Review Summary: Where has my passion gone?
From interviews about Sunbather, George Clarke and Kerry McCoy state that it was basically up to them to write that album. This is affected musically with the minimum use of leads and in a way simplified dynamics and instrumentations. However, since Sunbather, Deafheaven has essentially evolved from being a duo of Clarke and McCoy to a full band. This change has been reflected in the new music post-Sunbather. The first time that Deafheaven recorded as a full band with input in the songwriting process outside of Clarke and McCoy is on the Adult Swim single “From the Kettle Onto the Coil”. The Adult Swim Single features: concise songwriting, stronger leads, and interestingly heavier yet melodic riffs. Where Sunbather felt like a dreamy haze, From the Kettle Onto the Coil felt like a substantial vision that is in a way more memorable.
New Bermuda has definitely stayed the course where From the Kettle Onto the Coil has been drifting towards. This is of course due to the full band line-up, which Deafheaven is now consisted of. Brought To The Water is a great summarization of the direction where Deafheaven has been going. It features crushing riffs along with George Clarke’s intense vocals. Furthermore, this is the first time we get to hear Deafheaven incorporate an actual guitar solo into the song. Throughout New Bermuda, guitar solos add not only a more aggressive edge to the music but also another melodic layer that keeps the music interesting and diverse. Another interesting example of this could be seen in the infamous “wah” guitar solo on Baby Blue. The wah effect could be either written off as over-indulgent of McCoy or as a defining moment that is meant to contrast the rest of the song. Knowing McCoy he most likely wanted to use the wah effect as a contrasting moment especially since the end moment of Baby Blue consists of a crushing riff that blows into a surprisingly cathartic lead. The crushing riff segment on Baby Blue is also worth mentioning due to the oddly technical flourish that’s thrown in. It’s little moments such as these that makes New Bermuda memorable and interesting.
Another departure from Sunbather to New Bermuda that should be pointed out is how musical interludes are handled. On Sunbather the musical interludes are separated from the main tracks onto different interlude tracks that feel like filler and even unconnected to Sunbather as a whole. However, on New Bermuda, Deafheaven cuts down the interlude tracks and in its place are better outros and intros that blend seamlessly making New Bermuda more concise and definitely more focused as a collective piece of music. The most interesting example of this is the incredible outro of Baby Blue that leads into Come Back. The outro of Baby Blue consists of these eerie Akira Yamaoka Silent Hill type synths. Over these synths is a radio broadcast that definitely sets the specific mood that Deafheaven was most likely looking for.
Possibly the standout track on New Bermuda is “Gifts For The Earth”. Gifts For The Earth is different in that it is unusually melodic and soft by Deafheaven standard. The beginning of the track features upbeat rhythms akin to mewithoutyou’s January 1979. One could have almost expected Aaron Weiss to come out and sing for this track. Gifts For The Earth would then explode into a very Deafheaven section before ending in Deafheaven’s softest outro. The outro features acoustic guitars and a piano melody that is almost unheard of in Deafheaven’s catalog.
Overall, Deafheaven has been able to evolve into a new direction of music with a full cast of band members with each contributing to the songwriting process. This allowed for the most concise, immediate, and melodic Deafheaven album to date. The very first lyrics we hear on New Bermuda is “Where has my passion gone?” There is no easy answer for this question. But, it is shown throughout New Bermuda that Deafheaven has dedicated all of its passion into constructing an album that is decidedly different from Sunbather and is also decidedly Deafheaven. In a recent interview George Clarke stated, “The greatest goal would be that once that record comes out (New Bermuda), people understand that this is Deafheaven.”