Setting The Stage: It takes a lot to get folks in New York City out to a concert, with the myriad of things to do any given night and dozens of competing shows across the city. So packing an 1,800 cap venue like Brooklyn Steel is a feat in and of itself, but that’s exactly what Deafheaven did on Tuesday night.
Arriving at Brooklyn Steel, the crowd was a mix of devoted metalheads and indie-minded hipsters, t-shirts tucked in and tote bags in hand. It’s clear that the band’s wide appeal beyond just the metal community is in full swing. Ultimately, the band is one of many gateways for those who’d never otherwise be exposed — more than just a black metal band but not completely distanced from it either.
With the recent release of their fourth full-length album, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, Deafheaven have never sounded more comfortable and confident in their skin — all seemingly disjointed elements making that much more sense in the context of their songs and exploring new sonic territory with dream inducing piano, slide guitar, and chorus-like vocal elements. Lyrically, the album takes on more a hopeful tenacity, blending vivid imagery with life-affirming mantra that’s hard won with the band’s tumultuous years on the road.
Taking The Stage: As the stage lights dimmed, Deafheaven burst into one of the strongest cuts off OCHL, “Honeycomb”. Custom-made Dunable guitars in hand, they roared with caustic tremolo picking that’s equal parts Burzum and My Bloody Valentine. Vocalist George Clarke even busted out the tambourine during the song’s classic-rock guitar solos, tying to the central ethos of the band’s roots in DIY punk rock and their uncompromising sonic vision that says: “Don’t tell us what kind of band we can and cannot be.”
For “Honeycomb”, guitarist Shiv Mehra used an envelope filter on the post rock leaning passages, while Clarke moved around with an elf-like stage presence, his greased mop of long hair flailing clouds of sweat on the front row. For “Canary Yellow”, their big single off OCHL, bassist Chris Johnson and Mehra contributed vocals that worked like a choir against the tortured skyward screeches of Clarke’s vocals.
Naturally, they revisited the past, and on 2015 single “Brought to the Water”, the band transitioned from black metal darkness to melancholically hopeful passages, reminiscent of Red House Painters or even Hum. (Is it weird to say both?) It was an obvious crowd pleaser and a standout of the band’s catalogue. Shortly after, the band dove into “Worthless Animal”, the closing track on OCHL, in which fans could catch a smile from guitarist and principle songwriter Kerry McCoy.
That One Song: The encore started with the piano and slide guitar of OCHL album opener “You Without End”, the spotlight firmly planted on McCoy manning the keys. The spoken-word passage played as a backing track, corny as it it could easily be, until Mehra kicked in with a solo that could arguably match up to the ostentatious heights of Queen.
A Perfect Finish: Closing with “Dream House”, the song that introduced the non-metal world to Deafheaven, the room flew into a push-pit frenzy, fans rushing past each other, clamoring towards the stage as Clarke dove into the crowd. It was a succinct way to end a night that did everything live music is supposed to do: make you feel completely weightless and closer together.
To seal the night, the band offered a final bow as Johnson triumphantly held his bass above his head. It was warranted as the band ended one of the biggest headlining shows of a career that’s now solidified at new heights — and only growing.
Opening Acts: NYC industrial metal act Uniform kicked off the evening, blazing through their 30-minute set with crushing guitar tones and Converge-esque frenetic energy, giving way to dark industrial dirges complete with triggered drums and billowing, slapback delay-laden vocals.
Directly supporting Deafheaven was Los Angeles based band Drab Majesty, who took the stage donned in matching alien-like outfits, sunglasses, blond wigs and all. Their cosmic, synth driven, post punk songs had the atmospheric touch of ’80s new wave, providing a stark contrast to the pummeling nature of Uniform’s set. Deafheaven have a history of bringing varied support acts on tours, which speaks to the different sonic worlds they inhabit.
Brought To The Water
You Without End
From The Kettle Onto The Coil