By Jason Herring, October 13 2015 —
San Francisco black metal pioneers Deafheaven broke through in 2013 with their sophomore album, Sunbather, a fusion of heavy drone, brutal walls of sound and tortured vocals. They return with New Bermuda, an album that sees the band mix their metal tendencies with ethereal guitar riffs and post-rock-influenced instrumental passages.
Of course, Deafheaven haven’t lost their penchant for blistering metal. All vocals on the record are screamed by singer George Clark. “Brought to the Water” opens the album with distorted guitars and frenzied drumming. As the track progresses, heavy guitar riffs transform seamlessly into wavering tremolo before jolting back into a heavier sound.
This fluidity is constant throughout New Bermuda. Tracks fluctuate between searing metal and Smashing Pumpkins-esque alt-rock without missing a beat. The mix of these styles results in an evocative sound filled with more emotion than most black metal manages.
The tracks on the album are certainly given time to evolve — the record’s five songs stretch over 46 minutes. But Deafheaven uses the extended track lengths perfectly, and no song outstays its welcome.
New Bermuda dabbles in shoegaze music as well. On tracks like “Luna,” the band is shrouded under a heavy wall of sound, granting the music a soft, mysterious quality.
The band even adds piano to the mix. A quiet keyboard solo is attached to the end of the opening track while album highlight “Gifts for the Earth” replaces guitar riffs with an emotional piano line to end the album.
Lyrics are vivid and poignant, but you’ll have to pick up a lyrics sheet to understand them. Clark’s singing is powerful but incomprehensible.
One problem with New Bermuda is the way songs end. Nearly every track on the album ends with a fade-out, which feels like a bit of a cop-out. After tracks spend so long building up to an emotional climax, having the music just fade away is underwhelming.
Deafheaven are a band unafraid to push boundaries, and New Bermuda is their most daring work yet. This album is as good as modern metal gets.