On each of their three records up until this point, Norfolk-based rock band Deaf Havana have made slight adjustments to their sound. The early post-hardcore stylings that appeared on their 2009 debut, Meet Me Halfway, At Least, were moved aside to make way for a more power pop-orientated sound on 2011’s Fools and Worthless Liars, which nonetheless retained a distinct emo vibe to it. Deaf Havana’s last album, Old Souls, saw the band move towards a more classic style of rock music, with artists like Bruce Springsteen (with whom they toured in promotion of this record) clearly inspiring this new sound. Based on this trend, I assumed that their fourth album would also see a slight change to the band’s sound and, indeed, it does. All These Countless Nights comes nearly three and a half years after the five-piece’s previous studio effort and sees a continued trend towards a very conventional alternative rock sound that Deaf Havana seemed to have been alluding to since the very beginning. One of the salient things that seemed to tie all the group’s albums together was their solid foundation in conventional alternative rock. Unfortunately, one of the other trends across the band’s albums was how generic their sound always was. It seemed that, regardless of their stylistic influences, Deaf Havana’s music always came off as rudimentary for the most part, making them blend in with other similar English alternative rock acts like Lower Than Atlantis and We Are the Ocean. The Deaf Havana conveyed on all of their previous records lacked a fully-formed sound, so their continuous changing of styles has felt more like the band awkwardly scratching around for a definitive musical identity rather than them consciously attempting to evolve their already-established sound. As I worried, this tendency somewhat carries onto All These Countless Nights, however this album does come off as the band’s most focussed and mature record yet, with a high level of production value and with the band going in a much clearer direction . Then again, that’s not to say it doesn’t have its uneventful and unmemorable moments.
All These Countless Nights gets off to a relatively strong start with the song Ashes, Ashes. Despite the song being structured in an incredibly predictable way, it nonetheless features some of the best performances from the band on the album. The soft, acoustic-driven introductory verse pays off well when the whole band enter, making frontman James Veck-Gilodi’s voice sound all the more forceful, with his vocal performance on this track being one of the most memorable on the album. Following the initial outburst from the entire band is a pretty piano line that is worked into the mix very well and gives the song enough personality for it to stand out amongst the other tracks here. There are some nice guitar melodies subtly worked into the song’s louder passages that go over rather well too. Whilst the predictability of this track doesn’t have me dying to replay it once it finishes, it gives a good first impression for Deaf Havana’s new approach on their latest record. The second song, Trigger, is successful in certain regards for similar reasons to its predecessor, in that the simple formula is adhered to quite well, with some interesting ideas conveyed, such as the almost funky syncopated drumming during the verse that complements the transition into the chorus nicely. Both these tracks also highlight that the production on All These Countless Nights feels like a step up from the band’s previous material, with all the instruments sounding very well-balanced in the mix, whilst the rich guitar and bass tones are preserved very well. The drums are also given some special treatment in production on the next track, L.O.V.E., which opens with a simple but sweet drumbeat that has a very large and spacious sound to it, which provides a good first impression for a track that is otherwise rather by the book in light of the previous two tracks. Lead guitarist Matthew Veck-Gilodi does, however, come through with his most memorable guitar solo on the album, which works as a fitting bridge for the song, before it descends into the drawn-out instrumental section at the end that feels more like filler than it feels pertinent to the record’s development in any way. Ultimately, on All These Countless Nights, Deaf Havana demonstrate that, whilst their compositions will always adhere very strictly to the band’s usual alternative rock formula, they can bring some interesting ideas to the table that make them stand out somewhat from their competition.
Unfortunately, there is a significant amount of material on this new record that suffers from the uneventfulness of much of Deaf Havana’s previous work. Happiness, for instance, is about as run-of-the-mill as an acoustic alternative rock song could get, resulting in one of the most unmemorable experiences on the album. The simple chord progression that provides for the foundation of this track isn’t really built on in any interesting manner, rather the song runs the exact course that the listener could have predicted from the very beginning, resorting to many of the same clichés that one would expect as well. Despite its intriguing title, Pensacola, 2013 fulfils the trite role of the closing track for an album of this vein, and suffers from the same predictability issues as Happiness, along with one of James’ least interesting vocal performances on the album. There are a handful of tracks on All These Countless Nights, particularly towards the backend of the album, that suffer from more or less the exact same issues, with Seattle and St. Paul’s coming to mind instantly, to the point that I feel like dissecting these tracks in any precise amount of detail would lead me to simply repeat what I have already said about the other more forgettable tracks on the record.
All things considered, whilst All These Countless Nights is most definitely a mixed release for Deaf Havana, it does at least allude to better things for the band in a way that their previous albums have failed to do. It would, of course, be ludicrous to ever expect anything revolutionary or boundary-breaking from the group, but the better tracks on this new release show that further maturation is possible, and that they are able to stay true to their formula whilst giving their music enough character to leave an impression on the listener. The better songs on here, such as the first two cuts as well as England and Sing later in the tracklisting, display that the band are developing an ability to come through with some interesting ideas conveyed in memorable songs that nevertheless don’t deviate from what can be expected from the band. The weaker tracks tend to fail because they convey absolutely nothing that cannot already be expected from Deaf Havana or other bands working within a similar idiom, making these songs forgettable at best and completely lifeless at worst. Nonetheless, All These Countless Nights, whilst flawed, demonstrates that Deaf Havana can further their sound in order to finally stand apart from their competition and produce an album that succeeds due to a distinct musical identity that the group have yet failed to fully grasp.
The Vinyl Verdict: 5.5/10