Forming in 2010, Deafheaven have had a somewhat turbulent member history. With vocalist George Clarke and lead guitarist Kerry McCoy working as a duo to create their 2010 demo, their 2011 debut Roads to Judah then 2013 second release Sunbather, the latter cemented their line up (drummer Daniel Tracy, guitarist Shiv Mehra, and bassist Stephen Clark) as well as their position in the public eye with Sunbather becoming a critically acclaimed record upon release. New Bermuda arrives as their latest release.
Opener ‘Brought To The Water’ perfectly displays the ensuing intensity throughout Deafheaven’s latest black metal/shoegaze/post-rock effort, opening with a choir of church bells which quickly disappear under a string of threatening chords and a manic blast beat, this dynamic combination regularly found throughout the next 46 minutes. ‘Baby Blue’s franticness is another example of the composition structures that are used yet it’s never these extremes that are relied on; production by Jack Shirley has ensured Deafheaven’s intelligently and methodically created record is exactly that.
Drums come across as a great foundation with cymbals crashing through with blast beats. These take a backseat though for the most part for the metallic guitars which are layered just enough and just right to be direct but also surrounding, with the bass filling the rest of the space in the mix. The odd effect-laced riff comes in delicately, creating another dynamic and then leaves as quietly as it came in – these riffs seeing heavy usage in ‘Luna’ by effortlessly leading one section into another or to make you feel the real hollowness when the track is stripped back to nothing but a delayed guitar to be then completely reintroduced for its chaotic closing.
George Clarke’s vocals are consistently great and fitting, Shirley’s production doing a noticeable job of building it up but keeping it alongside and sometimes even below the rest of the track. Clarke has significantly pulled back and kept his vocal contribution to a minimum for this record, practically leaving the music to speak for itself and proving Deafheaven are working on but more than moving past the hype that surrounded them on their previous 2013 record Sunbather.
New Bermuda is an immense record displaying a real variety of ideas all done with great thought involved and without overdoing it or leaving something to be desired – an achievement of balance and innovation despite the ease of simply creating a Sunbather II.
Bill Waters @WillJMW13