This Deafheaven article was written by Alex Mannings, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited By Josh Hummerston
There’s something about San Francisco and how it always seems to produce some of the most energetic bands to hit the music industry. From The Grateful Dead to Metallica, to Faith No More and Huey Lewis, the Bay Area is responsible for an onslaught of musical talent, billowing from every exit hole in the scene. Within the maelstrom of music in the Californian concrete jungle, black metal shoegazers Deafheaven have sculpted themselves a niche within a niche. They plucked elements from the frigid brutality of the Norwegian wave of black metal and the melancholy serenades of the alt-rock scene, before smashing them together and dumping them into a centrifuge.
2013’s ‘Sunbather’ was the result of a sound that was still undergoing that centrifugal process. It was chaotic and bitter but laden with beauty. All the same, the album was ground-breaking. Deafheaven have surged forward with this experiment and this time come to us with ‘New Bermuda’, perhaps an effort equal to, if not better than, ‘Sunbather’ due to its matured sound. It’s like a cauldron of a combination of 1349 and The Smashing Pumpkins; filled to the brim with pure wrath with air pockets of tranquillity. In essence, the kind of lullaby you’d have a hard time sending babies to sleep with.
The album starts at a breakneck speed before ever so slowly sinking into the depths of its shoegaze elements, owing much to the diverse musicianship of guitarists Kerry McCoy and Shiv Mehra. Right out of the gate, the opener ‘Brought to the Water’ is a perfect example of just how well Deafheaven pull off black metal, featuring vocalist George Clarke’s nightmarish shrieks through the wall of noise and drummer Daniel Tracy’s relentless blast beat thunder. ‘Luna’ follows through with yet more heavy-as-lead before trailing off to mark the beginnings of psychedelia. The tonal shifts are welded together and yet not as clear-cut as on ‘Sunbather’. It serves to construct the masterful pacing, exercising sonic U-turns before breathlessness sets in with the listener. The boundaries are constantly stretched, with ‘Baby Blue’ including a Kirk Hammett-esque wah-pedal guitar solo and ‘Come Back’ unleashing a sound akin to Gorgoroth plus My Bloody Valentine. The ending track ‘Gifts for the Earth’ acts as the final throes of the flickering flame in this relatively short but extremely bright candle, exuding musical anxiety with impressive force.
What’s even more impressive is the potential this album has to appeal to so many. It’s the polar opposite of what black metal stands for, but what shoegaze strives to achieve. To successfully piece the two together and form an unlikely alliance of people who wear Mayhem t-shirts and people who wear Cure t-shirts is remarkable and serves to prop up Deafheaven as a band that had the ability to create wide reach out of something so specific. ‘Sunbather’ was their ambassador; ‘New Bermuda’ is their vanguard of this brutally brilliant noise.