Deafheaven, Tribulation bring incense, skeletal fetuses to Crescent Ballroom

A smaller flag, emblazoned with the image of a skeletal fetus, covered a large black banner printed with the words Deafheaven.

The skeletal fetus is the heraldry of Swedish metal band Tribulation, a four-piece set that was in charge of opening up the stage. 

Before the set started playing, an assistant ran on stage and turned on the fog machines. In a kind of fire ceremony, he proceeded to walk around the stage lighting sticks of incense and a candle holder attached to the front microphone.

Throughout this ordeal, the venue played orchestral music that edged the nerves. The fog grew more dense on the stage and the smell of perfume from the incense was in the air.

Most of the band had put on the white and black face paint reminiscent of the corpse paint of black metal bands. They commenced on a set that was a mix between death metal and black metal. Their songs were intense capitulations of heavy distortion and growled vocals. Understandable with their Scandinavian roots, they captured the traditional ideals of black metal and made for a good opener for Deafheaven to compare and contrast.

During the intermission between bands, the Crescent Ballroom played extreme metal music over the speaker systems.

The flag displaying the skeletal fetus dropped and the words Deafheaven appeared. Deafheaven's equipment consisted of a set of new Peavey amplifiers and most of the members of the band dressed to the nines, wearing new clothing. The stark difference was in the guitarist Kerry McCoy who plays lead guitar. He was wearing ragged jeans and a T-shirt for At-The-Drive-In. 

They started off their set playing the music off of their latest album, New Bermuda (2015). The lead singer, George Clarke, was something like a pit-bull. His movement reflected a tendency of subdued aggression and the phrase that came to mind about the stage presence of the band as a whole was controlled chaos.

As McCoy played his instrument and tweaked his pedals with superhuman focus and control, in the center of the stage Clarke screamed into the audience and enticed them closer with a "come here" movement of his fingers. At times, Clarke would blatantly spit onto the stage floor and salvia would drool from his mouth.

At the end of the show, Clarke quietly walked off stage, his work being done. The rest of the band finished the song and joined him off-stage. When the band returned for an encore, they played two songs off their prior album Sunbather (2013), and the crowd was transported to another time both because of the age of the track and the nostalgic void the song Dream House encourages.

What can be said of Deafheaven? That they are part of the movement which seems to be sui-generis or breaking the idea of genre. Attempting to classify them is difficult and most people tend to label them a black metal band with post-something influences. However, their music tends to be much more refined and clean than what is traditionally considered black metal. 

They may be changing the definition of what it means to be a black metal band through their care and approach toward longer, melodic and dynamic songs while adhering to heavy distortion and screamed vocals that level perfectly with the guitar. 


Reach the reporter at lsaether@asu.edu or follow @looooogaaan on Twitter.

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