Review: Deafheaven Brings Black Metal to Metro

As my Uber gets closer to Wrigleyville for the Deafheaven show I hear a loud but faint noise that sounds like The Breeders sure enough, they’re one of the opening bands for the Foo Fighters at Wrigley Field. Now I understand why traffic is so bad. I rarely find myself at Metro nowadays but nonetheless I’m excited to see everyone touring with Deafheaven. Sadly, Mono of Japan dropped off the tour due to Visa issues, so local DJ Scary Lady Sarah was added to fill the void between sets throughout the night. There’s room to navigate through the main floor to find a good spot for the first band, New York’s Uniform. Despite being a two-piece band (a vocalist and guitarist), with their touring drummer the trio is extremely loud and cohesive, setting the vibe for the entire show. Vocalist Michael Berdan belts out words you can’t make out, but it doesn’t matter when set against the loud crack of the drums and abrasive shredding of guitarist Ben Greenberg. Before quickly ripping through their set, Uniform gives their brief thanks to Deafheaven for bringing them along on this tour, shortly after there's a set change and the room's nearing capacity as the stage is set for the self-described "tragic wave" duo Drab Majesty. Guitarist Deb DeMure Decked out in white face paint, black sunglasses, and a top-to-bottom all-white wardrobe, Drab Majesty has surfaced from the green room. The cheers are much louder than expected for such a weird band, one with more crossover appeal than I expected. They slowly ease into their set with the most soothing synths imaginable from, keyboardist/vocalist Mona D. The tone of guitarist Deb Demure's guitar simply blends right into the synths as they open with "Induction" followed by "Dot in The Sky" from last year's album, The Demonstration. It’s a blissful album that combines themes from bands like Slowdive, Tears for Fears, and Cold Cave. The live performance of this album sends the crowd into a frenzy as concert goers rock back and forth just as precise as Mona D's synths. Over time the crowd becomes more enthralled with Drab Majesty's antics such as Demure's toast with his wine glass full of red wine. "A toast to Deafheaven," he faintly says before taking a sip and finishing out the set with "Too Soon to Tell" and "Not Just A Name," more dreamy, synth-heavy songs that make you feel as if you've stumbled into time machine that's transported you straight to the 80s. The mysterious duo slowly exits the stage leaving the crowd wanting more. Deafheaven Most have gotten the right amount of drunk as I hear slurred words all around me right before Deafheaven take the stage. The quintet strolls on stage met by the obvious crowd cheers, they rip right into their first single released this year, "Honeycomb," from this year's highly-acclaimed album, Ordinary Corrupt Human LoveIt’s lengthy like most of the band’s material, but it's one of the strongest songs that displays every band members' talent. Guitarists Kerry McCoy, Shiv Mehra, and Stephen Clark deliver the band’s blend of technical and heavy fretwork that has established their BlackMetal/Blackgaze sound. Vocalist George Clarke's expansive and piercing vocal range mostly controls the crowd as they sway with every octave of his voice along with drummer Daniel Tracy’s deafening drum rolls that make for an impeccable performance. Clarke's all black attire, down to his black gloves and long tangled hair, is such a perfect look when he reaches out to the crowd and dozens extend their arms back. Every song seems like forever but every minute of Deafheaven’s performance delivers a moment of bliss and exuberance especially with an encore of “You Without End,” “From the Kettle Onto the Coil,” and “Dream House.” “Dream House” is from the 2013 album Dream House and it was the first Deafheaven song I had ever heard, seeing it live only took me back to 2013 and branching outside my usual music interest. It will always be astonishing how far Deafheaven has come from their first release, 2011’s Roads to Judah to 2018’s Ordinary Corrupt Human Love. Despite the lineup changes and the band’s perhaps unintentional ability to fade away from the spotlight, this is Deafheaven’s year and they’ll only be stopped by their own mistakes. All photos by Jacquelina Lempert
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Brandon Smith

Brandon Smith is a freelance writer, frequent concert attendee, and occasional Twitch streamer. He’s usually at the nearest taqueria or attending the concert of an artist he discovered while surfing the internet.