Deafheaven (Photo: by Daniel Kielman)
Deafheaven are finding their groove. They’ve already gotten the crowd aggressively excited as usual at a typical show of theirs with “Honeycomb,” a fantastic track off their new album, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, and now as they begin “Canary Yellow.” The endlessly energetic lead singer George Clarke is feeling the band as they groove into the next track and he orchestrates to the audience, as he will multiple times throughout the night during the more instrumental sections of Deafheaven’s loud and quite beautiful songs. They’re a black metal band for sure, but the San Francisco natives have risen from being just another loud band on the scene to one where fans passionately scream back the lyrics to Clarke as his voice rips through the fabric of noise.
This is standard for a Deafheaven show. I was lucky to see them at Bottom of the Hill back in 2013 when their breakthrough Sunbather came out, and they gave a similar level of intensity and passion. But the band has grown since then, too. They’ve released two excellent albums in the interim, giving them not only their classics to fall back on (as they did in their final song of the evening with “Dream House”) but additionally many new sounds to explore. Their latest album was not only more of what metalheads love about Deafheaven — crescendoes culminating in guitar solos and frantic drums under a voice that pierces your ears — it als experimented with some new sounds, taking a lighter, even jazzy, tones at certain moments. It’s definitely their best album since their breakthrough, and it’s great to see that Deafheaven have still found new territory when the plethora of bands out there today make it hard to keep finding new explorations in sound.
Sacramento has quite a metal scene and the fans were out — the tiny Goldfield Trading Post venue was packed and the band thanked their friends and family for support over the years right before the last song. Deafheaven drive to make you remember the night you saw them live and deliver. I was unable to catch most of opening band Uniform‘s set, but I did see Drab Majesty. There were certainly fans in the audience, as people slowly rocked in place to the band’s tragic-wave sounds, but on the whole they’re a band I can’t get into. The songs performed that night didn’t make a convert out of me, feeling too serious for the exuberant environment at times.
Deafheaven sound amazing live. They enjoy their time on stage, the intense drumming of Daniel Tracy is especially impressive as the guy rarely gets a break from keeping the pace of the energy in check the whole night and then unleashing a rage of tempo when needed. Guitarist Kerry McCoy also gives the band a nice charm compared to the intensity that Clarke brings out, McCoy in a white shirt off to the side performing his melodies and riffs and cracking a smile multiple times throughout the night.
Deafheaven came from San Francisco, and their love for the city is present in their shows. Projected behind them is modern home video of the band driving over the Bay Bridge and walking around the city being goofy and enjoying their friends. It’s quite charming and a nice juxtaposition of the energy on stage, the same camaraderie and love: A bunch of musicians who have found each other and made their imprint on a genre that needs new blood.