Review: Why Deafheaven's 'A New Bermuda' is more than just noise

George Clarke of San Francisco-based blackgaze band Deafheaven performs on Aug. 17, 2015. (Jr Hunter/Flickr)

When an album like Deafheaven’s “A New Bermuda” has dissonant guitar chords, blast beating drums and indecipherable screeching for its vocals, it can be easily disregarded as unpleasant noise music, even among the most experienced metal listeners. However, I’m here to tell you why you shouldn’t do that – why “A New Bermuda,” released earlier this October, may actually be one of the most touchingly poignant and powerful art pieces of the last decade.

Consider that most songs are typically built with clearly defined elements: harmony, melody, rhythm and even tone, all essentially paint part of a bigger picture. Rather than spelling these parts out for its listeners, “A New Bermuda” deliberately mixes all of them together in one audially enchanting wall of sound.

If a song is like artwork, Deafheaven’s latest release is like an abstract blend of several colors. It is simultaneously discomforting and pleasant; mournful and blissful; ephemeral and eternal; hideous and beautiful.

This contrast is where “A New Bermuda” draws its power. For example, its introductory song “Brought to the Water” has chugging thrash metal riffs, ambient tremolo picking, calming interludes, heartbeat-esque snare hits, and unique basslines – all of which bring the piece to life. Even the singer’s brutal shrieking adds a dimension of character to the song, rather than simply serving as an outlet for anger, like many metal vocal parts.

In “Come Back,” the album’s fourth track out of five long, nuanced songs, comes one of the most beautiful ending interludes to a song I’ve ever heard, evoking feelings of nostalgia, hope, regret and redemption.

Deafheaven’s latest release isn’t some pretentious progressive metal work requiring listeners to have an intricate knowledge of music theory. It’s also not akin to the kind of angst a 13-year-old would listen to through a standard metalcore or screamo-type lens. “A New Bermuda” is completely different from anything you’ve ever heard, encapsulating all different kinds of emotions through allowing listeners to just audially drown in its complex, but simple sound.

Don’t just take my word for it: “A New Bermuda” is critically acclaimed. The AV Club reviewer David Anthony wrote that the album allows “Deafhaaven to include subgenres that rarely mix while injecting more outside references.” Anthony continues, stating that Deafheaven’s album illustrated “how progressive of a genre metal can be.” The album also has an “A-” on online music publication Consequence of Sound, as well as an 84 on Metacritic.

I get that for a lot of people, metal is not easy to get into, let alone some weird combination of shoegaze, post-black metal with varying song structures and harsh vocals. But give “A New Bermuda” a try: even if you don’t personally enjoy it, the album’s sheer power and awe will certainly captivate you.

Score: 10/10


Anokh Palakurthi is associate life editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at anokh.palakurthi@uconn.edu. He tweets @DC_Anokh.