California-based metal group Deafheaven's 2013 breakthrough album Sunbather was triumphant and uplifting, even as it dealt with harsh personal issues such as insecurity and alienation. That album's heavily anticipated follow-up, New Bermuda, offers a much bleaker perspective, beginning with the abandonment of joy, expressing feelings of not being able to escape, and ending by envisioning death. Musically, the group sharpens its attack, adding more traditionally metal-sounding elements (most notably the chugging riffs and wah-wah soloing during the middle of "Baby Blue") to its shoegaze-influenced black metal sound. Vocalist George Clarke sounds more ferocious and demonic than on previous outings, snarling with a previously unmatched intensity. The album is less overtly experimental than its predecessor, lacking its ambient interludes and spoken word passages (other than a minute-long Godspeed You! Black Emperor-like drone collage), but the group remains adept at incorporating influences from non-metal genres, gracefully switching between moods and dynamic levels throughout the lengthy, suite-like compositions. While New Bermuda's five tracks center around pulverizing blastbeats and thundering guitar riffs, the less heavy sections are more swirling and atmospheric than before, with several moments that recall '90s 4AD dream pop at its best (Red House Painters specifically come to mind, and that is never a bad thing), and even some non-country-sounding slide guitar during "Come Back." The album also reveals more of a pop sensibility than before, especially during the closing song "Gifts for the Earth," which backs up its screaming vocals and crushing drums with chiming alt-rock guitars and tambourine (!), ending with calm acoustic guitars and pianos, and ultimately facing death with a much more positive, welcoming notion than the album's beginning might have indicated. As on Sunbather, the group's scope is astonishing, the production by longtime associate Jack Shirley is immaculate, and the entire album is simply a powerful, enrapturing experience. New Bermuda finds Deafheaven continuing to effortlessly traverse genre borders and create transcendent music.
(Digital Download - Anti- #045778742561)
Review by Paul Simpson