Deafheaven @ Classic Grand, Glasgow, 2 Oct

Deafheaven prove they're at the peak of their powers with a thunderous set in Glasgow

Live Review by Max Sefton | 05 Oct 2018

For American metallers Deafheaven, surprise is their stock in trade. Over a quartet of eclectic and acclaimed records they’ve staked out their corner as one of the most exciting bands in the world, adding a vividly human side to often lofty post-rock. Tonight, their support comes from wild-eyed Virginians Inter Arma. Though their favourite trick seems to be the sudden slow-fast, quiet-loud shifts of post rock, they’re best at their sparsest, leaning on little more than atmospheric phased guitar and a simple, martial drum part. In this kind of music, sudden dynamic shifts between loud and quiet are the musical equivalent of jump scares. Overdo them, and they lose their impact.

For Deafheaven there’s no such risk. This music is their artform and now they’ve set the rules, they’re perfectly happy to break a few. This year’s Ordinary Corrupt Human Love is another fantastic entry in the Deafheaven canon, showcasing their ability to summon beauty and dread in equal measure.

On Honeycomb, Kerry McCoy’s riffs channel Cheap Trick against brutal black metal bursts, while the outro features a gently unspooling Sigur Rós guitar figure. It’s complex, technically impeccable music with a bloody, beating heart and right now there’s no one doing this better than Deafheaven.

Frontman George Clarke stalks the stage like a panther, conducting the audience with a curled finger and leaning into the mic with an angular grin and a swagger. His intensity is the nucleus around which Deafheaven construct these songs, imbuing an additional level of emotional complexity to his bandmates’ storm and fury.

Whether whipping his hair back with venom or tipping a bottle of water over his head and leaping back and forth until it rises in a vapour, this is Clarke’s show but it’s fascinating to see how the group have evolved as a unit. On Canary Yellow, Daniel Tracy’s thunderbolt drumming turns the band into a runaway express train. To hear him pinwheel over every drum is so manically satisfying his bandmates break into huge grins.

Sunbather features an even more aggressive vocal performance from Clarke while Brought to the Water from 2013’s New Bermuda is a shark-like and menacing snarl with interlocking riffs that shake the venue. Encoring with Glint's hybrid of ricocheting black metal and grandstanding classic rock, and the monumental fists in the air of Dream House, it’s clear that Deafheaven are a band at the absolute height of their powers.