Deafheaven, live in London

Deafheaven bring the noise to sold-out London show

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In the wake of the Jabberwocky Festival cancellation, Deafheaven land themselves a last-minute show headlining the Garage in Islington. Here’s five things we learned.

Deafheaven are “hipster metal”

Tonight is sold out. The crowd, mainly attractive couples in their late 20s with matching tote bags (I wager a copy of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road is lurking in there somewhere), check their Instagram accounts and roll cigarettes. Fellow Jabberwocky refugee Chelsea Wolfe has just finished her set, a mixture of goth-pop and electronic blues. It’s nearing stage time for San Francisco’s Deafheaven and as I survey the room there’s a notable absence of faded band tees and long-haired metalheads. It’s not your usual mob, in fact it’s not a mob at all. This is potentially my first hipster metal show.

Deafheaven aren’t “hipster metal”

The lights dim and a low pulsating drone rattles the foundations. Deafheaven open with Dream House, the first song from their incredible Sunbather album. Beautiful yet brutal, the track fluctuates seamlessly between savage blast beats and euphoric guitar lines. Refreshing and exciting, this band breathes new life into extreme music and have been embraced by the type of press that normally shake their heads at anything this heavy. The throwaway term “hipster metal” has been branded on these Californian punks by fans dissatisfied with their crossover appeal, but it’s time the metal community learned to share: this isn’t hipster metal, it’s music to be enjoyed by everyone.

They play just six songs in one hour

This works out an average ten minutes per track with just the one break in the set, allowing vocalist George Clarke to thank the crowd and introduce their final song, the epic Unrequited from 2011’s Road To Judah. Like classical composers, Deafheaven write in movements. The songs may be long but the structures aren’t particularly complex. Not once do the crowd lose focus as we ride the waves of heaviness into tranquil pools of space, enthralled by the changes in mood.

The band need weed

So says a sign on their merch; but judging by the shapes thrown by the rhythm section, they may already be a little over-baked. The bassist bobs to the beat like he’s in indie rock band Foals. Meanwhile, founding member and guitar player Kerry McCoy gazes into nothing as his wall of sound penetrates the bar at the back, and the streets beyond. Singer George is the opposite. He stares intensely into the crowd, selecting which of us he’s planning to sacrifice first. Even when the music is at its most calm, George’s deathly screams shatter the peace like arrows shooting down a dove. If anything he’s the guy that needs to get high!

Deafheaven will continue to find themselves on diverse bills

Sharing the stage with a songstress like Chelsea Wolfe is all in a day’s work for a band impossible to pigeonhole. From black-metal to post-rock and everything inbetween, Deafheaven top end-of-year polls and continue to live up the hype. Doors are opening all around them and I’m already eagerly awaiting the announcement of their next London gig.