I first heard Deafheaven’s phenomenal sophomore album Sunbather a couple years back, where they created a sound that can only be described as indie black metal (known in the scene as IBM) ((not really)). The immaculately well-dressed five-piece blew me away, but it comes as no surprise that their combination of black metal screeches, ambient guitar soundscapes, ridiculous blastbeats and slicked back undercuts divides more opinion than folding vs scrunching. Personally, I’m a huge fan, and Deafheaven have managed to transcend genres and bring together metal and non-metal fans alike. They have single handedly proven that you do not need to sacrifice goats and burn down churches in order to make good black metal.
New Bermuda is sort of like someone took the vibrant, happy emotive pieces of Sunbather and pushed them through a meat grinder. Stylistically and thematically, New Bermuda is a much darker album than their previous, with vocalist George Clarke saying that they attempted to “trim the fat” this time over. By this, he meant less shoegazey elements such as the atmospheric ambiance and dissonant notes and instead bringing a much harder, faster abruptness to it all, often channelling 90s thrash metal. Still full of emotion, Clarke summons a banshee shriek that laments so much anger and sorrow. You get the impression he’s a pretty sombre kind of dude, and the album is an inherently personal venture that elicits some powerful stuff.
The progression in tone is apparent from opener Brought To The Water, with church bells signifying this album is altogether more kvlt. Even the lyrics from the track echo this change, “a multiverse of fuchsia and violet surrenders to blackness now”, not least considering their change in album art from blindingly obnoxious pink pastels to darker than Satan’s peehole.
Luna is a roller coaster ride, with drummer Daniel Tracy proving he is actually part cyborg with ridiculous speed and energy. The track culminates in trademark Deafheaven dreamy guitar notes before closing with grace. Other highlights include a ridiculous fantastic slide guitar interlude leading into what sounds like a freaking Hammett solo on Baby Blue, and personal favourite album closer Gifts for the Earth, which lets bassist Stephen Clarke shine before the song comes full circle and slowly fades out, allowing the listener to reflect upon an album charged with emotion.
For me, this album is great as it channels both the post-rocky Deafheaven I love and combines it with the traditional metal infleunces. Unique Deafheaven quirks are arguably pretentious (such as including soundbites from a New York subway line because it quote unquote “sounded cool”) but who the hell am I to argue with Clarke? Dude can summon Cthulu with his voicebox.
The album definitely goes to a darker place than Sunbather, and some tracks channel some really bleak emotion. However, I found it relatable and easy to escape to as the Deafheaven of yore, just with more chugs than a frat house beer pong tournament.
8/10 would hipster thrall again