Prior to Deceiver, DIIV haven’t really been the kind of band known for being particularly intuitive or innovative. Placed within the early-to-mid 2010s dream pop/shoegaze boom, DIIV contributed a few excellent tracks to the genres’ revival but never threatened anything more consequential; slotting in better amongst Beach Fossils and Twin Peaks rather than the more significant likes of Beach House and the War on Drugs.

Some personal and stylistic developments later, however, and DIIV seemed to hint that their next release would offer something genuinely different. Following frontman Zachary Cole Smith’s trip to rehab and a tour with blackgaze giants Deafheaven, Smith proudly claimed to have relinquished full creative control, and Deceiver was pitched as DIIV’s first full-band effort.

The promise of a heavier, rejuvenated sound was undeniably bolstered by the three singles, all evidence of the band having moved in a harder direction. ‘Skin Game’ and ‘Blankenship’ teased that perhaps DIIV would fuse their usual sensibility for pretty and melodic indie pop with a new heaviness built out of a Smashing Pumpkins-esque fixation on endless, maniacal multitracking.

And, if the rest of Deceiver does anything, it certainly demonstrates that DIIV have committed to a change in style. It’s grungier, building rich passages of thrilling distortion into their usual dream pop and shoegaze. Making full use of Protomartyr producer Sonny DiPerri, the best tracks here push blisteringly loud guitar work and relentless, propulsive drumming to the front of an engulfing mix of feedback. ‘Horsehead’ and ‘Acheron’ (and the aforementioned ‘Skin Game’ and ‘Blankenship’) guile their way between boisterous indie rock grooves, catchy lead guitars, tasteful bridges, and impactful key changes with the air of a band knowingly crafting some exceptional contemporary shoegaze tracks.

But while a change in style feels welcome for DIIV, it isn’t necessarily the revamp they sorely needed. DIIV’s previous two records have suffered mostly from every track sounding almost entirely the same and, unfortunately, Deceiver isn’t much different. DIIV’s newfound heaviness gets saturated and made less potent almost immediately, whilst the sound of the record can often feel like a poor substitute for better or more varied songwriting. Tracks like ‘Between Tides’, ‘Taker’ and ‘For the Guilty’ seem to mimic each other in their forced momentousness, all predictably building to an overworked, overproduced, similarly gaudy final act.

The mechanical occasion built into the songwriting of so many of Deceiver’s tracks is reminiscent of the unnecessary overperformance of an indulgent live show. There are only so many times one can be blown away by an all-arms-on-deck outro or the richness of a heavy shoegaze sound, and DIIV rarely ration either. If, indeed, one hasn’t already heard the likes of My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive etc. twenty years ago, the reverb on Deceiver feels normalised by the second track and the momentous finales feel forced and mechanical by the fourth.

Though Deceiver contains a few genuinely standout tracks and is a competent modern shoegaze record, it’s held back by similar flaws to those of Oshin and Is The Is Are. Though it’s DIIV’s most consistent record so far, a step in the right direction and a more radical a gear shift than either of those releases, the tracks on Deceiver offer only wide differences in quality and little variation in style.