When Deafheaven released Sunbather in 2013, the conventional wisdom of metal began to unravel. Formed in 2010 in San Francisco by vocalist George Clarke and guitarist Kerry McCoy, Deafheaven have always sought to branch themselves out of the clichés of Black Metal. Sunbather brought their style to a wider audience who were enraptured by the band’s ability to seamlessly meld together two seemingly disparate genres, shoegaze and black metal. The opening track, “Dreamhouse”, is a perfect example of this. It incorporates tremolo picking, drum patterns and screeching vocals that are customary to black metal but includes a glossy sheen of guitar effects most often seen in shoegaze and dream-pop. The song structure too is non-conventional and sees itself veer from high tempo and fist pumping sections to slow and soft instrumental interludes.
Their experiment did not come without its pitfalls. Some audiences criticized Clarke’s abrasive screeching vocals and claimed the album was too metal while others said it wasn’t metal enough. Despite the minor bickering, Sunbather was launched into widespread critical acclaim, helping define a new burgeoning genre some have called “Blackgaze”. While Deafheaven certainly were not the first to add these outside influences into black metal, they were the first to carry these ideas outside of the tight-knit metal community to show everyone that you don’t need corpse paint to play black metal.
Earlier this month, Deafheaven released their much anticipated follow-up entitled New Bermuda. While their new album leans less heavily on shoegaze inspired effects, the core of their sound is still intact, placing a priority on complex and rich sounds and song structures. Like its predecessor, New Bermuda has been widely acclaimed and praised for once again expanding beyond the boundaries and tired formulas that had developed around metal over the years. Their live repertoire got a needed boost as well. After nearly two years touring on the back of Sunbather, Deafheaven will come to the High Noon Saloon here in Madison on October 29th with their new songs in tow.
Their live shows help elevate their music and allow the listener to fully capture the scope of their songs. Their massive wall of sound envelopes you, allowing for escape into their music while Clarke’s stage presence acts as the conductor for the chaos and beauty that awaits. Unfortunately evoking a tired cliché, their show really is a “can’t miss” event. Deafheaven is currently one of the most important and exciting bands in not only metal but music as a whole and it would be a mistake for not experiencing their ground-breaking music in the flesh.