Review by Brian on September 29, 2015.
Deafheaven is one of those bands that has got a bad rap by the "true" crowd when it comes to black metal. They didn't help their cause with their previous album. Sunbather, in title alone isn't very black metal nor is the pink album cover. However the album did very well critically. It was plastered all over year end lists in 2013. Their follow up comes in the form of 5 slabs of unrelenting post black metal titled New Bermuda. This time around they went for a heavier, darker approach than Sunbather.
The biggest improvement on New Bermuda is George Clarke's vocals. On Sunbather it was all one steady high pitched scream with no variation. There was no character to his vocals. It's what held it back from being a great album. This time he adds mixture of some deeper snarls to go with higher shrieks. The music also made some changes. There are quite a bit of chugging guitar riffs. This works so well with the shoegaze elements. Maybe these guys took it to heart when they were called hipster metal or that they weren't really heavy and were more just a shoegaze/post rock band with screaming vocals.
They don't waste time bring all these new elements to the table. Right off the bat in opening track "Brought to the Water" they quickly go from a tremolo picking black metal riff to a chugging heavy riff. This eventually all melts into a beautiful shoegaze melody that reeks of what Deafheaven is all about. "Luna" continues the assault with heavy chugging riffs and elaborate black metal melodies all wrapped up in a shoegaze blanket.
"Baby Blue" is the best and heaviest song on the album. It starts off with a peaceful little intro before busting out into twisted black metal with blast beats. This should make the "true" fans happy. Again the chugging guitars take center stage really beefing up the sound. This song also is Clarke's best vocal performance on the album. He attacks the song with a variety of tortured screams from high to somewhat deeper until it fades out in a very soft shoegaze melody.
"Come Back" has a little post rock vibe for the first part of the song before the albums best chuggy riff kicks in. Again the vocals give the song depth because he uses variations which he didn't do on the last album.
Closer "Gifts from the Earth" has a dreamy 90's alternative rock feel. It could pass for a Smashing Pumpkins song if weren't for the vocals. This time around Clarke layers the vocals for a fuller sound. There's a spoken part that is hidden underneath the screams. It shifts to a heavy moment before it's climax of a beautiful uplifting melody that finally eases into piano and acoustic guitar that finish off the album.
Deafheaven has come back stronger that ever. If you put aside your preconceived notions of what this band is and just listen to the music you will find a well written, well executed and well produced album. I expect that New Bermuda will find itself on lots of year end lists. I know it will be on mine.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10