Deaf Havana - All These Countless Nights
by Ben Leslie
Deaf Havana are back from the brink with a fourth studio album, entitled All These Countless Nights, and it’s certainly worth a listen. Around two years ago I saw the band touring their third album, Old Souls, and whilst the music and atmosphere were electric, a spark was missing from them. In the years after Old Souls the band struggled financially and during early 2014 it reached a point where they were simply playing shows to pay off their collective debts. During the gig, front-man James Veck-Gilodi opened up about his battle with depression and alcoholism to the crowd, and whilst his thanks and deep gratitude to the fans was telling, it was also apparent that this could be the end of Deaf Havana. However, 2017 sees the remarkable return to form from the band, with a new record label and a brand new album, it is an exciting time for the quintet.
The five piece brit-rock outfit formed 11 years ago and spent most of their early years on the fringes of the British rock scene, playing to what they called an “emo-y-fan-base”. Their sound was comparable to Lower Than Atlantis, or early You Me At Six, but their third album, Old Souls, saw a change of pace. With James Veck-Gilodi taking over the lead vocal, the album saw the band hone in on their sound, earning them a spot in the centre of the British rock scene, and catapulting the band into the UK Top 10 Albums chart.
All These Countless Nights sees a slight change in direction once again from the band, as they move away from the Springsteen-style of their previous album to a set of songs that strike a balance between pumping basslines, fast-paced guitar riffs and heartfelt lyrics. It is perhaps their most eclectic album yet, with a range of more stripped back tracks mixed with certainly some of their heavier numbers. My personal favourite, St. Pauls, still has that essence of Springsteen, with fingerpicking guitar sections and poetic lyrics, it is one of the catchiest tracks. Happiness is also a slower, more raw track, although perhaps can be seen as more of an album-filler before the record picks up the pace again with Fever, full of overdrive guitar and bass. L.O.V.E and Sing are both of a similar style, with trademark huge choruses they are closer to the sound of their second album, Fools and Worthless Liars. The opening guitar lick to Sing has a certain Black Keys essence to it, and this vibe is heard again in Trigger with a relentless bassline punctuated with drums and electric guitar.
Pretty Low is a deeply personal song about the struggles inside Veck-Gilodi’s head, as he sings, “I’ve grown to hate myself some days” and, “I’ve got myself to blame” before the track divulges into an enticing guitar solo. This window into his life allows a connection between artist and listener that is sometimes hard to achieve. Like A Ghost also nods to James’ battle with alcoholism, as the track opens with the words, “I can’t speak, cos’ I’ve been deep inside this bottle now for weeks”, before the mixing of reverb guitar and incessant drums builds to the chorus.
Ever since their early music I have always loved the lyrics that James V-G writes, and I believe it is one of the factors that makes them stand above the fellow bands in their genre. Veck-Gilodi has an incredibly direct way of conveying stories very close to his own heart, and his straightforward style of rarely hiding anything in simile or metaphor means that the audience can connect on a deeper level with the songs.
However, after 11 years as a band a certain maturity is expected and it feels as though the band are still unsure of their sound. Whilst they have certainly come a long way from their debut release, there is still a rift between their arena-sized anthems and what sound like album fillers. For a fourth album they lack a definitive direction, and that illusive hit single that stands out from the other tracks is still missing. I fell in love with Old Souls four years ago, and so I think it was a hard ask for Deaf Havana to top that, but despite this they have still created an album here that contains moments of brilliance, and it demands a listen at least once through.