Deaf Havana is an English alternative rock band from Hunstanton and King’s Lynn in Norfolk. One could argue that they were an alternative rock band. Rituals, their latest album, finds the originally post-hardcore to alt. rock outfit putting out songs that resonate with the work of the ever-iconic band – The 1975. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. Front man, James Veck-Gilodi manages to soak the otherwise poppy tracks on the album with the same emotional and arguably dark lyrics that older fans are used to. Even so, some hold-true fans might be sitting around wondering if Matty Healy is going to jump in on some songs and start singing about chocolate and exes. It’s definitely a lot like I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It.
Rituals is a concept record of sorts. With religious undertones throughout, the album has a flow to it. With the album opening with the wispy “Wake” and blasting into “Sinner,” it has quite the poppy beginnings. Instrumentally, right out the door, it sounds like a solid mix of Ed Sheeran, The 1975, and Vinyl Theatre – all successful bands. It departs from the band’s heavier and arguably more unpolished discography. Still, Veck-Gilodi throws in those rough self-deprecating lyrics that any heartbroken individual probably enjoyed hearing on Fools and Worthless Liars and Old Souls. The question is: does it work? One could say, “No, it really doesn’t” on some tracks, yet others are great.
Going into this record, a fan of Deaf Havana’s heavier and more rock-like past, might want to just not bother with the album after hearing the electronic-heavy “Sinner.” “Ritual,” on the other hand, manages to somewhat return to the band’s more emotional undertones, especially at the beginning. It echoes of the band’s earlier work while incorporating new elements. It is a pleasant track with a bridge that will hook an old fan back in. That is only if they get past the first two tracks, though.
“Hell” and “Holy” unlike “Ritual” do not seem to work up to their full potential. The electronic components are almost cliché, and they water down Veck-Gilodi’s otherwise nicely brutal lyricism. Then, there is “Saviour,” which just sounds like an Ed Sheeran track. There is a balance that is not being struck correctly by the band. It seems as if they are trying to find themselves on these songs, yet they seem to miss the target. This can be heard throughout the album. In a way, it almost makes the record feel more like an internal struggle to find a distinctive sound – something any fan of Veck-Gilodi’s already knows about if they have stuck with him since the band’s beginnings.
On the plus side, a listener will most likely be hooked back into the album when track seven, “Fear” comes in. With a heartfelt beginning, it strikes a balance between the band’s new instrumentals and past sound. It is a bit of a repetitive track, but it manages to stand out more than others on the album. The same could be argued of “Pure” – probably the most balanced track in terms of finding a new and original sound. The whispering vocals toward the end make for a distinctive track – something that seems to be more prominent on the band’s earlier and raw discography.
“Evil” echoes “Pure” with its lines of pure evil. Veck-Gilodi’s vocals definitely break through more on this track. The pop instrumentals are toned down, and it nicely fades in and out. Then “Heaven” happens. “Heaven” sounds like a 1975-influenced track, which that might be great to some listeners. Sadly, it is not a stand out track, though. The choir, which is also found on “Sinner,” does not feel right with Veck-Gilodi’s cathartic vocals. It honestly just takes away the comforting catharsis that Deaf Havana has provided to its listeners for so long.
The record closes with “Worship,” “Saint,” and “Epiphany.” These tracks nicely top off the album with memorable choruses and a breakaway from sounding a little too much like The 1975. “Saint” echoes the sounds of Fools and Worthless Liars, and there is a rawness on the track that seems to be missing from some earlier tracks. There is an almost comforting tone when Veck-Gilodi sings out, “We live the same; we die the same way.” The record then closes with a declaration on “Epiphany” – one listeners might not have been expecting from the pop-laden album. The album closes with Veck-Gilodi singing, “I know at times you wanted to kill me / Let me save you the trouble, you feel me.”
All in all, Rituals, one could argue, is an attempt at Deaf Havana trying to find more positivity in the dark. Even so, their darkness is what made their songs relatable to listeners in the past. Artists deserve a change, though. Rituals is worthy of a listen; it is just a change from what fans might have been expecting from a band with an unpolished, rough, and more rock- laced past. Hopefully, as time goes on, Deaf Havana finds their distinctive place in the music industry because Veck-Gilodi certainly is a remarkable lyricist and the band deserves a following.
Favorite Tracks: “Pure,” “Saint,” and “Epiphany”
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