Thursday, 8 October 2015

Deafheaven - New Bermuda Review

From the moment it starts “New Bermuda” is as dramatic and dark an album as Deaf Heaven have ever created.  While it may only be five songs long, the length of these songs makes the album an impenetrable monolith, even in its brighter moments.

 The opening song “Brought to the Water” begins with the mesmeric ringing of wedding bells and a distorted electronic bass simmering away underneath it, before it’s all engulfed by the wall of sound the guitars produce.  George Clarke’s animalistic vocals fight for supremacy as the guitars rattle and shudder with syncopated energy.  The song seamlessly shifts tone when the shoegaze elements manage to briefly establish themselves in absolutely beautiful passages of melodic tranquillity.  Deaf Heaven have been praised for their ability to fuse these two genres together, and it’s never been more evident that this praise has been absolutely warranted.  By the time the song fades into the piano outro the album is already as gripping as “Sunbathers”.

The majestic soaring guitars on “Luna” make it one of the most breath-taking songs on the album, and while it may be the longest song, it comes and goes too quickly for the listener to possibly uncover all its complexities in one listen.  One of the main strengths of this song is the intricacy of the drums, which allow the song to somehow seem intensely syncopated and utterly synchronised all at once, a technique that I don’t think has been utilised as effectively before.  In a brief, lucid moment in which only the guitar plays, I’m almost reminded of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, before the thundering cacophony returns.  In it’s final dying moments, “Luna” is as personal, impassioned and grandiose as any other song on the album. 

“Baby Blue” seems a rather placid title for a band like Deaf Heaven, and admittedly seems to be a far more straightforward song from the first few minutes.  It embraces more fully the reverb and simplicity of shoegaze, and as a result acts as something as a respite from the crushing depth of the rest of the album.  The layered guitars become gradually more hypnotic and soothing, as the song progresses, even once the intense, crushing guitars and vocals return.  The song is somewhat marred in terms of subtlety by the fairly vulgar tapping of the lead guitar.  But that is brief and forgettable once the rumbling guitars integrate in a threatening assault that eventually fades out as the song transitions into a sample of a woman talking, complimented in the instrumental by ambient synths. 

The understated guitars of “Baby Blue” seem to return in “Come Back”.  That is until the band begin an onslaught on the listener’s senses with a sudden, fast paced barrage of guitar volleys, immediately instilling a sense of immersive dread.  There is small respite later in the song as it returns to the peaceful guitar tones of the beginning for the second half of the song, even incorporating some acoustic guitar.  The fast paced clean guitars of the closing song “Gifts for the Earth” seems alien to the howling screech of the vocals, but this is quickly resolved when the guitars return to the distorted intensity of previous tracks.  By the time the acoustic guitars and piano lead the final serenade, I feel as affected as I have following very few albums this year. 

I can’t remember the last time a metal album left me feeling this drained, beaten and impressed.  For a five song album to be such a bone-crushing, awe-inspiring behemoth is absolutely incredible, and I can’t recommend this album highly enough.  Buy it on vinyl. 

Charlie McCartney  

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