sChurch bells chiming marks the start of Deafheaven’s service at Saint Luke’s, what follows in the next is hour is a solid blast of death-gaze from the five-piece band.
Their mix of post rock/shoegaze/metal with death metal vocals has seen them receive a torrent of abuse throughout their career from those who see them as Interpol trying to play death metal, tonight though they are preaching to the converted.
The music itself is made of the ingredients of blast beats, (classic metal) riffs, solos, incredibly melodic passages, samples of atmosphere/noise and of course death growls.
If anything it is another variation of the quiet/LOUD dynamic that has been a staple device used in alternative music for the last 35-odd years.
Deafheaven is producing an extreme example of it, going beyond amplitude and choosing to have two contrasting genres as their parameters.
Frontman George Clarke has grown out his neat haircut into what looks like straggly dreads (don’t worry they aren’t dreads), this, along with his animated unblinking facial expressions, oddly reminds one of Weird Al Yankovic.
The combination of gestures from violent whips of his arm to pinpoint accurate finger twitches that sync up to the rest of the band, conducts the music and focuses the audience’s attention through an exhibition of material from their three albums.
The band open the set by playing three out of five New Bermuda tracks, ‘Brought to the Water’, ‘Baby Blue’ and ‘Comeback’, all tunes around the ten-minute mark or near to it.
The contrast between fast thick riffs and melodic picked guitar sections are perfectly in proportion, and even with the sampler issues tonight the subtle texture of the songs are not lost.
At the midpoint, Clarke acknowledges Glasgow and states how it is fitting to play the following track; the band then air Mogwai’s ‘Cody’.
At times it looks worryingly like Clarke is going to sing in the traditional sense, he moves and caresses the microphone the way a crooner would and just when it looks like he is most likely to sing a note, he pushes the mic to an arm’s length with the palm of his hand, like he is afraid of giving away that side of himself.
That being said, the most engaging moment is an acoustic one, coming in the form of when the screams are bellowed out without the aid of the P.A. as Clarke physically pulls the crowd forward, grabbing individuals by their outstretched hands.
The final act of the set is peppered with Sunbather tracks such as ‘Dream House’.
Before the closing track, we are informed there will be no encores because they are bullshit; and no more bullshit after the set either.
Metal is often, sometimes rightly, still commented on for its lack of growth and narrow mindedness.
Deafheaven’s choice of label, Anti, home of Tom Waits, Wilco and the likes is decidedly unmetal and firmly in the established alternative (indie) realm.
This and the Pitchfork This Is How We Do It Podcast with Clarke, which I highly recommend you listen to, show that there is much more to Deafheaven than a screamer that goes quiet every song.
This emotive swaying between extremes, the stand off aggression and the pulling people closer, empowering the listener with that of a culture without asking them to conform to the regulations and traditions of it.
And this is confirmed as everyone leaves forgetting tags, all carrying with them respect of a commanding band bringing sectors of audiences together.
Words: Paul Choi
Photos: Stewart Fullerton