Review Summary: Treading Familiar Territories
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said that ‘music is a universal language of mankind.’ In June 2013, Sunbather was released by a band named Deafheaven. The level of emotional intensity that this record reflected could only be conjured by few but felt by all. While some fans thought that the contrast of beautiful melodies within a definite black metal outlook was too far over the experimental line, Deafheaven gained overwhelmingly positive acclaim and was praised for the unique fusion of shoegaze and metal. The real test now is whether Deafheaven’s new album ‘New Bermuda’ can possibly hope to match its predecessor.
The evolving soundscapes of post rock that triumphed 2 years ago in ‘Sunbather’ have lost none of their potency in ‘New Bermuda’. While the beginning of ‘Baby Blue’ comprises of full throttle vehemence and breathless grunts, the second half takes your hand and leads you down an oceanic sway of docile soundscapes. The dimensional guitar harmonics create a tranquil texture atop the slow bass that create a deep yet lucid effect. ‘Gifts For The Earth’ is probably the most riff driven song on the album however it does resurrect the post rock abstractness that embodied ‘Sunbather’. These interludes are melancholic and bittersweet however they don’t quite pack the emotional punch that Deafheaven can, usually, easily conjure.
Deafheaven have quoted Slayer as a main influence when creating ‘New Bermuda’ and the fast paced metal factor is definitely more concentrated. ‘Brought To The Water’ is consistently heavy due to tremolo guitar picking, dominant drumming and rough vocals. However the riffs from this song do seem to be a touch overused- after each dynamic change the song always returns to the same chugging riff. Every song on the album comprises of sonorous walls of sound but the trick to capturing the passion behind the curtain of noise is where Deafheaven can hold their head up high. The feature that makes this outburst is the differentiation of dynamics that Deafheaven use. On ‘New Bermuda’ the theme to creating these gut wrenching moments is heavy music to light music and back. On ‘Come Back’ it’s the opposite. A patient build in tension from Kerry McCoy’s guitars are obliterated with a touching eruption of malice and his commanding vocals gain an added sense of authority when they are placed above the furious blast beats from Daniel Tracy.
Deafheaven’s music is so textured and genre-bending that there are often moments where beauty and belligerence become a natural balance. ‘Luna’ is a prime example of this technique. As the frequent change in dark dynamics spin off in every direction, and George Clarke screams breathlessly down the microphone, the brooding tone remains consistent. However, shimmering cracks of light emerge from this darkness that makes ‘Luna’ all the more special. The song slows down to allow the guitar to glide alongside the spacious bass lines until they reach the inevitable, enrapturing moment. There’s reallya sense of completion and wholeheartedness in the ending to ‘Luna’ that symbolises just how unique Deafheaven are and what exquisite music that can create.