Deafheaven @ Bottom of the Hill 7/15/13 - photo by Nicole L. Browner
Photos by Nicole L. Browner

Deafheaven vocalist George Clarke cultivated a peculiar psychopath/serial killer/hitman vibe onstage at Bottom of the Hill Monday night, wearing his trademark all-black outfit plus black gloves. He is one intense dude. His band’s music is rife with long instrumental passages of experimental noise and psychedelic exploration, during which Clarke stalks the stage like he’s possessed, glowers at the crowd, and makes what look like threatening gestures. Sometimes he appears to be gagging himself with his own fingers.

But then the next minute he’s screaming in a black metal screech so full of menace and foreboding that you can’t imagine he’s not shredding his vocal chords. He pulls plenty of fan-affirming moves, too, the type you’d expect in a hardcore singer, like crowdsurfing on his back while singing and letting the crowd have the mic to sing for him. So, he’s a posi dude as well.

The fact that the rest of his band looked like they came from local bar bands and indie rocking hipster groups only added to the mystery. But I didn’t expect anything less from Deafheaven, whose new album, Sunbather, is easily one of the best metal releases so far this year precisely because of how much it strays from typical metal conventions. It’s actually more post-metal than “metal,” as it features pretty, trippy passages and gorgeous piano playing alongside massive riffs, soaring delayed guitar lines, and those screeched black metal vocals. When I first heard Sunbather, there were a couple times that I actually checked to make sure I was still listening to the same record—that’s how unexpected much of the songwriting is.

Monday’s show was the final night of Deafheaven’s tour with LA’s Marriages, to whom George Clarke dedicated Monday night’s show and the entire tour. Lots of love between those two bands, apparently. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing Marriages night after night myself—imagine if PJ Harvey fronted a sludgy drone metal band. Marriages consists of former members of Red Sparowes and Incan Abraham, so it’s no wonder that they’re so well-versed in the ways of taming epic amounts of unbridled noise.

I only got to see a couple songs by local outfit Monuments Collapse, and that was a shame, because as soon as I heard them I knew I was going to like them. They have a similar vibe to Deafheaven—combining post-metal with black metal vocals. Hopefully I’ll have a more full report next time I catch them—and yes, I’m assuming there will be a next time.

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