Gig Reviews

Deafheaven – Sydney Opera House, 2/06/16

Do metal aficionados care much for punctuality? It’s a question I’ve never really thought about (not that I am expecting anyone to have really spent time pondering the notion), but it seems tonight is one of those times where the answer is well and truly no.

Sitting in the Joan Sutherland Theatre, the time is 7:30PM exactly and looking across the room you realise it is barely halfway to full capacity. It’s not until 7:45PM, 15 minutes after San-Franciscan metal-rock mavens Deafheaven were slated to take the stage, that the quintet stroll out purposefully and assume their positions to a fuller auditorium.

Following a short, gushing greeting from lead vocalist George Clarke, the mood is set. The sinister rumbling of guitar and electronic elements pervade the room and the familiar, haunting church bells can be heard distantly ringing as track Brought to the Water descends into chaotic drumming and doom-laden guitars.

“Let’s get this out of the way. How incredible is it that we’re playing here, and you’re all sitting down?” questions Clarke following the finale of the opening track.

Fair point sir, the majority of us are thinking the same thing. Yet throughout this set it’s not even the flickering lighting scenarios that keep us glued to our chairs. No it’s more the sheer spectacle that Deafheaven has brought, for two main reasons.

Firstly the impassioned lead vocalist Clarke, brazen with vicious screams and incessant head banging, is a true sight to behold. He takes up a kind of conductor-like persona. Often springing to the edge of the stage, holding his arms out to either side, his hands extended and practically bowing under the weight of his sheer enthusiasm for this intricate and ravaging sound. His smooth, step-ball-change moves during tracks Baby Blue and Gifts of the Earth from their 2015-revered album New Bermuda also prove satisfying.

The second reason for Deafheaven’s stage presence comes from the relentless thrashing of the drums by insane sticks man Daniel Tracy. Just how does he maintain such energy throughout tracks that are often well over the standard 5 minute lifespan? It’s hard to say, but just watching his arms and legs move is enough to leave you undeniably impressed. No more is this apparent than in the twists and turns of fourth track of the night, the 9:16 minute song Come Back.

We’re in full swing of the juxtaposing track Gifts For the Earth. It’s slightly punk-ish, garage opening descends into the pure vitriol of Metal chaos, ringing out in it’s beautiful, melodic indie-rock ending. Around the 7-minute mark all members begin to saunter off stage, leaving just the two guitarists to carry out the song and finally follow their band mates.

It is at this point that I must point out the time. It was approximately 8:45PM and the lads were setting up an encore. Surely not? Surely we’ve got a solid 30-45 minutes of this captivating set remaining at least?

“Thank you so much for giving us so much energy while being totally relaxed,” jokes Clarke. “We’ve got time for a couple more.”

A couple?! Yep. By 9:00PM, following a thrashing through the title track from their 2013 album Sunbather, and the craziness of 9:15 minute track Dream House, the band exit stage left to thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

Walking out of the opera house at 9:00PM on a Thursday evening, following on from one of the most enthralling and sonically captivating gigs of my professional career might I add, is a rather uneasy thought to deal with. That initial 15 minutes would have been glorious.

Deafheaven will be playing more dates around the country. See below for more details.

Photos by Annette Geneva

Friday, 3rd June

Corner Hotel, Melbourne

Tickets: Handsome Tours

Saturday, 4th June

Crowbar, Brisbane

Tickets: Handsome Tours

Monday, 6th June

Rosemount Hotel, Perth

Tickets: Handsome Tours

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