After bassist Lee Wilson and drummer Tom Ogden decided to leave the band back in 2021, brothers James and Matthew Veck-Gilodi prove that the magic of Deaf Havana is far from through with their latest album. We have seen the band progress from abrasive post-hardcore, alternative rock, and to edgy pop-punk, but this record seems to combine all eras resulting in an album that can be justifiably described as a creative masterpiece. Teasing us with their EP ‘Nevermind’ earlier this year, featuring tracks from their new album ‘The Present is a Foreign Land’, we knew well before the full-length release that we were in for a real treat.
The EP’s title track, ‘Nevermind’, exudes moodiness and self-reflectivity with piercingly poignant lyrics accompanied by raw vocals focusing on, in James Veck-Gilodi’s words, “the lowest point” of his life. ‘The Wire’, on the other hand, is conspicuously reminiscent of the earlier, old-school Deaf Havana. There’s no doubt it will be a firm favourite on the band’s upcoming UK tour in November and the song features themes of determination and stark honesty. The tracks uplifting and anthemic accompaniment anticipates an electric live response but the brothers don’t limit themselves to their old, familiar sound. Focusing on addiction and the effect that can have on loved ones, ‘Going Clear’ incorporates the bands characteristically vulnerable lyrics with a new, almost poppy, sound.
Deaf Havana certainly didn’t let the EP steal the show from the main album. As a whole, ‘The Present is a Foreign Land’, is a strikingly self-conscious album which is contemplative in its wording but upbeat in its dynamic melodies. The opening song ‘Pocari Sweat’ gives a glimpse into the dejection the band faced after the release of ‘Rituals’ four years previously through the lyrics: “How the hell can I come back from this?’. Following ‘Pocari Sweat’, the listener is immediately thrown into ’19Dreams’ which, although painfully nostalgic, offers a new sense of hope and direction, and is possibly the band’s most heady track on the album.
That being said, the highlight of the album has to be the title track as it perfectly encapsulates the essence of Deaf Havana. Incorporating a synth intro and hooking guitar riffs, as well as the emotional vulnerability characteristic of the album, this song is set to be a clear favourite amongst fans. It is positioned in contrast with the slower, more introspective, songs before it, and is a perfect reminder of the reasons we know and love the band.
Perhaps this sense of pride derives from the distinct lyrical transparency and honesty of the vocals but ‘The Present is a Foreign Land’ is without a doubt the markings of a new era for Deaf Havana. One with the prevailing message being the sentiment that things can get better. The album represents rebirth, both physical and emotionally, and the inarguable vulnerability renders the album real.
The listener is invited into a behind-the-scenes world that details the band’s experiences over the last few years featuring mental health challenges, alcoholism, relationships and, of course, the struggles surrounding the breakdown and near-split of the band itself. They share the highs, lows, pain, challenges, and newfound hope experienced by the band in recent years, joining them in a tumultuous journey through the ever-changing industry as well as navigating personal struggles. It is an album deeply reminiscent and nostalgic of the early days of Deaf Havana as the brothers return to their alternative pop-rock roots after an album which hadn’t quite hit the mark with fans and critics alike. The Veck-Gilodi brothers prove that Deaf Havana are back, and they’re back with a bang.