Deafheaven -- Kansas City, MO -- July 8th, 2013
American black metal is pretty sharply divided into two camps. There's the throwback to classic Norwegian black metal which is making a surging comeback, and then there is the more ethereal type of black metal, taking cues from post-metal and shoegaze as well. In the latter camp, there might not be a more exciting or popular band making that type of music than San Francisco's Deafheaven. Deafheaven has the soundscape and ethos of a band like My Bloody Valentine, but the blastbeats and the shrieking vocals from Enslaved. The crowd filled the Record Bar for the band and was very receptive to the performance, even though there was no encore. Deafheaven played three tracks from their latest opus "Sunbather" and one from their now-legendary debut album "Roads to Judah." The material off of Sunbather is the perfect combination of Explosions In The Sky-esque, guitar-layering post-rock and blastbeat laden black metal. Deafheaven really is the best of both worlds. Each song played that night was a journey through peaks and valleys of ever-differing soundscapes that captivated the audience. The band showed just how harsh music can also be beautiful with deep melodies underneath a wall of noise. Opening song "Dream House" and closer "The Pecan Tree" were especially great. The sole song off Roads to Judah was "Unrequited" and it elicited the biggest response from the crowd of the night. Unfortunately, Deafheaven did not play an encore like they have been on other dates. It would've only added to the amazing performance of the band, but some Deafeaven is better than no Deafheaven at all.
Only one other band performed that night, and it was opening band Marriages. Marriages is made up of members from post-rock band Red Sparowes, which in turn is made up of members from bands such as Isis and Neurosis - quite a hefty shadow to step out from behind, but Marriages are definitely carving their own way with their own sound. Led by frontwoman Emma Ruth Rundle who utilizes her guitar with feedback along with looped vocals and samples to conjure up more than just a passing resemblence to bands like Jucifer or Big Business. Dave Clifford pulled double-duty with a fantastic performance on bass guitar, but also performing some keyboards. At any point in time during their performance, Marriages sounded anywhere from Sonic Youth to early Boris. In a way, they were the perfect compliment to Deafheaven's sonic harshness. Marriages was heavy, but it was a refined and cautionary heaviness - one that built up over time and exploded at the apex of their songs. Very impressive.
The Record Bar had a good number of attendees by the time Deafheaven went on. No moshing or anything like that, but a lot of headbanging and even some singing along - which was a bit surprising. The venue is still one of the best sounding in Kansas City. Deafheaven's vocalist George Clarke came through very loud yet very clear and the guitars, despite the music calling for a wall of noise, were clear enough to hear every nuance of the songwriting. All in all, it was one of the greatest performances of the year.
The Pecan Tree
04/16 - Ringworm
04/19 - Trog
04/22 - Ghost
04/24 - Iron Reagan
05/13 - SLAYER