Deafheaven‘s story is becoming a very interesting one. On the one hand, there is the larger-scale view of a San Francisco band taking the already-merging worlds of black metal, shoegaze and indie rock and putting their own distinct sheen on it. Both here at Treble and in the music world at-large, the band’s sophomore effort Sunbather was something of a winning streak for the band and the genres they represent. But the band’s narrative of growth and evolution as a unit is just as fascinating, if on a micro level. The band’s debut LP Roads to Judah, recorded as a five-piece, showed great potential but the band’s true songwriting potential wasn’t reached until guitarist Kerry McCoy and vocalist George Clarke stripped themselves down to a duo, writing and recording all the parts of Sunbather as a small unit and only bringing in drummer Daniel Tracy to put on the finishing touches.
Sunbather’s success necessitated some hefty touring, so Tracy became an official live member of the band, along with bassist Stephen Clark and guitarist Shiv Mehra. This quintet gives a majestic live delivery to the breadth of ground covered on Sunbather, but their true potential wasn’t revealed until we heard the first single the group wrote as a revised five-piece: the excellent “From The Kettle onto The Coil.” Their journey back to a complete line-up was complete.
So it is fitting that the opening track and lead single from the upcoming New Bermuda follows the basic formula of that epic single: Hit ‘em hard first and bring in the beautiful nuances later. Following some ominous opening noises and cathedral-style bells, “Brought to the Water” starts off with Tracy’s best blast beat and droning guitars before Deafheaven launch into their most earnest take on blackened thrash metal, with Clarke diversifying his performance as much as possible within his everything-but-straight-voice restraints. He’s hinted that this track “evokes feelings that come with uprooting and throwing oneself into the complacent, monotonous routine of adulthood,” and his lyrics seem to channel societal angst without losing the sense of poetry that Clarke has maintained thus far in his career.
From there, things get weird in just the way we’ve learned to expect from this band. A more characteristic, syncopated beat kicks in and ’80s-leaning guitar solos soar over an otherwise gloom-and-doom wall of dark noise. Then, for a minute, we are transported back to the more surreal, Ride-influenced guitar work of a song like “Sunbather” before the band kick it back up a notch, strike up a finale, and take us to the end. It’s as satisfying as anything they’ve released before and, like “Dreamhouse” was to Sunbather, serves as a very hopeful prediction of what’s to some on the record’s remaining four tracks.
(P.S. The song closes out with a beautiful piano interlude, so if assumptions can be trusted, the shorter track length does not mean Deafheaven will be cutting the interludes that were such a prominent part of Sunbather‘s mysterious aesthetic.)[from New Bermuda, out Oct. 2; Anti-]