Metallica

Review: Deafheaven – New Bermuda

Now this is how you follow up a masterpiece.  With New Bermuda, Deafheaven have matched the brilliance of their universally-beloved album Sunbather, and have created another record filled with thrilling, triumphant climaxes and breathtakingly gorgeous moments that show the power and diversity of metal as a genre.  New Bermuda works both as a cohesive whole as well as five fantastic individual tracks, as each listen prompts me to proclaim a new track as my definitive favorite.

To answer the first question that is on every non-metalhead’s mind when it comes to Deafheaven: yes, George Clarke still employs that banshee-yelling technique on every song.  In fact, the vocals are a bit more prominent in the mix than they were on Sunbather, but they might be an even better fit with the accompanying music on New Bermuda.  At the same time, while Clarke’s delivery is as harsh as ever, his “diction” has become clearer, with individual phrases easier to parse than before–to this day, the only phrase I can pick out from Sunbather is the line “I want to dream” from “Dream House”, and that was only after several listens and a careful look at the lyric sheet.  In other words, those turned off by this facet of Deafheaven’s sound are unlikely to be converted with New Bermuda, but those who appreciate/have made peace with it will have no problem.

While there are still several moments where Deafheaven incorporates elements of shoegaze into their black metal style, New Bermuda finds the band adding more concepts from traditional metal into their songs.  Whereas Sunbather was characterized by brick walls of guitars creating dense chords with shifting, underlying melodies, New Bermuda often focuses more on riff-based songwriting and single-note solos.  In terms of the tone and complexity of these riffs, the band finds a spot where early-Metallica and late-System of a Down meet, evoking Leviathan-era Mastodon as well with their furious churning nature.  In addition to the fantastic work from guitarist Kerry McCoy, who adds a wah-inflected solo and subtle slidework to his repertoire, drummer Dan Tracy shines once again with his furious but precise work behind the kit, alternating between blastbeats and more subtle grooves.

The post-rock interludes that distinguished Sunbather from other metal records are now integrated into the songs themselves, as they often dissolve into beautiful instrumental passages marked by guitars drenched in reverb and delay (among other effects) atop subtle, rolling drums.  These moments go beyond the usual Explosions in the Sky comparisons and recall some of the more lyrical moments of Slowdive, an intersection of post-rock and shoegaze that is especially evident in the outro to “Come Back”.  There is only one noticeable Godspeed-like field recording this time, a brief and cryptic snippet of a traffic announcement warning about the closure of the George Washington Bridge.

There is no single moment that approaches transcendence, as they were able to accomplish with “Dream House” and “The Pecan Tree” on Sunbather, but New Bermuda as an album is every bit as equal.  It is crazy that this is as close to criticism as I can get for this record, but New Bermuda is that much of an accomplishment.  Deafheaven have now firmly established themselves as one of the most important groups of the current era, and have laid the groundwork for a long and fruitful career.

Over the Weekend (Aug. 3 Edition)

News, new music, and other fun stuff to help you through the unbearable heat…

The biggest news of the weekend is the announcement that Dr. Dre will be releasing a new album in the very near future, though it is not quite the album many fans expected.  Instead of releasing the much-delayed Detox, which for years was teased as the expected followup to 2001, Dre is releasing Compton, inspired by his work on the upcoming N.W.A biopic.

Speaking of long-awaited followups, it has been nearly a decade since the release of Tool’s last album, and while for years fans have been teased with tidbits detailing the slow process of following up 10,000 Days, that does not mean the band members have been remaining idle.  Maynard James Keenan announced that his other, other group Puscifer will be releasing a new album on October 30, and has shared “Grand Canyon” from Money Shot this week.

Puscifer first https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dM3yqRp5Yy0, but that is not the only time the show skewered the music industry.  Pitchfork talked to co-creator David Cross about some of the classic sketches that revolved around music, including a fun story about a meeting with The Strokes.

With the upcoming release of the rarities collection The Secret History, Vol. 1 (which is now available for streaming via NPR), Pavement is back in the news.  Vulture asked guitarist Scott Kannberg (aka “Spiral Stairs”) about his favorite tracks that the band recorded, and Scott responded with quite the diverse set of songs.  However, we have to admit that we are disappointed by the lack of inclusion of “Unfair” from his personal list.

Remember what we said about Foo Fighters and viral content last week?  Here is another example, as a thousand Italians cover “Learn to Fly” to try to convince the Foos to visit their town.

Alternative Nation linked to a bunch of previously unreleased Nirvana tracks this weekend, but since they have probably already been taken down by the time you read this, you should probably use the site as a guide to try to track down the individual tracks on your own.

Finally, SPIN decided that this was the appropriate moment to rank every single Metallica song that was ever released, and that is probably as good a way as any to waste your time this week.

Built to Spill, Live at the Wonder Ballroom

Built to Spill returned to their home-away-from-home last week, playing a two-night stand at the Wonder Ballroom in Portland.  We caught the band on the second night as they were finishing up their tour in support of their most recent album, the excellent Untethered Moon.  If the band felt weary after months on the road, they certainly did not show it on Thursday night, as the group played an energetic set that covered just about every part of their vast catalog, including a couple of surprise additions as well.

Outside the Wonder, with that late Oregon summer sunset.

Outside the Wonder, with that late Oregon summer sunset.

The show got off to a raucous start with Keep It Like A Secret opener “The Plan”, with the crowd immediately going nuts as soon as the opening chords were strummed.  We were lucky enough to have a great view of the full band, and were able to enjoy seeing guitarist Jim Roth’s dissonant slide-work create the song’s memorable solo.  From then on the band mixed in new material with old classics, and the crowd greeted the recent stuff with nearly the same approval as their favorites; singles “Living Zoo” and “Never Be The Same” featured some of the group’s catchiest hooks, and “So” has the spirit of many of the band’s brilliant guitar work-outs, so they were natural fits into the group’s standard set.

The band were able to seamlessly shift between different moods and tempos, such as when the group followed the mid-tempo ballad “Liar” with the raging “Pat”.  It would not be a Built to Spill show without a couple of covers thrown into the mix, and the group obliged by including “Virginia Reel Around the Fountain” (a song that I keep forgetting is a cover because of its many appearances in a BTS show, from a side project that Doug Martsch did with Calvin Johnson of Beat Happening called The Halo Benders) and part of “Orion”, which took a few minutes for me to place since they started it off at about the halfway point.  The band finished off the night with a rousing encore, first with the epic “Kicked It In The Sun” before rounding it out with early year favorites “Big Dipper” and “Stab”.

Doug Martsch and co. engaging in some guitar heroics

Doug Martsch and co. engaging in some guitar heroics

Opener Honey Bucket did a good enough job keeping the early crowd entertained with their take on garage rock, and Genders was a solid second act.  Their first song reminded me of post-punk revival in the vein of Interpol, especially with the way their bassist was making full use of the neck for counter-melodies, but the highlight for most of the crowd was their faithful cover of Mazzy Star’s classic “Fade Into You” (even if the guitarist decided that the song’s memorable leads could be mimicked without the use of a slide).  It was an intriguing counterbalance to the headlining act, but it is hard to overshadow Built to Spill when they are on top of their game.  The sound mix overall was excellent, with all three guitar parts balanced perfectly, and the group actually integrated a fairly effective light show into their set.  Overall, it was hard to find a better way to spend twenty dollars on a weeknight.

Over the Weekend (July 14 Edition)

In contrast to the relative paucity of links from Friday, we’ve got an avalanche of videos and news this week.  So here we go!

The music world lost another giant this weekend, as Tommy Ramone passed away due to complications from bile duct cancer.  Tommy was a vital part of the Ramones, anchoring their back-to-basics but give-them-hell attitude from behind the drumkit, but he also was an early producer for the band and was the main creative force behind many of the band’s most-loved songs, including “Blitzkrieg Bop”.  After he left the Ramones, he continued making his mark, including producing one of the greatest albums of all time, Tim by The Replacements.  Now is as good as a time as any to listen to that album along with any and all Ramones albums you may have, and be sure to read this great write-up by Jon Wurster in SPIN.

Interpol released their “first” official video from El Pintor, for the propulsive and upbeat “All The Rage Back Home”.  I put “first” in quotations, because that ignores the live video for “Anywhere” that previously was released, but is also understandable because at least this is a studio recording.

Here are some initial thoughts on the song: 1) I love it when Interpol goes for speed, and it works even better in contrast to the slow open; 2) The lead guitar in the verses, while a continuation of the first slow part, clash way too much with the chords once the song gets into gear; it’s a lot like when I was in jazz band in high school, and the director would point to me suddenly and go “you have the next 16 bars”–a lot of noodling on the upper part of the neck that doesn’t make any sense whatsoever; 3) In the video they have Paul playing bass, emphasizing that as a recording unit they’re a three-piece, but live they will have a more traditional lineup with Paul on second guitar; overall, Paul acquits himself quite well, though I hope on other songs he attempts to replace Carlos D’s ability to use space and off-beat rhythms and lines that were such a key part of the early Interpol sound.  In related news, Interpol announced today the details of their fall tour, with tickets for most shows going on sale on Friday.

Speaking of tours, the recently reunited Slowdive (and subject of one of the first pieces on our site) have announced that they’re going beyond an initial run of festivals and are going on a full-fledged tour.  I can’t wait to see them in November, as that month seems to be shaping up to be “Reunion Month” with Death From Above 1979 stopping by the Northwest a couple of weeks later.

We’ve mentioned before how much we’ve loved Hamilton Leithauser’s solo debut, and we’re glad to see that he’s released another music video, this time for “I Don’t Need Anyone”.  This one is pretty funny, and has a nice dark edge to it that’s perfect for a Monday.

Continuing with a theme of funny videos, Metallica cut a humorous promo for Sportscenter, fitting in with the latter’s long run of great ads.  In this spot, the band is looking for something to do now that Mariano Rivera has retired and so they no longer have to play “Enter Sandman” for his entrance music.

As there is the “Rule of 3’s” in comedy, so it is with funny music videos, as Weird Al released a video for his parody of Pharrell’s “Happy”, with the clever “Tacky”.  Yankovic gets some famous friends in on the fun, and those who have tired of hearing the original should welcome it. (Warning: Video autoplays)

And for your last video, if you need to come down a bit, there’s The National doing an interview over on Pitchfork that should help.

After some rumblings before, it’s now official that Radiohead will be heading to the studio to record their latest album in September, according to Billboard who listened in on a BBC radio interview.  As always, it will be interesting to see just what direction the band will take this time around.

Over the Weekend (June 30 Edition)

Some videos and news as you begin your week thinking about how dumb Penalty Kicks are

Spoon played Jimmy Kimmel Live last week, with tracks from their upcoming album They Want My Soul.  We had previously heard “Rent I Pay”, but the band also debuted “Rainy Taxi” at the performance.  The first is a ragged, stilted rocker that Spoon has perfected over the years, but the second is a groovy, uptempo number that fits in some of the dissonant touches that the band does so well, and should be a live favorite.

Fans in Oslo were treated to a Pearl Jam rarity, as the band performed “Strangest Tribe” for the first time.  It’s a beautiful, somber song that can be found on the Lost Dogs compilation, and was originally released as one of the fanclub Christmas singles.  A hearty thanks to the fan that filmed this special occasion.

Speaking of Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder recently received an invitation to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (you know, the Oscars folks).  Maybe he’ll help clear up the mess that is the nominations process for the music categories.

Rolling Stone has Jack White’s entire Glastonbury set on its site, which included a quick cover of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” (a specific choice that the article has details about), and also a link to a previous performance with some choice covers including a take on The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog”.

And we didn’t get a chance to post this in our traditional Friday #longreads roundup, but here’s a link to an extended interview with Dennis Lyxzen, frontman of the legendary Refused and The (International) Noise Conspiracy, who is now working in a new band called INVSN.