by Andrew Karper
On New Bermuda, Deafheaven are here for the cash money.
Deafheaven’s album opener “Brought to the Water” briefly dangles a chorus of hell’s bells before a thick juicy Metallica riff takes over while classic rock flourishes seamlessly touch up both “Luna” and “Come Back” in ways that subtlety tweak the wall of sound formula McCoy laid out back in Roads to Judah’s “Language Games.” Meanwhile, “Baby Blue” builds up to the kind of perfectly preformed solo break-work evocative of the better Slayer years – New Bermuda is metal music torn in two: both desperate to prove a certain kinda of scene cred as much as craft a calculated appeal to fans of the greater Josh Homme empire.
But what ultimately makes a band like Deafheaven different from the likes of Liturgy, Bell Witch, or even Converge is something more than an aversion to editing. The sonic scope of black metal feels like little more than an aesthetic flourish that Hunter Hunt-Hendrix uses to be fill with posh dorm-room sensibilities about “art,” “philosophy,” and “music”: a rejection of metal’s nihilism necessary for his urbane audience to nod their heads in approval. Vocalist George Clarke, on the other other hand, plays an entirely different authenticity game.
Riding in from the rock-n-roll turned meth capitol of California, Deafheaven rode into the scene like a band of badasses fully graduated from the school of hard knocks. Coming to the proverbial big city, Clarke’s lyrics now compellingly utilize old school heavy metal posturing to appropriate the very pop-culture narratives we want to hear: “From which not even in dreams/could I ever imagine my escape,” he vocally unearths in “Baby Blue.” It works the narrative of “Sanitarium” as much as the rags-to-riches drag that’s been limping around on any of 2015’s flurry of post-hype records (Passion Pit, Tyler the Creator, et. all).
The big brand slowcore influences being tossed around by the band in their press junket (“my take on Low or Red House Painters,” McCoy namechecked to Rolling Stone, back in August) do not come out to be fundamentally any different then, say, the blues licks that Kirk Hammett pokes around with in …And Justice for All. Nor are they really remarkably different than McCoy’s own instrumental kicks back in Sunbather (“Irresistible,” “Vertigo”) that were then being trumpeted as shoegaze (a label the band had eschewed as part of the trying to shrug off amid cries of ‘hipster-metal’). The power chords that tear through the end of “Luna” spell out Clarke’s battle cry: “Suburbia, suburbia!” Now that’s Win Butler-smart.
But its on New Bermuda’s closer, “Gifts for the Earth,” that Deafheaven’s sell goes hard. Snacking deliciously on the Movement-era New Order riffs that US/UK indie has been devouring for the past decade, its easily the catchiest song of their entire oeuvre – obscenely saccharine title nonetheless, its an earnest cry to boost the band’s Sirius XM profile a solid notch or two. “I imagine the gracious/ benevolent ritual of death,” Clarke whispers to his metal friends. “In the dark, my flesh to disintegrate into consumption for the earth,” goes the finish, right before a symphonic outro takes hold that they’ve glibly likened to Oasis but could easily pass for Madison Square Garden-playing Explosions in the Sky bombast. Consume we will!
Andrew Karper is a Contributing Writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org