Review Summary: It isn't Sunbather part two, but maybe that isn't such a bad thing.
Following the wide success of their previous release, it was hard to imagine that Deafheaven could live up to the hype. After a solid debut, paired with a masterful sophomore effort, many were skeptical that the band could even come close to regaining that level of success. On New Bermuda
, Deafheaven prove they aren't just a thing of the past, and construct an album that even rivals their critically acclaimed precursor. The shoegaze and post-metal influences are still in effect, but the band adds in more black metal to New Bermuda
’s atmosphere, building on what made Sunbather
so popular and taking the right step forward in their musical journey.
On this release, one thing that is instantly noticeable is how much more prominent George Clarke’s vocals are in the mixing. It's almost easier to understand what he screams on these songs when compared to tracks on their previous releases. His voice is intense, full of passion and charisma that isn't easily matched by anyone else today. As Clarke shrieks his lungs out, the guitars churn out catchy black metal riffs behind him. They're aggressive, yet uplifting at the same time. The drumming is impressive, as well, propelling the songs forward measure by measure. The drums are adaptable, capable of controlling the mood of each song, and shifting from abrasive blast beats to jazzy passages filled with emotion at a moment’s notice.
Even on the heavier moments the emotion is endearing. Clarke’s voice sounds so hurt, and the lyrics are packed with such sorrow and longing that it's practically human nature to cry out for his pain. This is apparent on lines such as “I imagine the gracious, benevolent ritual of death”
and “I’ve boarded myself inside, I've refused to exit”
. With each time his voice is utilized, he paints vivid, heart-breaking images of the struggles he constantly faces in his life today. On Luna
, he portrays his feelings of depression and his inability to cope with the rise in fame he's receiving now. The melodies on this song carry the lyrics forward and match the emotion in Clarke’s voice with their own sentiment. He takes it a step further on Gifts for the Earth
, hinting at what death would be like and debating on taking his own life. The band craft a melancholic mood here, and play through the song with a passion no other band can match.
These songs sound tighter and extremely full-fledged, likely due to the fact that Deafheaven now have a full band to work with on an album. The songs in turn thrive at the chance of a complete band. Rather than somewhat relying on brief instrumental tracks to move the album along like on Sunbather
, they create lavish landscapes in the interludes of songs. Opener Brought to the Water
is pummeling for several minutes, but is soon able to pull things back, allowing the listener to catch their breath before being beaten over the head again. Other times they begin a song on a slower and more touching note. On Baby Blue
, the intro persists for a while, lulling the listener into a dreamlike state before Clarke and the group pulverize their brain with belligerent melodies. The band even puts in a rare guitar solo, adding on to the dynamics and diversity they've succeeded with on each album thus far. Each song on New Bermuda
seems to reach its' peak on several occasions, then manages to top that moment, constantly pushing the boundaries of black metal and shoegaze.
On Deafheaven's third release they use what they crafted on Sunbather
and enhance it, taking the next logical step for their career. The aggressive parts are heavier, the softer moments are more touching. The slower moments on the album could even appeal to people that aren't fans of metal. This album shows what Deafheaven is all about, and proves they’re one of the more unique groups working today. It's charming and inspirational, and adds on to the notion that the band can do wrong at this point.
Brought to the Water