Written By: Jordan Campbell

Deafheaven New Bermuda 01If Deafheaven makes you mad, you’re doing it wrong. The essence of the band’s appeal isn’t found in their physical manifestation, nor the influences they’ve mined and reshaped for themselves. Even the passages of their music that seem to trigger minute-by-minute breakdowns from the commentariat don’t tell the whole story.

The reason why their previous album, Sunbather, was such a breakthrough after the squarely-Cascadian Roads to Judah? It connected with people. Swollen with tremelo-swept adrenalin peaks—yet floor-painted with devastating introspection—Sunbather wasn’t so much a stylistic display as it was a dialogue.

When they took those songs on the road, that dialogue became even clearer. Like loose contemporaries Alcest and Lantlôs, Deafheaven‘s early incarnation had been creating music best enjoyed in solitude. But unlike Alcest and Lantlôs, they can now expertly utilize the stage to forge an electrifying connection with their audience.

And that audience, man: sure, the token disinterested coolkids can be found milling about, distancing themselves from the handful of back-patched heshers pressed against the monitors. But Deafheaven‘s real communicative gift is their ability to inject newcomers with heavy metal’s freeing wildness. Obvious non-heads are infused with the will to mosh, thrash, and ‘bang, even if they don’t really know how and look like total dorks while doing it.

Deafheaven is on a mission to share that energy with their fans, pulling them out of the bedroom and into the collective. They’re taking that mission one step further with New Bermuda. On the surface, New Bermuda seems simple enough: Deafheaven making another Deafheaven record. They’re doing their thing and doing it well (and there’s nothing revelatory or controversial about their approach, either, unless you’re a dinosaur that’s been hung up on dusty black metal orthodoxy since Fleurety and Dodheimsgard took their left turns twenty years ago.) Opener “Brought to the Water” and “Come Back,” both released as singles, are pretty safe, and lent listeners the soft opening that advance streams are built for. But repeated listens reveal songwriting subtleties that only veterans can pull off.

Deafheaven_2015

Sunbather trumped the oft-leaden Roads to Judah, largely, due to then-newcomer Daniel Tracy’s power behind the kit, and on “Brought to the Water,” guitarist Kerry McCoy unveils a version of his band that’s willing to lean on Tracy’s strength and air things out. The deft dodges between dreamy guitar lines and mouthpunch riffs are tighter and quicker; no longer does the band require sustained washes of USBM tropes to maintain sonic weight.

This makes New Bermuda‘s songs more stage-ready than anything the bootgaze crowd has produced to date. The climactic final two minutes of “Luna” are an absolute ritual, towering and bombastic despite using minimalistic guitar work and near-tribal, trancelike beats. And the gentle build to the pre-solo (!) meltdown in “Baby Blue” is expertly laid, setting the stage for Tracy’s deliberate beatings with freakish skill. However, their Live Band Metamorphosis doesn’t truly show its wingspan until “Gifts for the Earth” closes the record. (Given the band’s penchant for fade-outs and digressions into navelgazing, it’s a subtle growth.) The vocals, heretofore workmanlike, are finally throned.

Yes, silencing the main concern surrounding Sunbather, vocalist George Clarke is no longer relegated to the role of static figure fighting against the mix, as the nuance and space afforded by these compositions allow him to screech, rasp, and shred atop riffery that’s both beautiful and ablaze. New Bermuda provides a pulpit in which he can bask in his (begrudgingly bestowed) role as one of the best frontmen in metal today, old guard notwithstanding. It’s refreshing as hell.

Deafheaven2These crafty tweaks prove that New Bermuda isn’t a radical reinvention, nor is it some kind of validation stamp on the state of heavy metal at large; it’s a just pretty damn good album from a band that’s steadily honing their craft in all aspects. And the band, to be sure, isn’t the “exception to the metal rule” that lazy mainstream music writers paint them to be, either (neither were High On Fire and Mastodon when Rolling Stone condescendingly propped them up a few years back, but guess what? Everybody turned out fine.) Deafheaven is just doing a pretty damn good job at bringing their chosen style of metal to their masses.

The question of why the masses SEE that appeal remains somewhat unanswered. Deafheaven‘s impact is largely based an intangible ability to utlize an emotional palette that hinges just as much on negative space and suspense as it does the fuck-obvious metallic beatdown. That’s something that some analysis-and-technicality-obsessed diehards simply can’t quantify. And that’s okay. New Bermuda has all the hallmarks of a great heavy metal record–moments of beauty and triumph countering fits of fury and lust–and it’s been built for maximum connectivity. Deafheaven will bring these songs to the people, and with it, the unbridled ecstasy of losing one’s goddamn mind in the throes of riffing and wonderment. Didn’t your parents teach you to share?

Rating: 4.0/5.0

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  • Matthew

    I agree much more with this review than the other one.

  • Eddy Ferreira

    I’m much more in agreement with this review than the other.

  • Fazy

    I am as indifferent to this review as to the other.

  • I am mostly more in agreement with this review than the other

  • tomasjacobi

    I didn’t realise how much I have been missing reading Jordan Campbell reviews, before reading the one.

  • Grymm

    I am in agreement that Jordan Campbell should be writing reviews again.

    • Kronos

      Hear hear!

  • mburds

    Thanks for not using the word hipster in your review. Totally agree with your review.

  • mindbleach

    Sunbather did nothing for me. Not really a black metal person at all, to be honest. But I listened to this, and I liked it.

    /least interesting comment of the day

  • AndySynn

    Interesting stuff. I’ve always felt that one should always read reviews that run counter to your own viewpoint (well, as long as they’re well-written and backed-up, obviously) as being utterly partisan is utterly pointless. You just end up boxed away in your own little echo-chamber arguing with your shadow.

    Still, I can’t help but be amused by how clearly this review demonstrates that differences in interpretation/perception have a massive influence on viewing/hearing/experiencing the same thing. I.E.

    “The question of why the masses SEE that appeal remains somewhat unanswered. Deafheaven‘s impact is largely based an intangible ability to utlize an emotional palette that hinges just as much on negative space and suspense as it does the fuck-obvious metallic beatdown. That’s something that some analysis-and-technicality-obsessed diehards simply can’t quantify.”

    My interpretation is entirely the opposite of this. This “intangible ability” is so amorphous and ill-defined precise because it’s not there. It’s “emperor’s new clothes” syndrome. Style over substance, giving off an impression of there being something more, some depth, in what seems to me a wholly a superficial way. We’re both clearly hearing the same things, though interpreting them ENTIRELY differently.

    For me though it’s summed up in the word “safe” that pops up not too far into this review. The reason it “connected”, the reason it opened a “dialogue” (and, my god, hasn’t that word been over-/mis-used a lot in the past decade or so?) was precisely BECAUSE it’s so safe, with a knowing veneer of “edginess” (though I’m sure there’s a better word for it than that).

    Still, instead of throwing up the usual straw-man opposition alluded to here (“analysis-and-technicality-obsessed diehards”) can’t we just… in the words of Elizabeth Codworthy Lemon… can’t we just all not get along? Can’t we just dislike something simply because we don’t think it’s very good, without being labelled as a “suppressive” person?

    True hate doesn’t need an agenda people!!!

    • Dr. Scorpion

      True American hate!!!!;!

      • Prostidude

        Yes mr. Dr, Testament is much better than Deafhaven.

    • “Can’t we just dislike something simply because we don’t think it’s very good…?”

      Sure.

      “…without being labelled as a ‘suppressive’ person?”

      Let’s keep Scientology out of this.

    • Scourge

      Your straw-man argument may hold more water if the first review wasn’t so over the top insulting to the band and their fans. At least the one sentence you’re citing was polite, unlike the paragraphs dedicated to putting down the band and those who like them in the first review. I found that first review to be a low point in AMG’s otherwise thoughtful and entertaining would be legacy, and I bet other staffers did as well or we probably wouldn’t be looking at a second review.

      • I don’t get this – there was one mention of drinking Pabst and one mention of pretentious humanities majors, otherwise it was a review full of descriptions of the music and why Kronos didn’t like it.

        Given a band’s image contributes significantly to their general appeal, I’d say it was all fair enough gentle ribbing.

      • shmoo69

        I agree scourge, I was fairly depressed by the ‘not brvtal enough, hipsters’ approach to the first review. I rather expected something a little more objective.

    • Kronos

      I’m all for not getting along and stand by this band being unremarkable!

      • Scourge

        Fine by me, but spare me the straw-man nonsense after the lazy hipster bashing writing of the first review.

        • Kronos

          I’ll take the hipster bashing, but straw man goes to far.

  • Genezer

    This album’s quite easy to digest.

  • Ok, I actually do like Deafheaven pretty well, but what are you smoking if you think they connect with the audience better than Alcest? Having seen both of them together, Alcest was easily among the best performers I’ve seen, whereas Deafheaven was… as I recall someone put it, “prancing around like a penguin on the stage”.

    • basenjibrian

      I thought Alcest was quite engaged in their live show in a small club in SF a couple of years back.

  • Ivan Fernandes

    Just for my curiosity, how many reviews will we have for this album?

    • We’re looking at 6 but may take that down to a more manageable 5.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        The question, of course, is, why didn’t you do this with The Devil’s Cut?

        • It was like a flash bang went off at the AMG offices. We were all too stunned and disoriented to do much of anything.

          • The Lascivious Snape

            …and no one has seen HMG since.

          • I’m sure he’s fine…just move along.

      • FutureBeyondSatan

        Can you review Golgotha a few more times, too!
        If this crap gets 2, Blackie must be entitled to many more!

        • Blackie > Defheaven

          • Art Saves

            > gotta mean that Blackie is bigger than Deafheaven, Not that its a matter of a question since its obvious but I always confuse myself with which one of “” has the bigger one on the left side, or vice versa. :P
            Can somone give me a leason so I don’t forget it? AMG surely seem like an educated man?! :P

      • Ivan Fernandes

        Please ensure this is made… at the moment we have a tie and I’m sure you don’t want to confuse you readers!

  • Humpy!

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    AMG ignore those moaners below! I always appreciate the double reviews. Nice one Jordon!

    I’ve listened to this a couple of times since Kronos’s review. I think it’s definitely a step forward for the band. It sounds tighter and heavier while still retaining the atmospherics and emotional intensity of Sunbather, Baby Blue and Luna are good examples of this my pick as best songs.

    People always talk about how good the lyrics are I honestly can’t make them out, I’d like to see what would happen if he tried singing a bit more. Also the songs are all very long and feel long. I still don’t get the hype or hate they seem to inspire. IMO Sunbather was a solid ‘OK’ with some good moments. This is a solid ‘good’ with some very good moments.

  • JeremyZero

    I’m really happy that this record got a second review. I’ve been listening to it a lot, right up there with the new Amorphis, and I fucking love it. I felt it to be a little weird to be reading a review shitting on Deafheaven for being hipster crap on a website currently sporting a Myrkur background picture (love that record too by the way).

    • The difference is the quality of the music… as with Liturgy, but apparently many disagree with me on this point :

  • Art Saves

    Just the matter of people mentioning Deafheaven when saying bad stuff about black metal or beginning with them as a reference to experience black metal for the first time just make me sick!
    They ain’t black metal enough to be be started with and in that genre doesnt deserve shit, and also dont deserve any cred to be mentioned in black/shoegaze metal either. Can’t think of any other band getting as much none deserved praise as Deafheaven.

  • Feytalist

    While I agree with a large part of this review – I found New Bermuda to be surprisingly good, on an emotional level especially (parts of Sunbather itself was an emotional roller-coaster ride as well) – I have to challenge one statement:

    “one of the best frontmen in metal today”?

    In what lifetime. None of his shrieks or softs are unique or exceptional in any way. What he does, he does well, and I don’t doubt his emotional impact, especially in conjunction with the music. But to be highlighted for his vocal abilities alone? No way.

    • Whiskeyjack

      Sunbather bored me, this seems a bit less boring, but I still dont understand the fuss about these guys.

      “one of the best frontmen in metal today”?

      ^ This statement however is ridiculous!

      • Lasse Momme

        As someone who has seen Deafheaven live more than once I can absolutely confirm that he is pretty nigh unparralelled in terms of stage presence and crowd connection. He is an amazing front man.

    • Matthew

      Being a good frontman isn’t just about your vocal abilities alone is it though? It’s also about your performance on stage, your energy, etc. I think Clarke’s vocals on this album are fantastic on their own, but if you’ve ever seen him and Deafheaven live you’ll understand what I mean when I say that his live performance is absolutely electrifying.

      • Grymm

        I have to agree here. Watching live videos on YouTube shows Clarke as a rather intense performer.

        • Matthew

          I was lucky enough to see them at their recent show at Scala, London. Clarke is a formidable frontman, incredibly energetic and intense. Screaming and pacing back and forth, throwing himself into the music, stagediving while still shrieking away… He puts on one hell of a show.

  • madhare

    I haven’t really bothered with Deafheaven before, but now with this little “controversy” decided to give them a go again.

    Unfortunately, I’ve never been interested in that type of basic Brit. pop. But I’ve never really seen pure black metal as interesting either. …Mashed up together it sounds… umm… just kind of messy.

    To be frank, regardless of whether you are for it or against it, I don’t think this is worth the effort of debating the matter so much.

  • This is a brilliant record through and through. Especially given its context.

  • Artander

    You nailed it. It is about connecting with people at a larger level. Whether we like it or not, there is something magical happening that is hard to dismiss as “selling out” or “watering down”. So many metal bands fail
    in this respect, probably because they’re playing it safe within their comfort zone. It’s easy to hide behind the “elite vs. the masses” thing. Although I count myself among the snobs who will easily frown upon or even dismiss anything remotely (belch!) popular, I realize there is some limitation to the whole attitude (not pointing fingers here). In other words, clinging to “pure metal” and tight definitions of genres (as if such a thing ever existed, gosh!) in an overly protective may very well contribute to the growth and proliferation of “other” types of metal. So, case in point, whatever it is indeed that makes people click and subsequently fall in love with this band, I find there is an interesting shift happening. This is not screamo, emo or anything remotely pre-adolescent. This is well thought out and well-crafted music that is actually resonating with a wider public. And honestly, I do not know why, I am really intrigued. Rewind. SUNBATHER: yawn, what’s the fuss? Next. NEW BERMUDA: am I actually liking this? So as I said, it’s not easy to dismiss. Something is going on. Is this the result of clever marketing? Maybe, but certainly not only. Is this the result of overexposure? Not as far as I’m concerned. Is this an indication that the musical taste of the public at large is improving? Hahaha. Just kidding here but why not? I enjoyed your paragraph about why this particular band is appealing to “the masses”, and particularly this unbeatable sentence about the “intangible ability to utilize an emotional palette that hinges just as much on negative space and suspense as it does the fuck-obvious metallic beatdown”. You actually refrain from offering any quick baked hypothesis, because the truth is, as you nicely put it, that it’s “something that some analysis-and-technicality-obsessed diehards simply can’t quantify. And that’s okay”.

    So anyway, enough rambling, like others I enjoyed your review which did have an original ring to it, i.e. neither contemptuous nor flattering. You could have concentrated more on the actual music though, instead of focusing on “star” qualities, such as connection with the public, “electrifying connection with the audience”, “best frontman in metal today”, not to mention this ultimate gem “Deafheaven is on a mission to share that energy with their fans”. This unfortunately makes a lot of your review sound like bizspeak, not that I am suggesting you are a covert industry agent, trying to promote Deafheaven, the new golden goose, from the inside of one of Metal’s world most respected blogs, because we all know that it would be impossible. All this won’t really make me a fan of Deafheaven, but certainly not a hater. Because I see a positive here. There is a wider public for metal than we think. Metal should stay a niche thing for some, but I, for one, think it deserves a wider audience because it is the fucking best music in the universe!! And if I need to buy Deafheven records to get the industry to understand this, so be it! Maybe Deafheaven offers a “safe” entry into the metal world but why not after all? Surely you must start somewhere. Find a door. Something inviting. Think about it. How many of you actually started with, gulp, Iron Maiden?