With so many changes, Deaf Havana could easily be described as the musical equivalent of a pop-up shop. While the shop may always stay in the same location, it’s perceptible to completely dramatic content changes within its interior.
Deaf Havana, situating themselves somewhere within the alternative genre, have taken in influences from folk, hardcore, pop, and electronica which have been known to occupy the space within their sound in various and inconsistent quantities and extremities in their now 13-year-long career.
As they go again on ‘Rituals’, the band’s fifth full-length studio release, the Norfolk based chameleons change up their sound yet again.
The record sees the five-piece take a huge leap of faith, transitioning from what was once a heavy-hitting hardcore band many years ago to now delving deep into a daring dose of arena-synth pop-rock. Amid the one-word religiously-themed titles and lyrical imagery painted by the dreamily smooth vocals of James Veck-Gilodi, we’re taken across a journey of broken-heartedness and self-confession.
Getting started with a brief gospel intro of ‘Worship’ before blasting into quadruplet gloss-pop singles of the album’s title-track, ‘Sinner’, ‘Hell’, ‘Holy’ where darker themes of giving in, letting go, regret and confession coat the sugar-sweet, light-bite melodies beneath.
Later on, there’s a few slight misfires with tracks like ‘Fear’, which has a pretty forgettable chorus capitalised by the line “I treat your love like it’s a drug / ’cause I’m addicted to the rush.”
‘Heaven’ also doesn’t really stand out following on from the emphatic one-two of ‘Pure’ and ‘Evil’, with the former being a track that’s a real flashpoint of this album, harking back to a more ‘All These Countless Nights’ era sound.
Ending on the bitter notes of ‘Epiphany’, James Veck-Gilodi is at his most venerable, bearing all of his regrets and desperation for normality as we’re left with the scarily echoing line of “I know at times you wanted to kill me / Let me save you the trouble, you feel me.”
While it may not please everyone, at its most daring ‘Rituals’ is a truly open, cathartic piece of work that showcases James Veck-Gilodi as the personally-troubled frontman capable of writing some pop-rock anthems. At other times, however, it’s over-sheened, tacky radio-friendliness is a tad overkill.
Yet, if anything, ‘Rituals’ goes to show that Deaf Havana can dip in and out of a plethora of genres and still produce quality.