Concert Review: Deafheaven

Deafheaven brings down The Casbah with its blend of heavy but heartfelt metal.

Date: October 15
Location: The Casbah
Rating: 4.5/5

Deafheaven’s spacious and epic blend of post-rock guitars and black-metal vocals seems ill-fitted for the tiny stage of The Casbah, situated in a corner without stage wings. For a band of such dramatic tendencies, it seemed rather unceremonious to the packed crowd gathered on Thursday, Oct. 15, that the band nearly had to climb over the audience to get to its equipment.

As soon as guitarist Kerry McCoy started tuning his guitar though, any misgivings were dispelled as a nervous and excited energy suffused the crowd. As the audience recognized the intensity that was about to come, the rest of the band, sans vocalist, situated itself in a rough semi-circle and continued preparations.

McCoy, along with guitarist Shiv Mehra and bassist Stephen Clark, is not known for his onstage antics (see The Hard Times’ satirical article “Deafheaven Bassist Falls Asleep Onstage”). Instead the band members remained largely rooted to their spots for the rest of the evening, focused on hitting every subtle tempo change. Their lack of energy would be a negative, if it didn’t simply focus all attention on the commanding presence of vocalist George Clarke.

As tuning ended and the crowd’s energy reaching a boiling point, Clarke ascended the stage like a general ready to command his army. Tall and donned in all-black apparel, Clarke makes for an imposing figure, somewhere between an H&M model and serial killer. The bells of opener “Brought to the Water” starting to chime, Clarke’s demonic gaze scanned the crowd, aggressively pointing at individuals and edging them on. Clarke’s shrieks commenced what can simply be described as an hour of non-stop blitzkrieg.

With guitars churning and drummer Daniel Tracy’s inhuman endurance and speed-keeping tempo, the band romped through its album “New Bermuda,” with single “From the Kettle Onto the Coil” thrown into the mix. Recreating complex music with such masterful precision is no easy feat, but what truly captivated every eye in the room for the evening was Clarke’s complete dominance of the stage.

Clarke is that rare frontman who emotes his music at every single moment. At times he’s head banging and beating his chest in a display of aggression, then, suddenly, he’s effeminately dancing and falling into the arms of the crowd. Clarke’s showmanship perfectly translates the savagery and delicacy at the heart of Deafheaven’s music into something which approaches performance art. With arcane hand gestures drawing them in, the crowd follows without reservation, becoming a single frenzied mass.

The audience remaining at a frenetic level as “New Bermuda” wrapped up and Deafheaven launched into two singles from its 2013 release “Sunbather,” ending the show on a cathartic conclusion with the heart-rending “Dream House.” Unfortunately, this also presented the only hiccup of the evening’s proceedings, as the band left the stage with instruments lying on the ground, feedback reverberating throughout The Casbah. Despite the intensity of the preceding hour, not a single member of the tired crowd left, still hungry for one final encore.

But it was not to be, as crew appeared and started shutting equipment down. Instead, the crowd dissipated into the light rain outside, with Clarke’s final shrieks of “I want to dream!” still echoing in their ears, wondering whether what had just been witnessed was a blissful dream or sublime nightmare.