LIVE: Deafheaven / Voices @ Heaven, London

By Glen Bushell

There’s no question that over the last few years, Deafheaven have probably been the most divisive band of our time. Metal purists loathe them, critics love them, and their die-hard fans worship them. With last years stunning album, ‘New Bermuda’, things really began to change for the Californian band. The true metal heart that beat within Deafheaven shone through the cascading shoegaze elements of their genre-bending album, ‘Sunbather’, and put any apprehension that the band were a one-trick pony to bed.

Tonight, in the confines of underground club, Heaven, it marks the bands largest London headline show to date. 600 people have crammed in early to get a chance to witness the spectacle that is Deafheaven’s live show. Anyone who has seen them before will know that it is nothing short of breathtaking, and when they bring ‘New Bermuda’ to the stage, the do not disappoint.

Before this, are London based metal band, Voices. Filling in for one-woman black metal enigma, Myrkur, who had to pull out of the UK leg of Deafheaven’s European tour, Voices have big shoes to fill. Their blackened death metal is concise, and is played with precision, however a muddy sound hinders their performance tonight. The lead lines are buried in the mix, and the frantic drumming sounds a somewhat flat. Voices were an unknown quantity on tonight’s bill anyway, and the sound didn’t do them any favours.

When Deafheaven hit the stage, all technical demons have been fully exorcised. The quintet are on fine form from the off, launching into the ferocious ‘Brought To The Water’. It signals the start of the band playing ‘New Bermuda’ in full. It’s a bold move, and putting an audience through that much newer material in succession is feat that very few bands can pull off. Deafheaven have no such issue. Front man George Clarke acts like a maniacal conductor, his body contorting with the music. He locks eyes with members of the audience, focusing on single people as the painful screams during ‘Luna’ pour out of him.

Musically, Deafheaven are methodically tight live as they are on record. Guitarists Kerry McCoy and Shiv Mehra make the intricate nature of their compositions look easy. They switch between furious triplet riffing, and syncopated melodies with the utmost fluidity. It is on the monstrous ‘Come Back’ where the chalk and cheese rhythm section of Deafheaven really comes into play. Bassist Stephen Clark appears entranced by the frenetic blast beats that emanate from Dan Tracy behind him, who proves once again that he is probably the most technically proficient drummer, of this style, in the business today.

After they stormed their way through ‘New Bermuda’, Deafheaven return to the stage for a run through the title track from 2013’s ‘Sunbather’. It sounds absolutely monolithic, as does their set closer ‘Dream House’, but it also shows the progression in which the band has made since the album’s release. They clearly still mean a lot to the devoted mass in attendance tonight, and everyone surges forward; drawn in deeper to Deafheaven’s musical hypnosis.

If there are any naysayers out there still, the ones who want to bring tonight’s headliners down based purely on the bands upward trajectory, they are now the ones who need to prove themselves. Deafheaven no longer have anything to prove. Tonights staggering performance reaffirmed that Deafheaven are without a doubt, the most important band in heavy music today.