New Bermuda

Deafheaven, Live at the Wonder Ballroom

Though they have stormed onto the scene on the strength of two critically-acclaimed albums, perhaps the only stronger consensus surrounding Deafheaven is their thrilling and intense live show.  On Monday night, the band lived up to that reputation with a brilliant and electrifying show at the Wonder Ballroom that left the crowd craving even more.

Bathed in blue (though not Baby Blue)

Bathed in blue (though not Baby Blue)

For this show, the band performed their latest album New Bermuda in its entirety from front-to-back, with a brief appearance at the halfway mark from last year’s “From the Kettle Onto the Coil”, a single that in retrospect served as an excellent bridge between albums.  Though the band eschewed the various interludes that are sprinkled throughout New Bermuda, opting not to bring along a piano for some of those gorgeous passages, the group otherwise did an excellent job of recreating the technical intricacies of the record in a live setting.

Guitarist Kerry McCoy showed off his skills throughout the night, and second guitarist Shiv Mehra contributed a couple of excellent solos as well.  Drummer Dan Tracy was a sight to behold as well–it was a marvel seeing him lay down an easy groove up top with the barest hint of effort, while his feet were engaged in a frenzy delivering double-bass drum kicks.  Vocalist George Clarke played the part of conductor, acting out many of the instrumental parts with a variety of hand gestures in a way that I am sure many members of the audience had done in the past as well.  As the rest of the band was mainly concerned with getting their complex parts just right, Clarke stepped up to the role as showman, as he stalked the stage or dropped to his knees to deliver his impassioned shouts.

As great as the new record sounded live, the show went up another level when the band returned to play “Dream House” for the encore.  The opening track from Sunbather whipped the crowd into a frenzy, and the feeling in the room was electric.  Though the band is probably tired of the song after touring relentlessly behind the album, their performance was fresh and awe-inspiring.  If only we could have heard the rest of the album as well.

A clearer view of the group

A clearer view of the group

The band dedicated their set and the tour to their opening act, the death metal group Tribulation.  Though metal is only an occasional indulgence on my part, I enjoyed their set as well.  They did an excellent job in preparing the crowd for the main act, as many in the audience were impressed by their technical virtuosity, if not their elaborate theatricality.

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Catching Up On The Week (Oct. 16 Edition)

A few #longreads for your enjoyment this weekend…

You might need to find something else to do this weekend than find new music articles to read, because we only have a few pieces to share with our readers for this edition.  One article that we do recommend is this discussion of Deafheaven’s new album New Bermuda in Pitchfork that somehow ties the album to Lana Del Rey, but is definitely worth reading if solely for the analysis of the record alone.  Also, since Deafheaven is set to perform in Portland on Monday, now is the perfect time to check it out.

Elsewhere on Pitchfork, Josh Langhoff has a fascinating look at the strange history behind the song “El Karma” and the saga of narcocorridos in contemporary Mexican culture.

In an amazing coincidence, there were two articles on the iconic and innovative group Suicide published this week.  The Quietus has an excerpt from a new biography on the band as well as a Q&A with the author of Dream Baby Dream, Kris Needs, while Noisey has a first-person recollection of the group.

Finally, it seems like we have a link to this story every few months, but here is another scientific explanation behind the cover art that was used for Joy Division’s seminal debut, Unknown Pleasures, courtesy of Scientific American.

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.

Catching Up On The Week (Oct. 9 Edition)

Some #longreads that have been carefully selected for your reading pleasure…

We have spent the week blasting Deafheaven’s excellent new album, New Bermuda, over and over again.  Before you read our review of the album next week, we recommend you check out this interview with the band from VH-1, which goes into great detail about the making of the follow-up to the universally-acclaimed Sunbather.

Before Elliott Smith became a beloved solo artist, his music career began as a member of the up-and-coming Portland rock band Heatmiser.  Though the group is largely seen as a footnote to Smith’s career, they had a solid career in their own right, and are set to be inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame this weekend.  David Greenwald of The Oregonian catches up for a rare interview with the other members of Heatmiser for a look back at their career.

Alan Sparhawk from Low talks to The Skinny in a deeply personal interview, and reveals among other things the meaning behind the title Ones and Sixes.  For the record, we were on the right track with our guess about minimums and maximums in our review of the album, though we were off on the specific reference.  Another follow-up worth checking out is this Vox interview with John Seabrook, author of The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory, which provides additional anecdotes about the mysterious mega-successful songwriter Max Martin.

Next week sees the release of Deerhunter’s Fading Frontier, and Bradford Cox once again provides an entertaining interview, this time with Observer.

Finally, we have our usual anniversary pieces.  First, Allmusic interviews singer Ed Kowalczyk about his former band Live’s massively successful Throwing Copper, and about his current solo acoustic tour in celebration of the album.  We are guessing that many of you did not realize that Ed had left the group, and to be honest, we did not know this either.  Then you can finish up with this look back at another huge album from 1995, Tragic Kingdom from No Doubt.  If anything, this gives you a chance to sing “Just a Girl” and “Don’t Speak” in your bedroom as loud as you can.

Over the Weekend (Sept. 21 Edition)

New music, videos, and news to kick off your week…

Eagles of Death Metal are set to release their first album in seven years, and the duo sat down for an interview with Rolling Stone that was in equal parts hilarious and eloquent, which should not be a surprise to anyone with a passing familiarity with their particular exploits.

Another fun interview worth checking out is the one SPIN conducted with Wayne Coyne about the twentieth anniversary of Clouds Taste Metallic, which touched on such topics as to how The Flaming Lips ended up on the Batman Forever soundtrack and the circumstances of the departure of guitarist Ronald Jones from the group.

Ought just came out with their second album last week, and Sun Coming Down has been greeted with rave reviews so far.  For those looking for a taste as to how the new album sounds, the band shared the video to the almost-title track “Sun’s Coming Down” last week.

With the breakthrough success of their album Sunbather still fresh in the minds of critics and fans, Deafheaven’s New Bermuda is set to be one of the most highly anticipated releases of the fall.  They should be highly pleased with the release of the song “Come Back”, as it incorporates many of the elements that people loved about Sunbather with some additional metal touches thrown in for good measure.

New Bermuda is not the only big album being released next Friday, as V from Wavves is also coming out on October 2nd.  The band shared the wrestling-themed video for the single “Way Too Much” last week, and it should get you pumped.

DIIV released the single “Dopamine” last week from their upcoming album Is The Is Are, and you can take a listen to the driving and infectious jangle-pop track through the band’s SoundCloud page.

Diffuser provides a look at the history of the photograph that Rage Against the Machine used for the self-titled debut, providing a bit of context to the unforgettable image of  Quảng Đức’s self-immolation.  Elsewhere on the site, you can find a pretty good list of the 25 Most Underrated Albums of the Past 25 Years, which we can say because we agree with many of the choices.

And finally, in not-unexpected news, the band Viet Cong has announced that they have decided to change their name.  The group still has a few shows left on its tour, including a date in Portland, but have not settled on a new name yet.