New Bermuda review by Deafheaven

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  • Released: Oct 2, 2015
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8.7 Superb
  • Users' score: 7.3 (36 votes)
Deafheaven: New Bermuda
3

Sound — 9
Deafheaven is a metal band from San Francisco that has a knack for defying the status quo. The band is innovative and popular, a rarity in today's metal scene. Those who try to put them into a genre usually generate a ferocious firestorm on internet forums. Mainstream critics, however, give the band acclaim without any argument whatsoever. Case in point, Deafheaven's second album, "Sunbather," was named the best metal album of 2013 by Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Spin, and Stereogum. Moreover, Metacritic reported that of albums from any genre, "Sunbather" was the best reviewed of 2013 and the seventh best reviewed since 1999. Coming from a relatively unknown metal band, the album also managed to chart well, peaking at #2 on the Billboard (USA) Heatseekers Chart and #130 on the overall chart.

What gets people going about Deafheaven is their unique brand of music, which most assert is closest to black metal and shoegaze. This album though will stretch those limits further and I am personally not comfortable describing this album, the band's third, in terms of genre.

What I will say is that "New Bermuda" is a significant step forward for Deafheaven. Let me preface any elaboration with the following: while nearly every music critic was salivating over "Sunbather," my feelings for it were lukewarm. I say this because it would be hard for Deafheaven to improve on perfect, so please understand that when I say "New Bermuda" is an improvement, I really believe there is a significant difference between it and its predecessor.

Whereas "Sunbather" relied on the directness of the contrast between hard and soft sections, "New Bermuda" uses much more subtle changes to keep a continuous flow. "New Bermuda" also incorporates some catchy riffs into the songs, for example at the start of "Luna." These riffs make the guitar work far more varied than it was on "Sunbather," where the guitars mostly played long, droning chords that created changing walls of sound. This is probably how Deafheaven's music came to be described as shoegaze. Deafheaven certainly does not get rid of this sound on "New Bermuda," but it is not the only sound.

Another lovely addition by the band is guitar solos. In particular, "Baby Blue" has one that is melodic and carefully constructed. That guitar solo is probably the closest thing to traditional rock that Deafheaven has ever written. It sounds cliché at first, but as it continues, the beauty of its simplicity comes to light. That really applies to the whole album actually; Deafheaven knows how to construct beauty from a few musical phrases of darkened ash.

Despite their advancements, Deafheaven does not forget the qualities that brought acclaim to "Sunbather." The drums, whether hard or soft, still dictate the mood in the sections when the guitars play droning chords. When the guitars are harsh, the drums' blastbeats provide an unnerving and dissonant contrast to the relatively consonant guitars. When the guitars are soft, the drums pronounce peace and/or a transition to a section with clean guitars. As such, the clean sections on "New Bermuda" are just as beautiful as the ones on "Sunbather." Specifically, the clean section at the end of "Gifts for the Earth" brings the album to an awe inspiring, I-can't-believe-what-I-just-listened-to finish.

Lyrics — 8
The clearest continuity from "Sunbather" to "New Bermuda" is the vocal performance of George Clarke. His peculiar, raspy scream never fails to add yet another dimension to Deafheaven's music. Something worth noting is that Clarke's vocal delivery makes the lyrics unintelligible (at least to my ears). In addition, he never changes this tone during the album. However, with both of these characteristics the potential positives weigh equally against the potential negatives, so no criticism is called for.

Overall Impression — 9
In conclusion, Deafheaven has evolved in a completely positive direction, retaining the best features of "Sunbather" and adding new ones. Again, coming from someone who did not view Deafheaven highly before, I think this album takes the band to a whole new level. Deafheaven's innovative music and killer live show make their rise in the metal world no surprise. I am anxious to see how far the band can get with this album. But even more so, I am anxious to see what new musical heights the band can reach on their next one.

33 comments sorted by best / new / date

    D4CE
    Fuck, this album is so good. I'm not that much into black metal, but I'm familiar with it because one of my brother is really into it, so I definitely learned how to appreciate it. Absolutely blown away by this one.
    MrFixIt
    This is a fucking amazing record. Gifts For The Earth must be amongst the best songs I've ever heard.
    sewoo55
    If you guys like blackgaze, check out Alcest as well
    Shavyi
    Incredible record. Blew me away the first time I listened to it. Didn't know the band at all, so I checked them and realized that they are not the typical black metal cliché. Now I even more in love with them. Really hope they come play near by. Best of 2015 material here !
    ETID666
    These guys are like a metal version of explosions in the sky, I can't wait to see them live
    qrEE
    "Deafheaven's innovative music and killer live show make their rise in the metal world no surprise." Ironic because I always felt that those were the weakest qualities of the band - boring live shows and music that was fairly par for the course. They're not bad, but if you're looking for killer live shows and innovative music, we have that. It's called Dillinger Escape Plan.
    im not mental
    I thought it was a step down from Sunbather and Roads to Judah, to be honest. The second half kind of lagged.
    blooddrunk
    Refer to this video for everything you need to know about this hipster nonsense
    Iommianity
    Why take your musical cues from the media when you can take it from some random asshole online?
    blooddrunk
    yeah its not like the media are anything more than paid opinions is it?
    Iommianity
    That has nothing to do with what I'm saying. Whether you take your cues from the media or random people online, it's all the same. A lack of critical thought fueled by someone else's agenda, in this case yours. You seem to believe that not being a shill means you're somehow being more objective or an arbiter for good taste. When you take money out of the equation, what's your excuse for trying to tell people what's what? When you can't even give people the benefit of the doubt that they're thinking for themselves, you're no better than 'the media', you just choose to take a reactionary line against it.
    Baby Joel
    Isn't this video hipster though? people hated 'hipsters' because they aggressively disliked something that a lot of other people liked. So...an album that was the highest reviewed in 2013, and is a top 7 album in the past 15 years, is somehow hipster? shame on people for liking things that other people don't like.
    Iommianity
    I want to say hipsters are a self loathing people, because they are. The only people who genuinely know and deal with other hipsters are people already engaged in that scene/whatever. It just falls down to scoring imaginary cool points by being into something first or enjoying something 'better' than others. There's a reason why it's prevalent in genres like metal, jazz, punk and hip hop, and it's because these people hold their perception of music higher than the actual work.
    Cenotaph159
    Spot on. People need to stop acting like this Cali-hipster bullshit is black metal and get the fuck out.
    teknoman
    The outro on Come Back is heavenly... reminds me of Irresistible from sunbather. 10/10 will be listening to that song nonstop.
    vulcan422
    I'm a little upset that whoever reviewed this album only talked about the vocal performance, and not the actual lyrics. Of course you gotta talk about the vocal performance, but George's lyrics shouldn't be overlooked. George is almost like the Shakespeare of black metal.