Is there anything better than being a music fan and seeing a band realise their potential and release an album that transcends their own fanbase and genre? For example, Metallica with “Master of Puppets” and REM with “Automatic for the People” have done it in the past, and now Deafheaven joins that elite group. Of course, a lot of people would say that Deafheaven did that already with their last record “Sunbather”. That record, while very good, was lacking something for me. Don’t get me wrong, I really like it, but there was something that just didn’t click. I hoped that the band would be able to deliver on the promise of “Sunbather” and they have achieved that, and more on “New Bermuda”, which was released on 2nd of October on Anti- Records.
A lot has been made of the labels being bandied around to describe Deafheaven, “black-gaze” being the most prominent. This is a complete fallacy. Not enough of a fallacy for me to whinge about it on Twitter all day, but a fallacy none the less. This is a metal record. Pure and simple. Yes, there are a number of musical influences that can be cited, but it’s a metal record regardless.
Deafheaven bring colour to black metal by inserting sections of music that are pulled from all genres ranging from British indie, and New Wave. A lot has been made of how Deafheaven could potentially crossover into the mainstream, which infuriates the metal elitists. How much a black metal band can have crossover appeal remains to be seen, but the amount of non metal publications that are covering the band would imply a lot. But back to the music; using subtle instrumentation not usually associated with the genre make this stand out from the pack. The wah pedal solo in “Baby Blue”, the slide guitar in “Come Back” and the use of a tambourine in “Gifts for the Earth” all add so much to the songs and make them distinctive. This colour is also perfectly represented in the cover art.
The album was recorded live to tape and the urgency that the songs are performed at makes this a masterstroke. No one member of the band dominates over the other. George Clarke (vocals), Kerry McCoy (guitar), Dan Tracy (drums), Stephen Lee Clark (bass), and Shiv Mehra (guitar) are all given their chance to shine. Tracy and Clark anchor the whole thing while McCoy and Mehra construct elaborate passages using both clean and distorted guitars. Clarke’s vocals are right in the middle of the mix, neither too loud nor too low and it works perfectly. The temptation to go the clean vocal route was probably there, but Clarke stays the course even on the cleaner songs like “Gifts…”.
From start to finish this is a tight, focused record that has zero wasted motion. Every musical part is an intricate cog in the machine that is “New Bermuda”. Where Deafheaven go from here is anyone’s guess, but right now, enjoy this record. Live with it for a while and let it soak in. It’s as rewarding an album as I’ve heard in a very long time.
Unappreciated Scholars Review Grade: A+
“New Bermuda” by Deafheaven was released on the 2nd of October and is available in stores, on iTunes or on the band’s Bandcamp page.
Listen to album opener “Brought to the Water” below, and let me know what you think in the comments section or via Twitter. Are Deafheavan a band to last, or just a flash in the pan?