Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Deafheaven's foggy black metal frenzy casts a spell over Nashville

By the time Deafheaven arrived for their gig at The End, the venue was already packed to the rafters in anticipation of the San Francisco metal band's inaugural Nashville performance. The guys have been riding a major wave of hype since last June's release of their sophomore album Sunbather, which forges together an inventive blend of black metal, post rock, and progressive metal.  Their set was a very draining, exhausting, and intense experience, but was also very fulfilling.

Vocalist George Clarke is very interactive with his audiences. Clad in a black button up shirt, black pants and black gloves, he could be seen forcefully gesturing as though he was conducting some kind of bizarre orchestra. He clasped hands with those in the audience, leaned directly into audience member's faces while screaming into his microphone, and even crowd surfed for a brief moment. With two of his fingers pressed into his temple while he let loose a shriek, it looked like he was going crazy at some points. The only disappointment was that his microphone volume was turned so low his vocals were virtually inaudible.

Deafheaven vocalist George Clarke pours out every drop of intensity, and his fans do the same.

It was undeniable the amount of energy this band unleashed upon the crowd. When "Dream House" kicked in, an overwhelming wave of adrenaline was unleashed. Everyone pushed up front until we were all packed in close together like sardines. Girls were hopping up on stage periodically and stage diving into the crowd. As for the band themselves, they rumbled away with precision and tenacity. It sounded slightly muddier than on record, but they still generated large wall of sound. They weren't that loud at first, but the cranked that up later as they went along.

The drums were obviously very technical, but what stood out about Daniel Tracy's playing is how hypnotic it was. There weren't a ton of crazy fills; there was a little more time keeping than usual from drummers in this genre, but had a very mesmerizing rhythm keeping the pace for the rest of the band's insanity.

The setlist featured the four main cuts from Sumbather with a much needed breather in between each song. By the third song, "Vertigo," the crowd was exhausted and took a little break but kicked it back up into high gear for the last two songs. Quite a bit of it sounded different from the record but the great moments were all there. The frenzied lead in to "Dream House," the deep, grooving riffs during the denouement of "Sunbather" that serve as the perfect come down, the hazy, and dreamy guitar strains that open "Vertigo" -- it was all there, and it was glorious.

Deafheaven cast a spell over the crowd. Seeing them was not at all like what I expected it would be, and I'm not entirely sure if it was quite like any other band I've seen. Being still young and upcoming, they've not quite attained unmissable status, but this young band has something special going for themselves and you'd be ill advised to overlook it.

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