Posts Tagged ‘heavy metal’

New Bermuda

If anyone had questions about deafheaven being able to follow up 2013’s “Sunbather” with something as good, the band’s latest release, “New Bermuda” buries their doubts in the deep density of a black hole…or that place in the Atlantic where things allegedly check-in but never leave. Perhaps the most repeated term used in association with “Sunbather” is ‘polarising’, dividing listeners as those who love it and those that deride it for for its lack of ‘pure’ black metal creds. I can understand why the ‘purists’ have a problem with it but if these folk had their way, we’d still be thinking the world is flat and that off the edge is a precipitous drop into nothingness. Thankfully, on the evidence of “New Bermuda” the band isn’t bothered at all by such criticism. I fell in love with “Sunbather” two years back but I rate this new album even higher. It feels more cogent, nuanced and evolved.

Church bells leading into a song have been done to death. But even a tired tool of the trade takes on a rare freshness as the very short cheer of the Christmas-like chimes a few seconds into the start of the opener, “Brought To The Water” only heightens the all-consuming sense of drowning in dark depths. The quality of the music never takes a dip anywhere on the album. The furious “Luna” suddenly melting surprisingly into a dreamy interlude; gliding post-rock arrangements of “Baby Blue” breaking out into a dense, guitar-drenched space; the manic, raging despair of “Come Back” folding gracefully into one of the most beautiful codas I’ve heard; the quiet, dignified acceptance of the inevitable end in the oddly uplifting album-closer “Gifts For The Earth” as George Clarke goes: Then further downward so that I can rest, cocooned by the heat of the ocean floor. In the dark, my flesh to disintegrate into consumption for the earth. This is heartrendingly beautiful music; its underlying desolation marked by a stunning poignance. I’m not much for lists but if I had to pick my album of the year, “New Bermuda” would be it.

I love, adore, respect deafheaven’s music for the same reason that I do that of bands like Agalloch and The Ocean. They are formed of a rare combination of ambition, imagination and intelligence. These are not ‘flat earth’ purists. They are not stymied by stasis and they will keep pushing frontiers wider and deeper.

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A few days back, one of my habitual whiner acquaintances bemoaned the death – as he put it – of the deep brooding malevolence that characterised metal music. I was too happy with my beer to resort to violence, nor even to argue. I played him Shepherd’s “Stereolithic Riffocalypse”. His stupefied silence was one of the most satisfying rewards of my blessed life. He walked away with one of the two remaining CDs of the album that I had with me then.

An album name like this evokes thoughts of monstrous riffs. Monumental silliness too, yes, but we’ll let that pass because it doesn’t find its way into the music. This three-piece purveyor of sludge metal has produced the kind of slow motion skull-crushing, mind-numbing music that I am partial to in the heavy metal world. To me it’s a refreshing (it’s ok if you think I must be sick) change from the tearing, high-speed metal that seems – I could be wrong there though – more popular in my part of the world. The tone for the album is set with the dark, visceral “Spite Pit”. And when you hear “Turdspeak” you get an even better sense of the ‘numbing’, ‘crushing’ heavy adjectives I indulged in. Only, this song does it better and more exquisitely than any other in the set. But I know others who have fallen for the cathartic groove of “Crook” or the title track. I wouldn’t complain about that. However, wading through such thick sludge can be tiresome as you get to the end of the album but even on “Wretch Salad” which I found tedious for the most part, the trio manages to wrench you from weary somnolence to a state of frenzy with a surprising change of pace about three quarters into the song. You’ll find that similar schizophrenic state on “Bog Slime” too. And if you thought the dense low end is all that the band has on offer, check out the guitar that kicks in at about 6:25 on the closer “Stalebait”. To me this album seems well thought out and crafted admirably. “Stereolithic Riffocalypse” is not to be just sampled. It has to be heard in its entirety.

I had written about the nearly impossibly low drone of Torche a few posts back. Shepherd plumbs even deeper, and that’s saying a lot. While Torche instils a very unusual, contrarian peppiness, Shepherd goes conventional. The end result is the same though – a vigorous shaking out of the demons in you.

Oh! that acquaintance I mentioned? I haven’t heard from him since. I think he smashed himself out on the sound.