind-melters, "You're Gonna Hate What You've Done" and "New Hell," are where Greet Death's unmatched talents for toiling shoegaze epics are at their absolute peak.

Holy Fawn - Death Spells

While Holy Fawn took a slightly softer, more atmospheric approach on 2022's Dimensional Bleed, their 2018 opus, Death Spells, has a lot in common with the aforementioned records by Greet Death and Cloakroom — but even more extreme. Drawing from both the girthy attack of Deafheaven-y blackgaze (though not quite as screamy) and the tectonic dirges of Neurosis- and Amenra-style post-metal, Holy Fawn achieved a practically unmatched level of sonic power.

After 30 seconds of blissful guitar ambiance on opener "Dark Stone," the fuzzy guitars — a cold, sooty, sunless-ocean-floor type of fuzz — detonate like fucking landmines. From there, the album delivers an hour's worth of pushing and pulling between oppressively heavy climaxes and utterly gorgeous builds.

Jesu - Jesu

After the dissolution of Justin Broadrick's since-reunited industrial-metal powerhouse Godflesh, the English extremist — also known for his stint in Scum-era Napalm Death — switched things up dramatically for his new band, Jesu.

On their 2004 debut, Broadrick filtered the trudging-through-snowfall rhythms of Godflesh through glimmering shoegaze effects, dotting the lengthy compositions with faded clean-vocal mews and faintly-hopeful-sounding guitar twinkles.

Songs like "We All Faulter" and "Friends Are Evil" have the plodding, mechanical undergirding that typifies Godflesh's scorching sound, but the surrounding instrumentation sounds like a band letting light in instead of trying to snuff it out. Save for the utterly nasty sludge-metal outlier "Man/Woman," the bulk of Jesu is droney, hard-hitting and bleak, but also unbelievably beautiful.

My Bloody Valentine - Loveless

Though it feels trite to say so, it's impossible to understate the majesty and influence of My Bloody Valentine's Loveless. It's the album that every shoegaze band is trying to rip off but never can. It's by no means the genre's heaviest record, but Loveless remains the most inventive and sonically distinguished shoegaze record ever.

After the first four drum taps of "Only Shallow," in comes Kevin Shields' genre-defining flood of guitar texture, mangled artfully with his signature "glide-guitar" whammy-bar technique, and coupled with he and Bilinda Butcher's ethereal purrs. The whole record is ear-bleedingly loud. The way the guitar tracks are threaded is like a riddle that can never be cracked.

If you love metal then you love overwhelming walls of sound, acrobatic guitarwork and vocals that are often lyrically indistinguishable. Loveless checks all of those boxes. There's a reason Chino Moreno modeled Deftones' White Pony after its titanic sound.

Nothing - Guilty of Everything

On 2016's Tired of Tomorrow, and again on 2020's The Great Dismal, Nothing's sound got bigger and more decadently lush, yielding many of their greatest songs. But for metalheads, 2014's Guilty of Everything is the best entry point.

The Philly miserablists are the pre-eminent heavy shoegaze band of the last decade, and any track on this record — the careening "Bent Nail," the surging "Hymn to Pillory," the bashing "Get Well," the ballooning title track — demonstrate why.

There're dozens of other bands (indeed, many on this list) who've found harmony between the crunching power chords of grunge and the celestial pedal effects of shoegaze, and Guilty of Everything succeeds by excelling at that and then upping the ante. The drumming is fucking insane. The riffs sound utterly gigantic.

Domenic Palermo's fallen-angel vocals are coated in a wreath of cherubic reverb, but his puffy melodies are sorrowful and his poetic lyrics are fatalistic. It just works so well.

Starflyer 59 - Silver

Starflyer 59 mastermind Jason Martin is the son of a trucker who eventually took over his dad's big-rig business, and every song on his first three albums sounds like it was designed to be blared in the cab of a careening 18-wheeler. His first album, 1994's Silver, is loaded with chunky hard-rock riffs that're smeared with interesting delay effects and heaven-dusted singing.

Contemporaries like Hum and Shiner were doing a similar sound but with a post-hardcore bite, whereas Starflyer cuts such as "Second Space Song" and "Blue Collar Love" are prettier and more lulling, despite the seismic force of their riffs.

Other standouts like "Monterey" and "The Dungeon" fused Codeine-ish slowcore with the noisy shoegaze of My Bloody Valentine, planting Silver firmly in the bounds of shoegaze — and ranking among the era's best and most metalhead-friendly.

Swervedriver - Mezcal Heat

Swervedriver are English shoegazers who clearly had a fascination with the pile-driving bulk of American grunge. Their 1991 debut, Raise, is more akin to the sandblasted jangle of the Jesus and Mary Chain, but their sound got beefed up on '93's Mezcal Head, which personifies the foreboding vibes given off by the angry bull staring out of the album's cover art.

Tracks like "Last Train to Satansville" and "For Seeking Heat" blare wildly like Dinosaur Jr. or Sonic Youth at their heaviest, and the added layer of shoegaze effects only makes their sound more unruly. Meanwhile, standout "Girl on a Motorbike" crescendos peacefully into an astounding groove of washed-out feedback and sparkling tap leads.

Swirlies - Blonder Tongue Audio Baton

Unlike most of the albums on this list, the Swirlies' Blonder Tongue Audio Baton is noisier than it is heavy. The Boston icons got cleaner and slicker as the '90s bore on, but their 1993 debut has a very unique sound that draws as much from their British peers across the pond as it does the off-kilter rhythms and woozy guitarwork of the American noise-rock scene.

A lot of Blonder Tongue's character comes from the band's liberal use of a variety of analog synths, which are woven into the fabric of the songs along with stray radio samples, which sound like the staticky transmissions that accidentally get picked up by cheap guitar amps.

The Swirlies found a way to make those noises sound cool, giving tracks like "Pancake" and "Bell" a weird, disorienting feel, while still being catchy as hell.