February 23, 2017
All photos by Jay Demetillo.
Deafheaven returned to their hometown of San Francisco on a Thursday night to play to a sold-out Noise Pop audience at The Independent, showcasing their unique style of metal and ripping through an inspired setlist comprised of both old and new material.
The band opened the night up with the brooding “Brought to the Water,” the opening track from their most recent release New Bermuda. The song begins with a pulsating wash of ambient noise before exploding into rampaging metal. Anchored by the impeccable drumming of Daniel Tracy, the piece twists through dense atonal passages over which George Clarke howls with his trademark rasp. Eventually the song breaks into a series of melodic guitar leads before pulling back on the distortion and slowing the tempo down to allow for a calm, dreamy interlude. Suddenly the song turns back around and bores full steam into metal mode as Clarke screams “Surrender to blackness now” over a particularly epic and beautiful guitar line from Kerry McCoy before gently fading out.
Following this, the band rolled out two more New Bermuda tracks – the sprawling epic “Baby Blue” and the hard hitting “Come Back.” “Come Back” is one of the best examples of what makes Deafheaven so unique and interesting. The song begins with mournful guitar work that gives it a cinematic feel before being slashed open with an aggressive blast beat from Tracy to complement the churning guitars from McCoy and Shiv Mehra. Over the course of the next five minutes, the song storms through various hard hitting parts, building and releasing tension before a mid-song breakdown peels back the distortion as a mellow chord progression takes over. As Tracy holds down the beat with an exceptionally delicate and dexterous rhythm figure, McCoy breaks out his slide to play some mellow, almost-country sounding, lead guitar work before gradually fading out.
Next up the band dusted off two songs from their first record, Roads to Judah, as George Clarke thanked the audience for supporting the band for so many years. Both “Language Games” and “Unrequited” followed the same kind of musical approach as the previously mentioned songs, blending delicate with profane. Clarke was all over the place, crowd surfing and throwing his body all around the stage, enticing the crowd to up their intensity to match his.
After this Deafheaven pulled out one of the big surprises of the night – a cover of the song “Cody” by post-rock band Mogwai. The track was given a metal makeover by the band, cranking up the loudness and speed of the original as McCory and Mehra unleashed a series of dense, interlocking guitar passages over a pummeling drum beat from Tracy.
To close out the main portion of their set, Deafheaven played three songs from their critically acclaimed album Sunbather. For many fans this record represents the pinnacle of the band’s sound, combing blistering black metal with atmospheric post-rock to create a stunning and epic series of songs. Beginning with the burning “Dreamhouse,” followed by the captivating “Sunbather” and finally finishing with the astonishing album closer “The Pecan Tree.” Over the course of ten plus minuets, “The Pecan Tree” was undoubtedly the highlight of the night. The song starts off at warm speed with some of Tracy’s most ferocious drumming, though you could never tell the difference as every drum part seemed to come so easily and so naturally to him. Over the top of this Mehra and McCoy were spitting out riffs to match the speed and intensity while Clarke raged over the top. The intensity continued to build, shifting the dynamics to accentuate the guitars or to accentuate the vocals until everything abruptly cuts out, with only a clean toned guitar left playing a dreamy series of arpeggios before the rest of the band comes back in. Eventually the distorted guitars return to signal the final movement of the song, which alternates between more screamed vocals and heavy guitar chugging, reaching a crushing crescendo before ending.
Finally, the band closed out their set by performing their first ever song, “Daedalus.” The song has more straightforward black metal elements but still contained many of the unique elements that Deafheaven would perfect on later releases. It was a fitting conclusion to an epic night which once again demonstrated the live power of the band.
Setlist: Brought to the Water | Baby Blue | Come Back | Language Games | Unrequited | Cody (Mogwai cover) | Dream House | Sunbather | The Pecan Tree || Daedalus
For more information about Deafheaven, see their website.