30th September | Fleece
Sunday night – an ample queue of people has formed by the time I arrive at the Fleece for Deafheaven’s show, yet prior to a support slot from Inter Arma, the inside of the venue is sparsely filled. Many early attendees are eyeing up an enticing range of merch, whilst others are scoping out the perfect spot to observe from. Observe being the key word – this was a loud evening, but not a particularly kinetic one. It’s amazing how still people were the entire evening, but luckily this didn’t detract much from the music.
When Inter Arma took to the stage around 8pm, there didn’t seem to be much overall crowd reaction – again, due to the scarcity of attendees – though clearly a few fans were spotted around who seemed to enjoy what they heard. Forgive me for thinking it wasn’t an inspiring set. Dense and gloomy, but certainly not lacking in scope, Inter Arma’s music are arguably these things – heavy songs in excess of ten minutes tend to meet those criteria at least. But for the most part, the set came across like a sluggish endurance test. Low guitar riffs seemed to churn over endlessly and screaming vocals failed to thrill or affront the crowd sufficiently.
Thankfully, when Deafheaven took to the stage at nine, set to the woozy openings of ‘Honeycomb’, the Fleece had filled and anticipation seemed high as they launched into a blistering eighty-minute set. Clearly taking no prisoners from the off, as the pummelling, hypnotic rhythm kicked in, vocalist George Clarke began thrashing about on stage. His pre-drenched hair seemingly propelled from his neck in violent, cathartic motions, which he barely let up from throughout the show, amidst a torrent of poetry and anguished screams. In all this chaos, it was impossible to take your eyes off the stage and impossible not to feel a sense of awe for what you were witnessing.
‘Canary Yellow’ – another selection from Ordinary Corrupt Human Love – followed, stirring the crowd and eliciting chanting with its refrain of, “on and on and on we choke on.” This was before Clarke announced wryly the band’s intent to play an older song, ‘Sunbather,’ from their 2013 breakthrough of the same name, and to step forward if you knew it. No-one followed these instructions literally, instead content to watch from their present locations and cheer, but nevertheless, it jolted the crowd into further furore.
Their main set rounded off with epic album-closer, ‘Worthless Animal’, which afforded guitarists Kerry McCoy and Shiv Mehra moments to take centre-stage and highlight the band’s overall versatility, prior to an encore where the band decided to simply remain on stage than to leave because – to paraphrase Clarke slightly – “it was working.” Two final songs were ‘Glint,’ that represented the best of Ordinary Corrupt Human Love live and was probably the best of the night – a spectral, building masterpiece that left you wanting more. It was rather elegantly followed by ‘The Dream House’, another crowd-pleasing selection from 2013’s Sunbather for a climactic finale.
Certainly, Deafheaven have calibre in the metal scene; four albums into their career and with hundreds of shows under their belt, the increasingly wide appeal within these circles only speaks testament to the boundless energy of the music they perform. They’re truly worth seeing live should you have the chance – it won’t be like anything else.