Review: Deafheaven – ‘New Bermuda’

deafheavenWhen Deafheaven’s “Sunbather” was released in 2013, it sparked a lot of noise. An album just as pretty as it is ghostly, it drew comparisons to both black metal bands and shoegazers. Critics adored it and non-metal fans found a point-of-entry into the genre. Some metalheads questioned whether a band led by a prettyboy screamer who conducted a crowd like an entranced demon between piano interludes could really be considered “metal.”

But Deafheaven is here to stay, and for a band who has regularly been met with “is this really metal?” rhetoric, their latest album, “New Bermuda,” is pretty heavy. Though it has not been met with the same fanfare – and fangirling – as “Sunbather,” it is yet another brilliant Deafheaven album that descends deeper into their rumbling metal roots.

Deafheaven doesn’t take long to make this point, with quick, heavy climaxes rampant throughout the album. Opener “Brought to the Water” roars into a surge of frantic drumming and tense chords which builds until dropping down to allow singer George Clark to growl, and “Luna” chugs from staccato power chords into a Clark banshee screech. It’s a thick, gut-punching moment punctuated by a blast beat hailstorm.

That isn’t to say that “New Bermuda” is without its hushed melancholy. Like a siren song before a heavy storm, “Baby Blue” opens with a warped, trance-like melody. On “Sunbather,” this might have been the norm, and the leading tones of the bridge even resemble “Irresistible.” But here, it can hardly contain itself, breaking into bigger things – namely stadium-sized guitar solos – within a few minutes.

“New Bermuda” will not ever stand up to the emotions and serendipity of “Sunbather,” which so aptly poeticized death and bliss. The difference between the two albums might seem like day and night  – or pink and black, as their album covers might suggest. It’s a colder moment for Deafheaven, one that’s more grandiose and unabashedly powerful than its soaring predecessor. But as one of the best, if not just most intriguing, active bands today, Deafheaven has more than earned the space to showcase their powerhouse strength.