Deafheaven
New Bermuda

More likely than not, you have already decided if you will like or purchase Deafheaven’s new album, regardless of this review. Am I right? I mean, you either loathed or loved 2013’s watershed album, Sunbather (full disclosure – it was my top pick for the year), or you simply don’t care for the band’s style, the ‘hipster’ tag, or their disregard for ‘trve’ and ‘kvlt’ black metal.

Well, regardless of your opinion, the band is back and has certainly tried to sway fans on album number 3. Whether it was the groundwork laid by name-dropping ‘Slayer‘ in pre-album release interviews, the grittier guitar tone, or what appears to be a diminished focus on intrinsic ‘post’ or beautiful moments, Deafheaven seem to be trying pretty hard to shake the negative pundits loose, and to some extent it works.

However, it leaves fans like me – fans who adored the band’s uplifting and shimmery melodic blasts, regardless of hipster tags or looks – behind a little. What New Bermuda does do is get rid of the long in-between song interludes that interrupted Sunbather’s 4 amazing main songs. Instead, the moments of post-rock introspection are more ingrained, and the promised Slayer influence is indeed there with darker, thrashier riffs and a harsher guitar tone dominating the songs.


As if a statement, opener “Brought to the Water” gets right to it with a main riff that recalls “Into the Infinity of Thoughts,” the opening track from Emperor‘s In the Nightside Eclipse, and a sliver of light shines through the darker hues around 3:22  and there is some nice crunch and piano work in the song’s later stages. The opener is the highlight of the album, along with the urgent blaze of “Come Back,” which follows the album’s pattern of blistering metal ending with a few minutes of more gentle music.

“Luna” initially highlights the thrashier delivery and might be the band’s harshest track yet, with a vitriolic presence and a melancholy crescendo to close it out. On the opposite side of the spectrum, “Baby Blue” starts gently, but delivers a stern chord progression around 3-and-a-half minutes in that really encapsulates Deafheaven’s new sound. There’s even a lengthy rock solo and a really Slayer-ish chug around 6 minutes in, but the outro is one of those needless fillers from Sunbather.

However, there’s still no lucid moment or track on New Bermuda that gives me goosebumps or elicits a real emotional reaction like “Dream House,” “The Pecan Tree,” or “Sunbather” did. Sure, the closing track “Gifts for the Earth” sees the band in a more experimental, Smiths/Cure-like mood, and it’s a nice finale, but otherwise but it’s pretty dull. There’s no warmth, no transcendental uplifting melody that reaches into your chest and squeezes your heart. And I get it, Deafheaven might be trying to shake those moments and stigmas, and be more ‘metal’, but the end result is colder, more distant, and less of a defining statement.

Like So Hideous‘s Laurenstine, New Bermuda is a fine album, and while shorter and more direct, it’s a slight step back for me from the band’s previous album, despite the hype it came with. I’m actually preferring albums from Vallendusk and Deluge much more this year. However, I also get the sense that New Bermuda might be a bit of a grower once I stop comparing it to Sunbather. I also have to credit the band for developing somewhat, though trying to be more black metal seems to have taken something away from their intrinsic sound.

 

[Visit the band's website]
Written by E. Thomas
October 12th, 2015

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