Meet Me Halfway at Least to Rituals; The Musical Evolution of Deaf Havana

I wrote before about how Deaf Havana in their last album All These Countless Nights seemed to be moving into a new direction tonally, experimenting with what they could, effectively, get away with. Just the other day, they released their new single ‘Sinner’ from their newest upcoming album. Sinner lets us sink our teeth into the anticipation of the new ‘Deaf Havana’ which from what James Veck-Gilodi seems to be suggesting, and how Sinner sounds is more the same old Deaf Havana but reinvented. So, to celebrate the new release and courage that comes with it, let’s talk about their musical evolution and my predictions for the new album!

Going all the way back to 2009 (I was 14!!) with their debut album Meet Me Halfway At Least, the musical style they employed is the furthest away from their current style. It was a loud post-hardcore, emo, very British sounding rock album that epitomized a lot of the music that was around and successful in 2009, especially in the United Kingdom. Oddly enough, it is a sound that really reminds me of very specifically both Essex and Norfolk (the band, itself, was formed in Kings Lynn). There was a lot of bands and musicians from Essex and Norfolk trying to make a name for themselves in this musical scene, and sadly some struggled to make the cut, with such a saturation of similar bands. Yet Deaf Havana managed to be a part of this group, but bring something a little different and special to them; there was more of a folk essence to it, a nostalgia as opposed to a vengefulness that was present in others music. It was a strong debut album, that cemented their entrance into the industry with Friends Like These and Nicotine and Alcohol Saved My Life becoming popular and relatable hits in their own right.

Just two years later, Deaf Havana was risking their popularity (as they are now) in order to create the music they loved and to bring something different to the scene. 2011 brought Fools and Worthless Liars, which at least, for me as a long time fan, is the album I associate and relate to most of all throughout their career so far. It was a phenomenal and honest collection of mostly cynical, but nostalgic songs that chronicled the lives of these musicians who were leaving their teens and feeling the effects of an eventful life so far. It was a much softer album, swapping the screamo and searing guitar, for more of a raw sound with a calmer, in parts defeated, array of acoustic guitar and slower vocals. The lyrics are gripping and painful and always poetic, something that has always set Deaf Havan apart. Songs like Hunstanton Pier and Anemophobia still show a raspy, determined tone to them, with James’ vocal power really showing itself in the choruses. The line in Anemophobia, lead with James’ impressive ability to carry emotion with his voice, “I haven’t felt so fucking drained. I need a break” is one that really connects and hurts. This moderation between the ‘softer’ moment and the harsher, rockier sounds allowed them to reach an audience wider than many others and is again part of their appeal. The alternate album they released which changed the tone of the songs on FAWL to create a new way of listening to them allowed us to see how regardless of the genre/approach the lyricism in their songs really carried the power.

With this in mind, we can really see the most important part of how Deaf Havana’s music has evolved. After their first reinvention from MMHAL to FAWL, they then kept a similar sound for the 2013 album Lost Souls, leading to another admirable collection of tracks that really attempts to connect with people in pain and who need to feel less alone. Everybody Is Dancing and I Want to Die and Mildred hold an interesting trick which is to present the usual, downbeat but relatable lyrics with a more upbeat, and contradictory instrumental, that changes the reception. Whereas Speeding Cars and Caro Padre are more upsetting, ballad-like tracks that again give a good balance to the album.

As I said before and in my previous Deaf Havana post, their last album All These Countless Nights brought another change, but mid-evolution, if you like. There was a tonal difference that seemed to edge towards a poppier genre but, as always, with the same lyrics that really define who Deaf Havana are as a band. So, in that case, now that Sinner is out, what can we expect from Rituals?

Well, something really exciting, if you ask me. If you look at Sinner, while some of the other reviews and article like to say that it’s practically impossible to know its Deaf Havana, it’s still undeniably them. As James has mentioned in his Instagram “if you are a fan of my songwriting and lyrics then you will be on board.” and sure enough I am, the lyrics are just as relatable, and he isn’t afraid to ditch sentimentality for honesty. The instrumental itself and the vocal effects used, however, are what change the style so much, and honestly, I love it. Some fans may be a little disheartened by how much of a change it is from FAWL and MMHAL, but this new direction, which seems almost like a push more towards the ‘alternative’ scene, with a 1975 vibe to Sinner, especially.

The promotional photos so far are more colourful, there is more of an indie aesthetic to it, as if someone took all the templates for post-hardcore rock photos and splashed some vibrancy onto them all. The track list has short, snappy and again cynical sounding songs that make me feel like they really are being true to their natural lyricism but experimenting with a brighter, more commercial sound.

Either way, I’m excited and have grabbed my pre-order. Get yours and let me know your predictions!


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