It took my friends over at Nine Circles to remind me that post-metal band Deafheaven had released their newest album “New Bermuda” last Friday. Being a fan of their last album, the critically acclaimed “Sunbather,” I was interested in hearing how these guys would follow it up. A few listens in, I’m already considering this album a huge success, and possibly even better than their last.
No matter what band you are, to follow up any widely acclaimed album is a daunting task, an undertaking that isn’t always necessarily achieved. Within two years of the release that gained them notoriety, these San Franciscans succeeded in creating a memorable addition to their discography. Consisting of George Clarke on vocals, Kerry McCoy and Shiv Mehra on guitar, Stephen Clark on bass guitar, and Daniel Tracy on drums, the collaborative effort these gentlemen put forward in “New Bermuda” is simply astonishing, and will be considered as one of the best metal albums of the year. To call the album simply “metal,” though, would be typecasting and neglecting the experimental talent of the band. Transitioning from the heavy chords of post-metal, the airy atmospheres of shoegaze, and the shrieking vocals of black metal, Deafheaven is strangley the most accessible black metal band in the world. With such a blatant range of sound, there’s a little bit of everything for listeners of rock music in general. Because of that, though, what results is a near-conflict of sound. To separate the vocals from the orchestration, one would assume they were listening to two completely different albums, let alone two completely separate genres. Luckily, Deafheaven skillfully and daringly creates an unforgettable sound that simply works.
If the vibrant pink cover of their previous album “Sunbather” was an homage to its lighter feel, then the deep black of “New Bermuda” is perfectly fitting. With darker inspirations reflecting on suburbia and its confining effect, Clarke’s vocals trigger an emotional response from the listener. These relatable themes are riddled with enough symbolism for every listener to have a separate interpretation, making each listening experience completely unique. “There is no ocean for me… only the mirage of water ascending from asphalt / …confined to a house that never remains clean” barks Clarke in the song “Luna,” the album’s longest and most profound track lyrically. With his yelps and screeches, I cannot help but feel shaken to my core. Even if you are unable to discern the lyrics (I had to look online to figure out the words), what’s more important is the emotional delivery of his vocals. They bite at you word for word, bouncing around between the different sounds generated from the rest of the band. Overall, if you’re a fan of dirty, scream vocals, this album should be the next one you play.
As stated earlier, much of the orchestration behind “New Bermuda” (and every other Deafheaven album) feels like an entirely different album. Ranging between bands as far away as Russian Circles, And So I Watch You From Afar, and Pink Floyd, I can’t get enough of the different styles of guitar rhythms and solos, drum beats, and miscellaneous sound manipulation on the album. The album even begins with this dirty, overdriven synthesizer swells and bell tolls before the quick-paced drumming comes in, something I could easily find on any progressive album. There are numerous moments of altering influences throughout the album, and in the individual songs themselves. For being such a heavy album, much of the album plays with softer, cleaner, and simpler arrangements using effect pedals. Being more of a fan of lighter music, I particularly enjoyed these moments of shoegazing, spacey, and atmospheric textures, happening a majority of the time halfway through each song. My personal favorite song “Come Back” contains plenty of these moments of clean guitar, delicate bass lines, swells of synthesizers, and freestyled drum beats. The song also contains an amazing guitar solo halfway through. The album closes with “Gifts For The Earth,” with an interesting use of lighthearted, undistorted guitar rhythms and those deafening scream vocals. With a smoother transition between each song, “New Bermuda” feels like one long song compared to the many interludes spread between the previous “Sunbather,” something I prefer in my music.
There is one standout performer on this album, being drummer Daniel Tracy. Despite his great presence in their previous album, one critique I had of that album was the lack of Tracy’s brilliant work on the drum set. For being more of a guitar-centered album, “Sunbather” contained simpler drum breakdowns and fills than I wanted. I craved more inspirational drumwork on that album, something that Deafheaven have answered in “New Bermuda.” The album continually leaves space for Tracy to improvise, giving him the freedom to paint his own canvas. The song “Luna” featured wild drum beats, and clearly shows what Tracy is capable of behind the set. I applaud his effort on “New Bermuda,” and am interested in seeing in seeing his live performances.
One of the heaviest albums I’ll listen to all year, Deafheaven’s “New Bermuda” is simply an amazing record. There is nothing I could think of that would improve this album, but can suggest they perhaps release an instrumental version of the album for a different experience. For fans of heavier rock and metal, including bands like Alcest, The Dillinger Escape Plan, and even Between the Buried and Me, I urge you all to check out this album. Please support Deafheaven by checking out their Bandcamp page, or by following them on Facebook and Twitter. They are currently touring North America, and will be reaching southern California in the next couple weeks. Perhaps you’ll find me at that show if you’re there.