New Bermuda

Written by: AP on 31/12/2015 10:58:13

Chances are, if Deafheaven has escaped your attention thus far, that you have wilfully ignored any semblance of buzz within the metal community. With its bright pink artwork and uplifting tone, the Brooklyn, NY outfit’s second album ”Sunbather” was a slap in the face of black metal conservatism and swiftly became one of the most divisive and talked about records to emerge from that scene in years. It was embraced by the hip crowd, repulsed the purists, and found common ground with those of us that celebrate innovation and novelty. Their ideas were something so rare as original.

Certainly some parallels can be drawn to the likes of Alcest and especially the restive Wolves in the Throne Room, but once an ominous chiming of bells erupts into a discharge of claustrophobic black metal pummel on “Brought to the Water”, the opening track to the band’s third long-player “New Bermuda”, the sound is instantly recognisable as Deafheaven and no one else. Building on the quintet’s outstanding ability to juxtapose the dire and the beautiful, the piercing screams of vocalist George Clarke and the famously schizophrenic melodies of guitarist Kerry McCoy — a constant dance between desolation and hope — have found fresh grazing ground in debutants Daniel Tracy, Stephen Lee Clark and Shiv Mehra, with Tracy’s nimble and imaginative drumming in particular supplying the music with more rhythmic depth than was the case when Trevor Deschryver and since Korey Severson were manning the kit. Within the passages that owe royalty to classic Norwegian black metal, his percussion is also markedly blacker than the work of his predecessors — triumphant yet imposing, and the perfect companion for the shift toward a starker contrast that Deafheaven sets in motion with the aforementioned song.

Indeed, just as the artwork seems to have swallowed all of “Sunbather”’s brightness, so too has the yin in Deafheaven’s marriage of darkness and light grown more radical, and the yang more cinematic. But the seamlessness of the transitions between those elements has not suffered; subtle key-shifts still produce a famously striking effect in tracks like “Luna” and “Come Back” — softly christened, but housing a hideous revelation just beneath the surface. As ever, the music retains its unpredictable nature, prodding and poking at the listeners’ attentiveness with an enormous variety of ideas, atmospheres and infusions lurking between the lines. Punishing walls of blast beats and tremolo, sections of soaring post-metal and the occasional gazing at shoes may comprise the bulk of the band’s stylistic palette, but there is always that tiny quirk present to set them apart as well, such as McCoy busting out a classic rock -style guitar solo in “Baby Blue” or the band openly mimicking Oasis’ “Champagne Supernova” in conclusive piece “Gifts for the Earth”. As absurd as that sounds, Deafheaven’s agnosticism gives them the liberty to conceive songs like “Come Back”, that combine the best black metal, the best post-rock, and the best shoegaze, and the result is invariably breathtaking.

“Sunbather” was a phenomenal record, but above all it made me excited about where Deafheaven would go next. Compositionally, this latest opus “New Bermuda” represents the accomplishment of Clarke & McCoy’s staggering ambition, brought to fruition by a tremendous supporting cast. The album feels like a courageous evolutionary step which, while refusing to annihilate the elements that made “Sunbather” so accessible to listeners lacking a predisposition for heavy metal, cloaks them in an aggressively metallic sheen. The heavy parts sound more twisted and violent now, the pretty parts even gentler and sweeter; while the deadweight that held “Sunbather” back somewhat has been shed and its most potent weaponry redistilled into five devastating, gluttonous revelries of sound, the sort of bombastic, skyward reaching songs that can stop or start a heart.


Download: Brought to the Water, Luna, Come Back
For the fans of: Alcest, Liturgy, Wolves in the Throne Room
Listen: Facebook

Release date 02.10.2015

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