Ships enter and exit The Bermuda Triangle every day without incident. Though there are those that have supposedly disappeared without a trace within its confines, most of the time, you have nothing to fear unless you truly buy into the myths and legends surrounding the triangle. There have to be crew members on those ships that feel an acute sense of dread when entering that can only be alleviated by leaving. The very thought of entering the area must send shivers down their spines. I’m sure many people feel a similar sense of dread as they enter into the newest album by blackgaze phenomenon Deafheaven, aptly titled New Bermuda.
With their last record Sunbather, Deafheaven attained a level of fame that is non-existent in their genre. Its aesthetic was so alluring that it pushed people who previously had no association with metal to give the album a spin and see what all the fuss was about. Many of those spins led to the album becoming critically acclaimed. Not all is sunshine and rainbows for the band, however, as it seems they have as many die-hard fans as they have ardent detractors. Even two years after Sunbather‘s release, many people are quick to declare the band a group of posers and dismiss their art as the latest fad in music, all while condemning them for not being a “trve” black-metal band. Deafheaven took the criticism in stride and have used their newly gained platform to craft their own Bermuda Triangle for listeners to disappear into — not one based off of myths and legends, but one that’s crafted from their deep and varied pool of influence, which is equally as mystifying.
The opening track “Brought to the Water” is the band immediately spitting in the face of those who have questioned their metal credibility. An undulating electronic hum is met by church bells ringing out, heralding a barrage of blast beats and guitar chords that make the atmosphere colder and colder by the second. Then, all of a sudden, everything stops. A galloping riff tears through the silence in order to welcome the shrieks of front-man George Clarke and from there the song freezes over and becomes a testament to how this album isn’t Sunbather 2. After a short while, the band decide that they’ve proven their point for the moment and incorporate an uplifting, melodic lead that seems to be a nod to 90’s alt rock. It explodes forth from the wintry landscape of the first few minutes and lets the warmth of this newly found sunshine thaw you out. Then that warmth changes to a post-rock section, then back to something akin to an Oasis bridge, only to fade out and have a solo-piano play the track out.
The best part about all the transitions and transformations that song went through is that none of them felt out of place. If these were happening every two seconds they may not feel cohesive, so what Deafheaven does is they stay on a part for just long enough to make you want something to change. It’s a system that makes a new idea in a song feel all the more welcoming and satisfying. This also allows them to dip into their influences and put something on the musical table. On “Luna,” the band spend a little over half the song ripping through as black metal, then they spend the second half creating a post-rock climax that takes your breath away. “Baby Blue” has a solo about halfway through that sounds like it came from the songbook of Coheed and Cambria. “Come Back” is abrasive and brash until it transitions into a reverbed out slide guitar outro that makes you feel as through you’re sitting underneath a palm tree watching the waves crash on your own island that’s a little slice of heaven. “Gifts for the Earth,” well, that’s a track you’ll have to experience for yourself as it’s the album’s magnum opus. Deafheaven are interesting because their sound is shaped by so many different factors and they all feel fully fleshed out when their executed. It’s not so much “Hey! Look what we can pull out of a hat and then toss side stage!” as it is “Hey! Let me show you the music that left me awestruck so it can hopefully make you feel the same way.” The band doesn’t use influence as a parlor trick, but instead present it in a way that they hope will leave a twinkle in your eye.
While this album consistently proves that the band are indeed black metal through and through, it also proves that they’re more than that. They’re a product of their influences and those influences help them thrive. It gives the band a certain texture and color that other acts don’t have and it lets them go places that other people can’t go. Just as people shiver as soon as they enter the Bermuda Triangle, many people will shiver at the thought of entering New Bermuda. The fear of getting lost in something and disappearing is an understandable fear, but while others shy away, Deafheaven embrace getting lost and tell haters and fans alike that they should do the same.