Deafheaven - New Bermuda (Cover Artwork)


New Bermuda (2015)


When Sunbather, the second full-length release from San Francisco’s Deafheaven, was released in 2013, people both inside and outside of the music industry seemed to lose their collective shit. On one hand, it enraged black metal purists, being immediately denounced as "inauthentic," and in other respects, ardent fans (and some critics) couldn’t get enough of it, raising their hype to near sub-orbital heights. Even Rolling Stone entered the fray, acknowledging Sunbather’s bemusing pink cover, comparing its hooks to U2, and calling it a “mind-blower” – all within the same sentence. And with the release of their eagerly anticipated follow up, and third full length release, New Bermuda, this inflamed discussion is sure to pick right back up once again.

But let me give you the skinny here real quick: Deafheaven is just a band and New Bermuda is great, but it’s only a record. It’s not going bring peace to the Middle East, or make climate change any more of an obvious fact. It also won’t bring about the destruction of black metal as a genre, or drag supporters of the "trve kvlt" black metal sound into a fiery abyss. It probably will make it on to many Top Whatever lists of 2015, and if it does, it will be because it’s a thoughtful, well-structured and highly listenable black metal record, with strong post-rock and shoegaze influences. Not because it’s the savior of rock’n’roll/all mankind/the free world. Like its predecessor, New Bermuda offers a glimpse into a world fraught with duality. Light textures play against dark atmospheric moods. Visceral and pained shrieked vocals, strike against dreamy, almost poppy, shoegaze guitar lines, shimmering with a radiant light that strains to peek out from behind the gloomy shadows of the record. Frenetic guitar rhythms punctuate the gaps between furious blast beats and haunting screams, building to expansive, fragile crescendos that rise, peak and fade out all too quickly, forever denying any futile attempt to seize them with a firm grip.

Lead single "Brought To The Water," kicks the record off with a bang of clanging bells, frosty blast beats and calculated black metal riffs, before a subtle and well-executed transition into a stirring and melodic, post-rock exit is accompanied by a delicate piano outro. "Luna" features an almost incessant tug of war between dynamics: soft and hard, loud and quiet, major and minor; contrasting equal textures of light and dark against sparse, sombre lyrics, to provide close to 10 minutes of ethereal and bleak aural soundscape. The first third of "Baby Blue" sounds like something from the more recent Isis albums, just as its towering peak is surmounted, only to embrace the playfulness of a 90’s metal "waaaah" solo before the final third drifts away over the top of strong, chugging guitar leads. Stand out track "Come Back" makes use of furious drumming and a near constant tremolo riff, before a piercing scream and guitar break signpost a pseudo-breakdown with heavy, driving rhythms, carrying the song downward into a dreamy, folk tinged, sliding guitar passage as closer, recalling elements of Slowdive or This Will Destroy You. Finale "Gifts from the Earth" is a fitting send off, with punchy drums, soft, spoken word vocal chants, walls of guitars and an epic closing lead that echoes the voice of the record long after it’s endnote.

Incorporating an endless supply of influences, from Alcest and Explosions In The Sky, to Behemoth, My Bloody Valentine and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, New Bermuda is undoubtedly a complex record. With only 5 tracks, and each averaging roughly 9 minutes in length, it’s shorter than Sunbather and vastly more nuanced. The turns and breaks in each track flow organically, and no one direction feels forced or overbearing. That being said, some fans might find it more restrictive or ‘direct’, compared to the explosive reverie of Sunbather. If one thing is certain, it’s that this release will no doubt blow the Internet the fuck up, and induce copious butt-hurt injuries and smarmy Youtube comments. You have been warned.