On their last album, Deaf Havana reminded us just why we loved them. 'All These Countless Nights' was a sturdy return to form, rooted in big riffs and James Veck-Gilodi's underrated vocal chops. Barely a year later, 'Rituals' shows the band are both hungry for more and wary of losing their forward momentum.
At their core has often been a tension between delivering reliable rock songs and making music that truly interests and inspires them. Where they spread their wings on 'Old Souls', some songs felt overproduced or underwritten.
Having thrown out their own rulebook, 'Rituals' sees them ditch emo-rock for indie-pop in what is a startling move on first listen. Fans of CHVRCHES and the 1975 will recognise some of the synth sounds and vocal effects on show, which are ably deployed across this record, even if James' characteristic songwriting doesn't always feel like the most natural fit.
There's an increased emphasis on atmospherics and effects, while Staccato indie guitars replace the heavy Placebo riffage of ATCN. 'Heaven' features a gospel choir, breakdown section which works well and is gone too soon.
While you can tell the band are having fun experimenting with new possibilities, 'Holy' and 'Saviour' benefit from straddling the Rock and indie divide. 'Pure' packs a punch with its fuzzy bass line and giddy chorus, with the backing vocalists performing a confident pastiche of 'The Sound'.
'Rituals' is well produced and assuredly performed, but there's a disconnect between this blend of indie pop and Veck Gilodi's most successful songwriting sensibilities. Despite its flaws, it's hard to begrudge Deaf Havana for testing their limits having come through a rough few years stronger than ever.