Deaf Havana – Rituals

What do you expect from a new Deaf Havana album? Because whatever that might be, ‘Rituals’ most certainly isn’t it.
Label: SO Recordings
Released: 3rd August 2018
Rating: ★★★★

If there are marks to be had for evading expectation, then Deaf Havana are aiming for the jackpot.

Previously, the five-piece have concerned themselves with enjoyably honest rock – the kind of stuff you could build firm foundations upon. It was a recipe that had borne fruit, too, with albums in the higher reaches of charts at points where such things felt far more relevant than they might today. And yet, with their latest full-length, they’ve ripped up their rule book for what came before, and started afresh.

It’s a move that could play out two ways, but rather than a desperate grasp for success, ‘Rituals’ sounds more like a band striving to rediscover their own voice. Reinvigorated, on first listen it’s jarring almost to the point of distraction, but on repeated airings, it makes perfect sense. Why travel down roads so familiar they no longer inspire if something altogether more colourful and exciting is calling?

With that in mind, Deaf Havana are simply being true to themselves, and in the most glorious way possible. Five years ago, a rock band wouldn’t be able to hang a left into mainstream friendly alt-pop without nervous glances and whispers of selling out. Now, in a post-Paramore world, it’s actively encouraged.

As ‘Sinner’ pulses with raw adrenaline, its lyrics juxtapose perfectly. It’s that ‘dancing on the outside, crying on the inside’ aesthetic again, and it works. But, crucially, it’s not the only trick up Deaf Havana’s tropical sleeves. They haven’t completely given up the ghost on the harder side of their personality. ‘Hell’ bridges the gap perfectly, thumping at the doors and demanding an audience, while ‘Fear’ audibly throbs, its dark heart running at bursting point.

We see pushing the boundaries as being obtuse, difficult even – trying things nobody has done before – but that’s not the only way to stretch the limits. In heading in the least expected direction, Deaf Havana are challenging everything we thought we knew. They’ve never sounded more alive.

Stephen Ackroyd

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