Deafheaven – Live @ Musik & Frieden Berlin
aaamusic | On 04, Apr 2016
Thursday 24th March, Berlin
Hipster Metal, Emo Black Metal and, my new favourite, Backgaze… these are just three of the derogatory terms whipped up by supposed metal ‘purists’ to demean the critically adored sound of California’s Deafheaven. Yes, the band fuse black metal and post-rock to make a kind of brilliantly melodic, pristine-sounding post-metal, but it’s not really the music that has the metal community up in arms…
…I mean, there were other bands who utilised these same elements before Deafheaven, but they were called PROGRESSIVE, not Emo. Anyway, it’s not about the blend of styles, it’s about the reception Deafheaven have had from outside the metal community: in the same way 2013’s Sunbather sonically escaped the shackles of heavy metal to wander freely through alternative rock, it also found audiences outside of metal, especially in indie and alternative rock circles. That’s the issue: the accessibility of the band. In truth, Deafheaven’s music ain’t exactly ‘pop-laced metal’, as some have described, but melodically-aware extreme metal, much like most of post-metal (and a lot of progressive death metal). The screamed vocals are very metal, perhaps only also accessible to fans of post-hardcore, and the blast beat drumming is far too intense for any metal-phobic indie kids. Instead, Deafheaven are a band of musicians who casually refused to identify with one genre or scene (they have publicly stated that they don’t consider themselves a black metal band), and who’ve made an album for people who don’t just listen to one type of music; people who listen to a spectrum of genres, including indie, alternative rock and metal, like myself!
WHAT? YOU’RE BORED OF ALL THIS TALK ABOUT CLASSIFICATION AND SCENES? YOU WANT TO KNOW HOW THE ACTUAL GIG WAS? Ohhh kaaaay. It was excellent, obviously! Deafheaven performed the entirety of their 2015 masterpiece New Bermuda (a heavier, more progressive album than Sunbather – and all the better for it) from start to finish, before returning for an encore of the two best cuts from Sunbather, the title track and ‘Dream House’.
The guitar sound was perfect, with the melodic passages creating just as much haunting melancholy as on record, especially during the outro of ‘Come Black’ (perhaps the sweetest guitar line to ever grace a metal album), and the riffs remained crisp and clear during the intense extreme metal segments, but allowed for sufficient distortion during the post-rock crescendos (‘Luna’ being a prime example). Main set-closer ‘Gifts Of The Earth’ featured a slower tempo and was the only track that perhaps sounded closer to post-hardcore than metal, especially during the verses, and the dream-like alt-rock outro was not only a fitting way to move into the encore break, but sequenced perfectly into the more ethereal Sunbather material that followed.
The only slight negative was the volume of George Clarke’s vocals, which were too often drowned out by the wall-of-noise metal coming from his bandmates. But he remained the focal point throughout, carrying the charisma of a rock star, constantly beaming an intense, nearly unhinged star at the crowd; snarling and screaming his lungs out. An epic show by and epic band. Long live Blackgaze.