The ringing of church bells – a warning? a celebration? Either way, the opening moments of New Bermuda (Anti-, 2nd October) herald the follow up to Deafheaven‘s genre-busting Sunbather (2013), giving way to the clanging guitars and blast beats of ‘Brought To The Water’. The galloping nu-Maiden riffage that follows is uncompromising, yet the soft rock solo and piano-led coda illustrative of their genre mangling. Few bands in recent years have proven to be quite as divisive: dismissed as poseurs in a black metal scene inextricably linked with underground brownie points, yet offering safe passage through more cvlt waters for the newly curious. Gateway bands – there’s nothing inherently wrong with them (and we all had them).
New Bermuda offers nothing to charm the doubters. Instead, Deafheaven continue to meld progressive black metal forms with post-rock dynamics – the results are often quite remarkable. From out of the black, colour. It’s a deliberate contradiction, vocalist/lyricist George Clarke describing the title as a “destination … (where) things get swallowed up and dragged into darkness,” yet the album is as sun-kissed as it is driven by the night. There are moments when you wonder if they’re trying to troll their critics (the last few minutes of ‘Come Back’ are pina-colada-by-the-pool cool) and ‘Gifts From The Earth’ spends much of its running time more Interpol than Darkthrone. A leather-gloved middle finger to the world. [DB]
By contrast, VI offer more traditionalist BM fare, corpse paint and all on debut full length De Praestigiis Angelorum (Agonia Records, 25th September). The scene veterans (they include current and ex-members of Aosoth, Anthaeus and Aborted) carve out a satisfyingly muddy, morbid atmosphere – one unafraid to explore restrictive tempos and textures. There’s a sometime warped wooziness to the guitars that almost defies the notion of the riff – ‘Une place parmi les morts‘ sounds more like a swarm of escaped banshees – that only adds to the general sense of unease. In a pretty strong year for the genre, VI plants a stake in the heart of this year’s ‘best of’ lists. [DB]
A compilation of rarities by recently re-activated Croatian outfit Ha Det Bra, Societea for Two (Geenger Records, 25th September) hangs together as an album-length experience with none of the Frankenstein stitch marks that sometimes make mash-ups of previously released material so jarringly incoherent. The songs are drawn from a clutch of self-released demo tapes recorded around 1993-1994 and this common point of origin works in the compilation’s favour given the uniform sound quality throughout – as well as the universally excellent influences working away within the band’s mix. What marks Ha Det Bra out is the blending of these familiar elements into a unique vision, one that doesn’t just pay homage to others.
The band enthusiastically embrace the early-to-mid Nineties’ various currents of guitar extremity. Norwegian Black Metal is a presence on ‘Hospital St Grail’ while the tongue-in-cheek ‘Merry Christmas and Lots of Ho Ho Hos’ echoes some of the vocal and guitar tics seen in Emperor. By contrast, ‘Burn the Maid’ and ‘The Song My Dad Taught Me’ seize on Shellac’s metallic guitar buzz as their base. ‘Preacherman’ even opens with a scraping electronic whine that calls to mind Nine Inch Nails’ ‘the Downward Spiral.’ This isn’t a tribute act, however. Ha Det Bra use these raw materials – detuned guitars, treated vocals, buzzsaw rhythms and sudden lurching stop-start moments – imaginatively to create songs with heft, with fire, with regular surprises. These guys would have done well on some of the noisier U.S. labels of the era – damn the U.S./U.K. versus Rest of World music industry divide. [NS]
Sinking As A Stone has Israeli shoegazers Vadaat Charigim (Burger Records, 25th September) at the mid-way point of their ‘Tel Aviv Trilogy’. The use of Hebrew adds to the overall mystery, asking most listeners to simply slip into their sonic dead sea, close their eyes and dream. The obvious genre touchstones are here, although there’s a more muscular Interpol-style (there’s that name again) weight to the rhythm section that sustains attention. The album perhaps lacks a stand out, a ‘single’ to garner airplay and extend reach (‘Hadavar Haamiti’ comes closest) but is a satisfying and steady listen nonetheless. [DB]
For those who find Savages too studied, too cold (and therefore hard to truly love), fellow Londoners Desperate Journalist share a Brit indie c. 1984 template but do so in a more generous manner. The positive reception to this year’s debut album gives the Good Luck EP (Fierce Panda, 2nd October) a confident air. No mere stop-gap – not least in Jo Bevan’s willingness to open her lungs and sing (really sing) – there is promise here in spades.
The expectation-defying title is tightly wound (“You don’t get a pass just because you care”), but the rhythm section crashes back in for ‘Leave Home’, its Bernard Butler-esque guitar solo an indication of their lean provenance, unwilling to settle for anything less. The urgent pulses of ‘Paint Something’ are like a slogan daubed on a billboard: brash; impossible to ignore and, above all, a declaration that Desperate Journalist are in your midst. The world will listen. [DB]