DEAFHEAVEN – New Bermuda
“On their latest album, New Bermuda, Deafheaven expounds on the numbing, angst-ridden bliss from their newfound success, with dual emphasis on imagination and sincerity.”
Metal music on the extreme spectrum has often been dismissed as mere ‘noise’ for years. Its marginalization could be attributed to components such as ear-splitting shrieks, rigid drum and chord structures, and inherently satanic lyrical themes. But as of recent, modern bands have challenged, and even broken, such confines.
In fact, the band which I felt successfully defied such odds was Deafheaven. While they may showcase some traditional features of black metal, it is their unique homage to early 90s indie rock, screamo, and shoegaze that earns them much-deserved credibility. Vocalist George Clarke chooses to sing not of unearthly, supernatural forces, but of deeply poignant and personal struggles. On their latest album, New Bermuda, Deafheaven expounds on the numbing, angst-ridden bliss from their newfound success, with dual emphasis on imagination and sincerity. [columns] [column size=”1/3″]
Album Title: New Bermuda
Release Date: 02 October, 2015
Playing Time: 00:46:45
The opener “Brought to the Water” is the perfect accompaniment to the album’s cover art. Its intro emits the feeling of Clarke’s life passing before his eyes, as he lay motionless and devoid of a physical body. Distant chiming bells sneak in and become increasing cacophonous, suggesting that death looms on the horizon. The metallic parts that follow feel menacing and brutal on the surface, while also hazy and dreamlike. Listening further, I started paying close attention to how the dramatic changes in instrumentation were delivered with each verse. Once the alternative-influenced solo played at the end of the second verse, I was won over. The mood of the song completely changed, creating a cleaner, breathable atmosphere and making the lyrical perspective seem not only neutral, but almost uplifting. At the climax, where the line “My world closes its eyes to sex and laughter” is repeated, there is a justifiable comfort that persists through the remainder of the song. In “Luna,” Clarke’s state of euphoria begins to plateau, eventually mutating into seclusion. He feels dismayed by the plethora of newfound recognition, choosing to stay bed-bound and watch his life be wasted away. This time the screaming parts are coated in a major progression, implying a struggle to stay positive while deterred. Upon deeper examination, his blatantly self-destructive behavior is done out of a futile longing to return home. I appreciated that the third track, “Baby Blue,” had an instantly clean and melodic buildup, rather than launching back into heaviness. When that heaviness is eventually reached, the slower tempo allows for greater focus on the vocal/guitar interplay. Clarke continues from the perspective of his well-being deteriorating, particularly in the lines “I begged not to carry the corpse/To not be a queer fish in unforgiving hearts.” As he reminisces about living a humble life a second time, I could really feel the concept of the album come into play.
Out of all tracks, “Come Back” is the best paced and most developed. If the band had planned on writing a song with as basic a theme as rejection, then they succeeded beyond expectations. The cleaner atmosphere takes its time and consists of cave-like single strums, signifying the numbing lull from a fresh heartbreak. Subsequently, in this particular transition to heaviness, the snare rolls have an added bounce and melody to convey a fighting spirit. The grossly blunt and defeatist content of the lyrics, by contrast, is what makes the execution work song work so effectively. It is not just an implied betrayal by any lover, but by the common people who are genuinely thought to be trusted. On the final track, “Gifts from the Earth,” the mood shifts to an interesting sense of contentment. After the relentless struggle to live in a world of turmoil, Clarke sees death as a plausible means of escape. But rather than cheat death, he embraces and accepts it. In some way, a connection between this newfound positive state and that of the first track can be drawn. Not only is the theme of this song significant, but the band also features a more conventional instrumentation structure. What makes this song stand out is the black metal influence being nearly absent, with the exception of the screaming vocals. Call it a simple change in vibe for the album’s closer or even a shot at radio play—either way, I’m sold.
Overall, New Bermuda not only affected me in terms of including a greater scope of influences, but in its ability to be succinct. The songs may be lengthy, but each of their phases is so eventful and well executed that length becomes irrelevant. I was also extremely impressed over Clarke’s lyrical delivery, as he makes each line pop with such detail and grace through every song. With patience and a tenacity to expand beyond the norm, Deafheaven definitely exudes potential in making their sound most accessible for the world.
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