When is a hipster black metal band not a hipster black metal band? No, this isn’t an elaborate setup to a very specific gag that will only appeal to a tiny minority of Deafheaven’s fanbase – it’s a legit question. We sent Ollie Connors along to review the band’s London show in search of answers.
6 things we learned watching Deafheaven in London…
1) Deafheaven are apparently a “hipster black metal” band. Or so moan the KVLT black metallers stood outside The Borderline tonight, who presumably like their BM corpse-painted, church-burning and band mate-killing. Deafheaven may have the shrieks and dense sound of their Norwegian forebears, but their blend of post-rock, shoegaze and early screamo separates their sound from most acts out there.
2) However, we very quickly learn that not all noise is A Good Thing. Consumer Electronics are first to take the stage, with a clear intent to baffle tonight’s crowd. I “get” noise music; I’ve listened to records by Throbbing Gristle and Merzbow and found them vaguely palatable, but this is like a Chris Morris parody of performance art. Harsh blasts of white noise deafen the crowd, as a Rob Halford lookalike barks expletives with all the linguistic dexterity of a Lee Evans set. I firmly believe after this performance that people should have to apply for licence to be able to create sound; this can surely only be endured, let alone enjoyed, by the most autistic of the autistic. If there’s a joke I didn’t get, it definitely wasn’t a very funny one.
Listen to ‘Black Cotton Wool’ by Consumer Electronics:
3) Although start off a little “Insert Deathwish Inc band here” for The Secret – a little Trap Them here, a little Cursed there – things take a turn for the filthier towards the latter end of the Italians’ set and sound all the better for it. With punishing grooves reminiscent of Nails and Rotten Sound, the quartet rampage triumphantly – they don’t come to the UK often (or at least often enough) – make sure you don’t sleep on this lot for too long and catch them elasticating necks at a venue near you.
4) Deafheaven are intense. Bleak, harrowing shards of noise and unintelligible shrieks from vocalist George Clarke constantly pummel the packed-out Borderline. The San-Franciscans create a claustrophobic atmosphere, building up an insurmountable wall of sound and shifting between light and dark dynamics. Deafheaven sound colossal tonight, and though the songs are long (they only manage to fit five songs into a set just shy of an hour long), they are constantly engaging – every single eye in the venue is transfixed on the
four five musicians on stage.
5) The new material from upcoming second album, Sunbather, is extremely promising indeed. 2011’s Roads To Judah was an extraordinarily dark album, and what’s showcased tonight, including well-received recently-released single ‘Dream House’ (with which the band kick off tonight with) shows a lighter side to them. They still create a fine racket, but the textures are lusher and richer, as opposed to the harsher sound of Roads To Judah. The new one will definitely be one to look out for later on this year.
6) This isn’t something I’ve learned, more a personal pet hate – no matter how good you are, even if you’ve played as astonishing a set as Deafheaven did at The Borderline, spitting on stage is not cool. It’s a filthy, disgusting habit, and makes you look like a witless thug.