Deafheaven once again finds beauty in the darkness

Adam Graham
The Detroit News
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Deafheaven’s 2013 album, “Sunbather,” took black metal sonics and positioned them against shoegaze-style dreaminess, a potent combination that yielded one of the decade’s most intense, emotional listening experiences.

The San Francisco outfit returned this month with its follow-up, “New Bermuda.” The new album keeps the “Sunbather” formula intact, but pushes it to extremes: Its heavy moments are darker, its spacious moments more elegant, and once again, the band mines beauty from the pits of despair.

The tour behind the new album, which hits the Shelter in Detroit Saturday night, gives the group — lead singer George Clarke, guitarist-songwriter Kerry McCoy, guitarist Shiv Mehra, bassist Stephen Clark and drummer Daniel Tracy — a chance to switch things up after the long and grinding tour behind “Sunbather,” which found them playing the album front-to-back on a nightly basis.

“It’s been so long since we’ve gotten to play new material and not do the same set over and over, so we will be taking advantage of it,” says lead singer George Clarke, on the phone earlier this month prior to the tour’s kickoff in San Diego. “Lots of ‘New Bermuda,’ but ‘Sunbather,’ as well, and it will be a nice mixed bag.”

“New Bermuda” was written in bits and pieces over the past few years and started coming together in November 2014, with recording taking place over 11 days in April. Unlike “Sunbather” (and Deafheaven’s 2011 debut album, “Roads to Judah”), “New Bermuda” was written as a full band, not just between Clarke and McCoy.

The five-song, 47-minute album starts off heavy with “Brought to the Water,” mellows a bit in the middle with “Baby Blue” and ends with “Gifts for the Earth,” which sort of tucks listeners in after the long, rocky night. There are peaks and valleys in between, but the pace and flow of the album is very deliberate.

“Sequencing is definitely very important,” says Clarke, 26. “The songs get written first, and then we kind of discuss how we want the pace of the album to go, what we feel listeners should first be introduced to and what they should end with. It’s just being aware of the flow and how you want people to experience it.”

It is designed to be listened to as a whole, not broken up into singles or shuffled around.

“When we write an album, we are writing an album; it is intended to be listened to in full,” Clarke says. “I think you don’t get that a lot these days. There are certain bands that hold to that ideal, and that’s cool, but we live in a world of singles and that just comes with the territory. But for us, we’ve always been an album band.”

After the music is written, Clarke adds his vocals, which come across in piercing screams that are unintelligible without written lyrics in hand. Overall, the lyrics deal with the depression he felt over his move to Los Angeles and his shift toward a more domestic life; “my world closes its eyes to sex and laughter,” he repeats at the close of “Brought to the Water”; “sitting quietly in scorching reimagined suburbia” he wails during “Luna.”

But it’s not all bad news. Clarke says touring is the most fun job you can have, and he loves playing for friends and fans around the country and around the world.

“We’re still as nervous and still as confident and still as excited as we ever were. We’re an array of emotions,” he says. “We like to go out, work hard, tour a lot and really prove our worth.”

And on Saturday, Deafheaven just so happens to be sharing a building with the Insane Clown Posse, who will be holding the afterparty to their annual Hallowicked concert upstairs at Saint Andrew’s Hall.

“I think I’m more excited about that,” Clarke says. “People should come see our show and then hurry upstairs and check out the festivities, I think that’s what we’ll be doing. I am excited to experience it, and I’m sure it will be really over the top, which is always really good for Halloween.”



with Envy and Tribulation

8:30 p.m. Saturday

The Shelter, 431 E. Congress, Detroit

Tickets $20

(313) 961-6923 or

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