“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” Or, perhaps: “great minds write the music, average minds take issue with genre labels, and small minds argue about hairstyles.” So it certainly seems to go with Deafheaven, a band who have weathered insults hurled from listeners questioning their integrity because of the way they choose to cut and style their hair (no. Really.) While others bicker, heads pointed at the ground, New Bermuda sees Deafheaven fix their gaze past the haters upon the horizon, in the process releasing an album that genuinely borders on the sublime.
Given the deliriously contrary nature of the band, it will come as no surprise to those who know their work that New Bermuda is somehow both more abrasive than Sunbather, their glorious debut, and yet also softer, more tender. Each of the albums’ five tracks cuts a winding path through some very harsh territory. Indeed, at its darkest, the piece calls to mind James Cameron’s quote about his own film Aliens: ‘it’s ten miles of bad road.’ The tail end of the ten minute long Luna is as harsh as anything that has been released on a major label this year: it’s grating, uncompromising stuff.
Yet by contrast the opening of Baby Blue and repeated snatches of Come Back sees Deafheaven fully embracing their shoegaze roots, lacing their guitars with reverb and effect and spinning melodies the way a spider spins a web. And even Brought To The Water, a song that is ultimately dominated by furious, crushing guitars, has moments of relative calm where the chaos abates and chill, cooling winds blow.
It’s only by listening to the entire album in full that one realises that, as in life, the light and the dark elements of Deafheaven’s sound require each other. One extreme cannot exist without its opposite, and without the trauma, one would never reach the truth. Nothing about Deafheaven is false, or fake: not their violence, nor their beauty. In this way, as in many others, they are true pioneers, and in this way, as in many others, New Bermuda is nothing less than a ground-breaking release.