Longtime readers will recall that Kronos does not like Deafheaven. I suspect nobody does, since I see copies of Sunbather in every record shop I enter, meaning that despite the hype, that vinyl is not getting to consumers. And while I’ll continuously bash the band for being, as it has been said, “The Cure with blastbeats,” on some level I have respect for them trying something different, since Satan himself got fed up with Emperor-worship a decade ago. A desire to innovate, however, doesn’t make up for levels of pretentiousness paralleled only by chain-vaping humanities majors, and I maintain that my grudge with Deafheaven is well founded. For a group that has the ability to write decent metal to completely forego that and instead release field recordings of awkward drug deals as music rubs me the wrong way. But since the only AMG writers who care for the band have been jettisoned in favor of a fare more trve and kvlt operation (and because I didn’t want the new Trivium album), here we are; just you, me, and New Bermuda.
As the presence of cover art suggests, Deafheaven have decided to embrace their metal side just a little bit more this time around. Whereas Sunbather‘s opening immediately put the band’s worst Sperry-covered foot forward, listen to the first few minutes of “Brought to the Water” and you’d swear Deafheaven were a metal band. Guitarist Kerry McCoy appears to have added music heavier than Thriller to his library since Sunbather and it shows all over the album. Gone are the awkward “ironic” Christian overtones, save for the album’s end, which sounds suspiciously like gospel rock; and gone are the annoying samples, except for the ending of “Baby Blue” which keys us into the intimacies of traffic rerouting. Are you seeing a pattern here?
Deafheaven‘s irritating attributes have been reined in for New Bermuda, yet the band continues to make baffling songwriting decisions that explore new territory left open largely because everyone else knows it’s a bad idea. “Brought to the Water” starts out strong, with some real anger and a galloping death metal riff, but this gets clipped off after a few minutes by an awkward bluesy transition into what seems like Mumford & Sons on disassociatives. It’s the same story for most songs on New Bermuda; start metal, run out of riffs, then don your skinny jeans and blow some cherry-flavored smoke rings while the rest of the song attempts to work itself out.
That’s not to say that New Bermuda lacks redeeming qualities. While the band’s shoegaze influence is still going strong, it sounds less like sappy For my Parents-era Mono and just a bit more like new, edgy Rays of Darkness Mono – especially “Come Back” which takes its atmosphere from Mono‘s “The Hand That Holds the Truth.” “Baby Blue” inverts the album’s formula by placing the heaviest part of the song at the end, which makes metal a payoff rather than an introduction. Yet for all of my moaning about the band’s inept placement of brutality, I must admit that the best song on New Bermuda is closer “Gifts for the Earth.” Its sultry pop-rock riffs are surprisingly enjoyable when contrasted against prog-metal and later taken over by a piano-led melody straight out of Haken‘s “Crystallized.”
New Bermuda isn’t a bad album, and it has made me realize that Deafheaven aren’t really a bad band, but a run-of-the-mill band that brings in bad influences because they think it’s innovative. And that’s my main complaint with Deafheaven; they’re capable of and willing to do interesting things, but somehow labor under the false pretense that pop rock is an interesting thing, producing toothless and insipid material beloved for its crossover appeal rather than its substance. New Bermuda can only be truly loved by those who have felt the sweet caress of a Pabst can on their meticulously waxed mustache, but it’s not a total loss for the rest of us. Bosse de Nage is still shitty though.