Metal is a genre particularly prickly and not known for fully embracing outside thinking. Some bands have succeeded in doing just that though, which brings us to San Francisco based Deafheaven. Fronted enigmatically and violently by George Clark, the band first emerged with minimal exposure on their 2011 debut “Roads to Judah.” Now, that record is good, and compliments the band’s fierce side, but let’s be real. The band first gained major indie cred with their astonishing 2013 masterpiece, “Sunbather.”
This record, quite simply is something to behold. For a long while, black metal was a foreign thing, having been perfected by Nordic ancestors Dimmu Borgir, Burzum and 1349. But in the last few years, bands like Liturgy, old schoolers Goatwhore, and yes, Deafheaven have emerged as some of the best American Black Metal bands. Deafheaven stands above the rest though. How they do it in turns lies on the amalgamation of the sound. It’s not straight black metal. Commonly seen as a mix between Black Metal and the Shoegaze genres, Deafheaven manages to mix the sound contrasts consistent in both styles and make it something else entirely. “Sunbather,” in all of its glory is one hour of fury, emotion, power, and sacrifice the likes of which is rarely seen in the metal genre. The album was, rightfully so, hailed as triumph, and was prominently featured on many year end Albums list. It’s simply wonderful and eye opening. Songs like title track “Sunbather” have this sort of free floating darkness surrounding it, while the magnificently executed “Dream House” will leave you gladly joining in the race for the dream, which is death. Yes, it’s clandestine and shrouded, but in that darkness lies a beauty that’s hard to pinpoint. ,
However, every great album is meant to be topped, and with their third album, “New Bermuda,” I believe they in fact did make a better record than “Sunbather.” Featuring less tracks and running for less time than it’s predecessor, it manages to encapsulate everything the band stands for in a far grander vision than any of the other records, and do so in less time. Now that’s not to suggest the album is weaker. Over five tracks spanning forty-five minutes, “Bermuda,” envelopes you in deep fiery solo’s, moving lyrical passages permeating with turmoil, but also beautifully meticulous instrumental sections. Hearing the downward flow of “Come Back” paints pictures of happiness on lonely beaches, with the one you cherish, and for what it’s worth, there was no better musical environment the year it came out. Even more powerful is the gorgeous closing of “Gifts for the Earth,” which melts into serene piano keys, and washes through the air in magical embraces.
It’s a testament to how well the band can switch between the brutal and beautiful, but also showcases the depth and understanding of various genres and musical way of thinkings. With only three albums under their belt, they continue to get better with each stroke and movement, and I’m sure the following years will be an exciting time to be a Deafheaven fan. Thanks for reading.
Landon Murray is a New Orleans native, who thrives on painting the world he interprets through the useful forms of all types of art he feels connected to. He's seen over 1000 bands, and had loved mostly every minute of it. He has an amazing 10 year old dog, and is loving life.
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