LIVE: Deafheaven / Touche Amore / Portrayal Of Guilt @ Electric Ballroom, Camden

By Greg Hyde

Deafheaven and Touche Amore are two bands whose critical and commercial profiles have been steadily growing over the past six years or so. Deafheaven attracted widespread acclaim with second album ‘Sunbather’, achieving reviews so glowing that their 2015 follow up, ‘New Bermuda’, hit the Top 70 in the US, making them the world’s biggest black metal/shoegaze crossover band. Touche Amore are now the second biggest ‘new wave of post–hardcore’ band after La Dispute, having hit the US Top 100 with their third album, ‘Is Survived By’, and gained rave reviews from the likes of Pitchfork for their fourth, ‘Stage Four’.

Tonight’s gig offers the rare chance to see both bands on the same bill, as they co–headline a sold out 1500–capacity Electric Ballroom, the biggest UK venue either band has headlined. Texan screamo/black metal crossover quartet Portrayal Of Guilt kick things off with a half-hour support set comprising 11 songs of aggressive, guttural bashing and grunting. Whilst they don’t exactly set the crowd on fire as you suspect they might if it was their own headline show, their songs are engaging and in places feature unexpected innovations like synths and Johnny Marr–esque jangly guitars.

All of which serves as a nice warm–up for the first of tonight’s two main events. Touche Amore are celebrating the tenth anniversary of their debut album, ‘To the Beat of a Dead Horse’, by playing it in full at venues across Europe and North America. The band bash that album out in 20 minutes flat at the start of their set in an admirably tight and disciplined way, with minimal pauses between songs. As is often the case when a band plays an album from start to finish on an anniversary tour, it’s disconcerting to hear a fan favourite like ‘Honest Sleep’, which is normally a set closer, played early on.

That doesn’t stop front man Jeremy Bolm and the crowd treating it as if it was the last song though, as he dives into the crowd towards its climax, screaming out the final a cappella chorus at the top of his lungs along with the 1500 fans present. Once ‘…Dead Horse’ is out of the way and the band start to play more recent material like ‘Amends’ and ‘Just Exist’, they give the appearance of loosening up and having more fun with the material. They stay impressively tight though, performing 23 songs in under an hour.

While their show at The Dome last year may have had a more fun energy, tonight Touche Amore show themselves to have mastered their material to a level not seen at that show. Bolm does a note-perfect job of the clean vocals on penultimate track ‘Skyscraper’, having audibly struggled when the band first toured ‘Stage Four’. All in all, this is the band’s most extensive, best-executed London gig yet.

Roughly 25 minutes later, Deafheaven take to the stage for the best (albeit the shortest) headline gig they’ve played in London on any level. They play six epic tracks, with the majority coming from last year’s ‘Ordinary Corrupt Human Love’. That album’s first two songs are used as the set openers, to great appreciation from the crowd, who sing along to the guitar solo from ‘Honeycomb’.

Those lighter, more melodic songs complement darker, heavier songs like ‘Brought to the Water’ and ‘Black Brick’ very well, with the band playing both types of material with equal vigour, all the while looking like they’re having an incredible amount of fun doing it as they dance about on stage. Front man George Clarke brings members of Touche Amore and Portrayal Of Guilt out for closer ‘Dream House’, with Bolm briefly contributing backing vocals and kissing Clarke, much to the crowd’s delight. Tonight, a rainy Camden played host to barnstorming sets from two of the most interesting and innovative bands in aggressive music.