With the bit that kicks in at about a minute-twenty into “Brought to the Water”, the first track on New Bermuda, Deafheaven bares it all for the audience. This, it says, this is isn’t SUNBATHER part 2. This is new. This is in your face, this is fierce, this is fucking metal. After a grim intro, leading into a very typically post-black combination of held chords and rapid fire drums, the guitars launch themselves on a collision course with your face, powered by a crunchy, brittle, staccato riff that is easily one of the most nail-bitingly energetic bits Deafheaven have ever written, something that sounds like it could have been torn straight from the discography of Immortal or Dark Sermon. Quickly, they return to form, trading in the 2nd-wave slap in the face for their usual post-black stylings. The aural gut punch knocks the wind out of the listener, allowing ample room for the five-piece to beat the audience silly while the time is right, but instead, the band chooses to back off, as if giving the message that, should they choose, they could go into a much darker, much more metal territory, but they won’t.
It’s a poignant message to deliver right off the bat on album that is, essentially, an enormous “Fuck You” to anybody who thought Deafheaven “wasn’t real black metal” (whether or not it’s the intended purpose is an entirely different discussion). On New Bermuda, the band, led by the duet of Kerry McCoy’s furious guitar work and George Clarke’s frosty vocals, finds their place squarely inside the realm of black metal, although what subgenre delineation to identify this record as is anyone’s bet, as the nature of this album is incredibly mercurial.
Ironically, although Deafheaven waste no time in opening up new possibilities to their newest release, it’s the fact that they end up wasting too much that is the slow killer of New Bermuda. The boys could learn a lot from their contemporaries in Lantlos: take, for instance, the latter’s landmark release .neon. It’s a blackgaze album that ends up coming in at around 39 minutes to New Bermuda’s 49, a solid shaving of ten minutes off the total experience. Deafheaven’s biggest problem is that they tend to drag their riffs out for much longer than they reasonably should; it’s why the vicious and pointed “From The Kettle Onto The Coil” is as good as it is. Sure, their music is good, and nothing is a truly terrible bit, but everything just goes on for too damn long. It’s easy to find oneself exhausted at the beginning of the fourth track, with another two sprawling ten-minute odysseys stretching out before them. The explosion of fury three minutes into “Baby Blue”, which could easily be one of the most intense moments of the album, does nothing for the listener because the preceding buildup has absolutely no substance to it. It’s things like this that totally kill the second half of the album, dragging the whole experience down into the dirt. New Bermuda is impossible to listen to more than once or twice as a full album because what starts off as a momentous album is driven to a grinding halt by the band’s total inability to just, as my mother would say, “move on dot org”.
Although nothing sticks out as egregiously bad, the lengths to which Deafheaven draw out their ideas on this record end up making New Bermuda feel more like a testament to patience than any other emotion. Even on the first and second go-rounds, it’s far too easy to mentally check out of the album as much as 20 minutes before it ends, not because the last two tracks are even especially bad, but just because, as has been heavily reiterated, Deafheaven just beat every riff and segment into the ground here. Each of the five tracks can stand as a great piece of music on its own, but like some kind of weird, reverse Voltron, when put together they slowly start to leech the life and power out of each other. New Bermuda is a trial of endurance in a genre that should be anything but, pulling the listener down like a stone with every attempted step forward.
Deafheaven – New Bermuda gets…