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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Local Record Review: Deafheaven's New Bermuda

Posted By on Wed, Oct 7, 2015 at 12:20 PM

click to enlarge deafheaven_kristen_coffer.jpg
Band: Deafheaven
Record: New Bermuda
Label: ANTI-

Deafheaven is not a lot of things to a lot of people. The California-based quintet — tagged black metal, shoegazer, indie rock, post-hardcore, screamo and/or post-rock, depending on outlet — is considered not true black metal, shoegazer, indie rock, post-hardcore, screamo and/or post-rock, depending on outlet. Neither hipster nor dirtbag enough for convenient classification, Deafheaven do not appeal to purists. And New Bermuda, the band’s third full-length and a reference to the band's partial move to/struggles with Los Angeles, is all the better for its stylistic smog.


Out now on decidedly not-metal label ANTI-, the album arcs through 47 minutes split into five songs, but within each of those are numerous shifts. Over the course of each 9+ minute song, one can veer through predatory tension, brutal assault, sublime washes and reaffirming bombast. Plenty of people can claim to listen to both Metallica and Mogwai, but what’s flooring is how effortlessly guitarist Kerry McCoy integrates both whiplash-inducing nods to Bay Area thrash and contemplative tremolo-churned melody.

But where others go quiet LOUD, Deafheaven go intensifying PURGE. Lenticular riffs morph from purifying to searing, and vocalist George Clarke crusts them with curdling, guttural croaks. Drummer Dan Tracy anchors every majestic key change and crucifying drone with dynamic punctuation. New Bermuda is the band’s harshest, most terrifying album to date, and its most synergistic.

Deafheaven traffics in sheer physicality, endorphin rush currency. Guitar buffets with such ferocity you brace for impact and swallow your own screams, so Clarke’s impenetrable lyrics about disillusionment and displacement take on whatever shit the day has spewed and become your cathartic howl.

Founded in, though no longer based in San Francisco, Deafheaven returned to record at Oakland’s 25th Street Recording and East Palo Alto’s Atomic Garden Recording Studio, and the clarity with which producer Jack Shirley captures every modulating, clipped and curling transient is astounding. Anyone connected to the local music scene knows Shirley is one of the Bay Area's best recording engineers, but this record also showcases his ability as a producer. Curtains of warm guitar wrap each screaming lick and frayed nerve in transparent darkness, reinforcing density without smothering any pivots to ascendant grandeur or world-weary shriek.

Sure, I could name you dozens of bands active right now that heavy music lifers might say are more “authentic,” unmuddied, screwed tight or extreme, but New Bermuda shows Deafheaven’s true mettle.

Deafheaven play Oct. 17 at the Fillmore.
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Tony Ware

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