Deafheaven, on the off-chance you are not already aware, are an American metal band. Their 2013 breakout album ‘Sunbather’ won over fans and critics alike with it’s powerful blend of shoegaze, black metal, and post-rock. Deafheaven have always had their fair share of detractors, often focusing on their modern image and general lack of kvltness, but carried on regardless. On New Bermuda they return with a much heavier, darker album than the polarising ‘Sunbather’, truer to their black metal roots yet still daring to experiment in brave ways.
In many ways it seems to me that New Bermuda is almost the second half on a double-album, of which Sunbather was the first half.While Sunbather was often a heartbreakingly beautiful, shoegazey journey, New Bermuda takes quite a different direction: It’s day and night. New Bermuda largely drops the shoegaze in favour of a more broad range of influences, from alternative rock to thrash metal. I love the brutality of Brought to the Water and Luna, but also the wonderful hazy second half of ‘Come Back’ and it’s slow, melancholic pace. The former song opens with one of the heaviest sections of music Deafheaven have ever written, and having personally experience being in a moshpit during that opening I can tell you it is crazy. The latter starts with an equally heavy riff but slowly transitions into a beautiful shoegazey section, one of the few reminders of Sunbather.
I found the climax of the song ‘Baby Blue’, after the Metallica-inspired wah-wah guitar solo, to be profoundly moving, and I would argue is one of the best pieces of music they’ve ever written. I love the jangly alt-rock riff (Oasis-inspired?) on ‘Gifts to the Earth’ paired with George’s raw and brutal vocals and the way that song builds over almost 9 minutes. George’s vocals actually feature much more prominently on New Bermuda than on Sunbather, with the production and stripped back sound placing him front and centre. Not only that but his performance is simply better than ever before, with some truly frightening and passionate moments throughout this album, cementing him as one of the most compelling frontmen in metal.
And there were moments dotted throughout that reminded me of Roads to Judah as well, which I particularly appreciated as someone who believes their debut album to be criminally underrated. There is a short ambient piece at the end of ‘Baby Blue’ that some have criticised as feeling out of place, but to me I thought it was perfect: New Bermuda is, in many ways, an urban black metal album. Where much black metal tries to channel a much more naturalistic feeling, when I listen to this album in the dark with headphones on, I feel like I’m lost, a stranger in some huge and terrifying city. It has a very unique atmosphere to it.
This is a confident and masterful release from one of the most vital and exciting bands in metal today. It would have been very easy for Deafheaven to simply release Sunbather II but instead they continue to take risks and try new things. I don’t know where they will go from here, all I know is that I’m excited to see what they do next.