Live Review: Deafheaven in Sydney

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Deafheaven were most certainly my personal favourite band of 2013. Not only because they pretty much devoured the world with their second, perfectly-executed LP, Sunbather, but also because they led me down an unbeknown path to appreciate Black Metal, which I never knew I could truly commit to. A few days before this gig took place they were announced as the most critically acclaimed album of 2013 by Metacritic, which epitomises my statement, being the first ever metal album to grace first place post and literally kicked tastemaker favourites Yeesus and Beyonce out of the water.

In a sea of longhaired/bearded metal dudes, we stood at Oxford Art Factory in buzzing anticipation for the headliners. First up though, were support acts Germ and Adrift For Days. The latter were like a progressive mixed bag and gave me the feeling they really didn’t know what sound they wanted to commit to. They kicked off with an interesting deadly bluesy Nick Cave-esque intro for ‘Bury All That’s Chosen’.  Their singer Mike Kaslik began to howl into a megaphone, which was a nice and interesting effect that successfully captured my intrigue. Unfortunately, when the megaphone was put away, his normal singing voice in all its glory reminded me of an Aussie rock version of Nickelback’s frontman Chad Kroger (shudder). Their music was sludgy and heavy for pretty much the entirety with lulls of quiet that cut in at random junctures. Kaslik chopped and changed between this cringeworthy crooner, through the instrumental shifts with much better props in screaming, screeching and thrashing; redeeming the band’s overall merit, because you have to give the man kudos for range.

deafheaven 1The violently beautiful Sunbather opener ‘Dreamhouse’ sawed in with its mounting triumphance matching singer/screamer George Clarke’s kindred murderous intensity, as he stalked on stage wearing all black and a pair of intense leather gloves. The set followed the chronological order of Deafheaven‘s superhuman sophomore release; a simple yet appropriate tactic that works perfectly for this album rather than being passed off as undesirably predictable.

The duration of the set was overrun with this particular pairing of heightened vicious theatrics by Clarke and the rest of the band’s flawlessly tight execution of instrumental performance. In terms of instrumentals, I felt the extreme loud and soft dynamics similar to emotive beauty of Explosions in the Sky. This is where they won so much critical acclaim, effectively paving the way for a brilliant sub-genre that has been termed ‘pretty black metal’, achieved by artfully intertwining elements of shoegaze and post rock.

The main focal point of the live performance, as opposed to the LP, was Clarke’s seductive-meets-suicidal conductor-like dramatics. We saw him violently cut his arms through the air in perfect sync with every crushing break and cathartic satanic shrill. ‘Vertigo’ chimed in with its oozing circular guitar dances, which drew us in for 14 minutes of perilous perfection and saw drummer Daniel Tracy best exhibiting his formidable drumming acrobatics. ‘Pecan Tree’ was the perfect closer to their bone-crushingly powerful set, which pretty much blasted our minds and hearts and rendered us only able to cry for one more before our heads exploded. Thankfully enough, that sought-after encore was my favourite off their EP, Roads to Judah; the stunning, energetic and intense, ‘Unrequited’, which pretty much cemented the fact that, albeit early on in 2014, tonight’s gig is going to be a hard one to beat for my end of year list.

jemma cole


Words by Jemma Cole. Photos by Adam Davis-Powell