Endless Loop: Vertigo

deafheavenHave you ever had one of those songs that gets stuck in your head for days…weeks…years? Sure you have. These are the songs that always make the cut. The songs on repeat. We all have them. I have a ton. Welcome back to Endless Loop.

“Vertigo” by Deafheaven

It’s not that I’m sad or upset about anything, but sometimes I’ve just got to put on something heart wrenching and get lost in it for a little while.

In the narrative form, it’s oft referred to as misery lit, or more succinctly misery porn.  These are devastating, soul crushing tomes of literature or film that find our protagonists facing any and all manner of unspeakable tragedy, and then invite us to wallow in it, an aching sadness prevailing over all, and on come the waterworks.  And we as a culture just devour it.  Bring on the misery.  Bring on the pain.  Bring on the unending turmoil and moments of disquiet.

Are we getting off on this?

I don’t think it’s so salacious as that.  Honestly, in the constant hum and toil of this world, a mass deadening of the senses uniting us all in discordant harmony, sometimes it’s just nice to feel something, even if that something is sorrow or anguish.  And we revel in it.  Maybe that’s being hyperbolic.  Maybe that’s being cynical too.  But it feels right.  I think we live in a society where we deny ourselves our emotions a lot of the time (God knows Western civilization’s hyper-masculine bullshit will put the hammer down on male tears), so when a story or a piece of art strikes a particular nerve, we want to hold onto it.  And why shouldn’t we?  Good art should make you feel something.  Good storytelling should stick to your soul, be it comic or tragic.  Maybe the tragedy is just a little easier to relate to.

There’s a lot of misery porn to be found in music too.  And I dwell on it all the time.  I’ve written about death music before, self-ascribed funereal albums that harken to my own personal loss, and I have no intention of repeating myself here, but listening to “Vertigo” from Bay area metal band Deafheaven’s 2013 breakthrough record Sunbather, it’s hard not to fall back on that.  It still moves me every time I hear it.  It makes my heart hurt.  It can make me cry.  Even in the abstract, if I remove my personal experience from the song, and take the sounds at face value, what’s left is absolute sorrow.

There’s power to that.  The song hits on a visceral level, utilizing classical and operatic structures paired with wailing guitars, bombastic drumming, and howling, screaming vocals in its 14+ minute runtime, creating a mood of epic, sweeping despair.  Lyrics don’t matter here, and really it’s not like you can decipher them without written aid anyway.  It’s the emotion within those screams, the utter sadness they pull out of me, and I’m getting goosebumps in my car as the song crescendos.

I’m feeling something, and it’s marvelous.


Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

One Response to Endless Loop: Vertigo
  1. Shawn Reply

    This one does it for me too.

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