On Friday, April 26th Deafheaven paid a visit to a Los Angeles institution, the El Rey Theatre, where they unleashed their brand of critically-acclaimed American black metal to an impassioned crowd.
After a lengthy set from drone pioneers Earth, the San Francisco-based five-piece began a blistering set that showcased their 2013 album Sunbather. The release was named the Best Metal Album of the Year by Rolling Stone, Spin and Stereogum. Experienced live, it quickly became evident why Deafheaven’s new sound is making waves. Alternating between pummeling distorted soundscapes and breathtaking melodic crescendos, their sound explores familiar metal tropes and refines them to sheer artistic epiphany.
The group’s lyricist, George Clarke, is known for his animated performance style. At times he'd wave his arms as if conducting. Other times he'd charge the crowd and headbang with the legions in the circle pit. The crowd comprised as many curious horn-rimmed youngsters as aging rockers, all out for a night of distortion-laden jams. Like Clarke’s graceful stage persona, Sunbather explores themes and ideas not often approached in the realm of metal - namely wealth and the fleeting concept of idealism. Similarly, the album’s cover - mere shades of orange and pink against the album’s title - is designed to resemble the colors seen beneath one’s eyelids while sunbathing. It's a stark departure in the genre. Yet somehow, the album’s deceptively harmonious imagery imbues the entire enterprise with more darkness than most heavy listening.
Readily apparent in the quintet’s performance is a candid desire to put the music first and theatrics second. A live performance can have one of several goals: a musical tells an uplifting story, a reggae band aims to ease their audience, Deafheaven aims to exercise demons.
Check 'em performing "Dream House" at Pitchfork Festival in Paris last December: