Deafheaven live exudes cathartic audacity

Metal monoliths play “New Bermuda” live — start to finish.


Photo courtesy of Tyler Davis

Christian Davis, Writer

I will always advocate for art that makes you uncomfortable. In most conversations, I refuse to steer anyone away from things out of their comfort zone. So much good art is lost this way — lost to pre-conceived ideas of normalcy and status-quo. I would hope the case for dissenting and divisive art does not really need to be defended at this point, but it serves as a helpful reminder when considering Deafheaven.

Existing in a Dichotomy

Deafheaven is a band that makes some people wildly uncomfortable, but last Friday’s show at the Glass House proved how unifying this band can be live. They exist in a dichotomy. On one hand, those who have written them off as “hipster metal” are nearly beyond convincing of their importance. On the other, those who do make it out to their shows are greeted with one of the most engaging and overwhelming sensory experiences out there. Deafheaven is only a divisive band if you allow them to be, otherwise it is undeniably clear that they are a revelatory force in heavy music.

Even though I was tipped off about Deafheaven’s setlist prior to the show, it comes as no surprise that they ripped through their entire new album — start to finish. There is a classic concertgoers complaint about bands who play too much new material, but none of us had a spare moment to contemplate that. Pausing only to play 2014’s one-off single “From The Kettle Unto the Coil,” halfway through, Deafheaven gave each track off “New Bermuda” a brilliant live treatment, in order.


There is something to be said about this level of confidence. Sure, the encore consisted of previous record “Sunbather’s” title-track and “Dream House,” both contestants for the greatest moments in their discography. But to play an album less than a month old in its entirety takes an assurance very few bands have. I cannot help but think of Sufjan Steven’s recent tour for “Carrie & Lowell,” where he played through the viscerally existential album night after night after night. Both “New Bermuda” and “Carrie & Lowell” share themes of death, darkness and harrowing grief. To throw yourself into these records in a live setting requires an emotional fortitude only musicians of this caliber possess.


All of the divisiveness surrounding whether or not Deafheaven is an “actual” metal band or not is completely obliterated when these guys take the stage. For the life of me, I cannot name another performer whose eyes can grip a crowd like vocalist George Clarke. The intensity that comes out of this man is unparalleled, and he commands attention like no other. The end result is brimming with humanity, as Clarke throws all of himself into the songs he has written. Desperation, loneliness, and dissatisfaction when you have been given everything you wanted are all present in “New Bermuda,” and it is apparent that Clarke wrestles with all of this onstage.

Sure, all of these lyrics are screamed — but sometimes this is the only way to be heard.

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