It’s hard to believe it’s been more than three years since Deaf Havana released ‘Old Souls’. Having owned the NME Stage at Reading and secured support slots with Muse and Springsteen, the stage was set for the East Coast rockers to step up to rock’s A-list. As it turned out, behind the scenes problems with management and finances resulted in the band nearly calling it quits in 2014.
But, despite the departure of guitarist Chris Pennells, the remaining five-piece stuck at it after lead singer James Veck-Gilodi hit a streak of inspiration. The result is ‘All These Countless Nights’, a blistering return that sees Deaf Havana marry the heavier sound of early records with the more considered songwriting of ‘Old Souls’.
That album occasionally suffered from fitting crowded arrangements (the band experimenting with strings, 12-string guitars and mandolins) into what felt like narrow mixes (producer Youth is prone to this). ‘All These Countless Nights’ could have you fooled with the acoustic intro, but when ‘Ashes, Ashes’ kicks in it’s clear that Deaf Havana are back to their hard-rocking best, with the Veck-Gilodi brothers’ impassioned vocals to the fore.
But there’s room for range and invention. The midsection of ‘Pretty Low’ features a demonic guitar interlude before abruptly returning to the more morose lilt of the chorus. The boys have clearly had time to fiddle with their effects pedals because there are some tremendous riffs and tricks on show here.
‘All These Countless Nights’ is three years of personal and professional frustration bottled up, shaken and spat back out over 12 urgent tracks. Veck-Gilodi’s lyrics are autobiographical as ever, but the trials and tribulations he describes are so universal that it’s rare for him to stray from relatability.
After the euphoria of forward-looking rock-banger ‘SING’, it’d be unlike Deaf Havana to send us out on a positive note. ‘Pensacola 2013’ finds Veck-Gilodi grappling with his legacy (“I wonder if my name is still written on the wall”) over squalling guitars, but if he can continue to write songs this good, he needn’t worry about being forgotten any time soon.