Deafheaven – New Bermuda ALBUM REVIEW

As with any Deafheaven release, there are only two camps that are viable on the internet: those that think the release is the greatest thing since the caveman said “Hey, you can put it in the butt too!”, or those that think it’s the worst album of the year, and likely will lead to a second holocaust (which is mostly said by people who think the first one didn’t happen). New Bermuda is a really easy album to polarize. It’s got all the soft and fuzzy “hipster” elements of shoegaze, combined with the overly dramatic and cheesy post-rock chord progressions, and then just enough black metal aspects to give it an edge. And it’s really the black metal part that makes this album so hateable, because “trve” metalheads see a band that turns their walk in the middle of central park at 2am, into one taking place in the middle of the day with plenty of families around. Except they added just enough shady drug dealers to try fit in with the night crowd. It’s easy to see why many would call this patronizing and insulting, especially in the wake of the whole “starbucks metal” trend.

There was plenty of hope that New Bermuda would be a new beginning for Deafheaven, as many heard the singles and said that they were taking themselves much more as a black metal band this time rather than some sort of hipster agglomeration. And to a point, this is true. Unlike SUNBATHER, there are points in this album where it is disputable, 100% atmo black. No question. No gaze, no post-rock, just atmo-black. However those moments are relatively brief and seem very much tacked on. It feels like a very trying attempt to get cred with the metal in-crowd, rather than being seen as a controversial outsider. Which is confusing, because the rest of the album has almost no black metal in it at all. It feels like at times it just switches back and forth instead of being a coherent fusion.

The worst part is it’s not even necessary, as New Bermuda is so much better when there isn’t any black metal involved. Sure it has the typical amount of post-rock and blackgaze cheese, but there are enough interesting tidbits intermixed with that to make those aspects definitely worth listening to. Be it some jazzy chords, a very hawaiian guitar tone, some interesting samples, or various other things New Bermuda has to offer, there’s always a tease to the fact that Deafheaven has the potential to create something quite interesting and great. Unfortunately, this album is mostly tease without any fulfillment. There are so many great chords that go nowhere it’s heartbreaking. While the sample of rain coming down at a nice atmospheric touch, the sample of what seems to be some sort of announcement about future use of the George Washington Bridge is either way over my head, or makes absolutely no sense as to why it’s there in context with the music.

Despite having that one weird sample, Come Back is absolutely the best track on the album, mostly because it has the least amount of black metal in it. It feels much more prog rock and post-rock than anything else on the album, and even includes some heavy metal riffing, which came to a surprise to me. Of course at points it delves into watered-down blackgaze nonsene, but the rest of it I would even call somewhat groovy.

Deafheaven needs to stop trying to be a black metal band, because it’s clearly something they aren’t capable of executing well. Especially since there is so much potential to be a great, more progressive post-rock band. However despite all my criticisms, I actually don’t think this is a bad record at all. I’d even go as far as to say it’s pretty good actually. However as a whole, it’s a bunch of missed potential that’s the result of a band trying to appease a crowd it never will, doing something it’s not good at.