LIVE: Deafheaven / Youth Code @ KOKO, London

By Glen Bushell

When Deafheaven released ‘New Bermuda’ in 2015, they proved to the metal masses that they were more than just a black metal band for hipsters. Nearly two years on and they are wrapping up the last part of the touring cycle for the record, which includes on of their biggest headline shows to date in London. Given the size of the venue and the crowd that have turned out for this early show on Friday, clearly Deafheaven are not the ‘flavour of the month’ kind of band many critics assumed they would be.

Before they take the stage, Los Angeles EBM duo Youth Code to obliterate the senses of those how have made it down in time. With a heavy artillery of distorted beats and samples, redolent of classic Wax Trax! acts, Ryan George manipulates all manner of punishing sounds while vocalist Sara Taylor hurls herself around the stage.

It’s perhaps not what many of the audience expected, given the metal-leaning sound of Deafheaven, and at first, the visceral ‘To Burn Your World’ and ‘Dust Of Fallen Rome’ go over the heads of many. However, the harsher the noise gets, the more attention they gain. By the time they go back to their earlier work of ‘Carried Mask’, and as Taylor leads the charge through ‘Consuming Guilt’, it becomes clear that Youth Code have gained an entirely new following tonight.

Deafheaven, on the other hand, don’t need win anyone over tonight judging by the roar of appreciation that they are greeted with as they arrive. Launching straight into ‘Brought To The Water’, they are as tight and methodical as ever. It’s hardly surprising, given their workhorse ethic and endless touring schedule. The wretched vocals of George Clarke cut through the searing guitars played at full volume, which would later lead to a blown bass amp.

After a trio of tracks from ‘New Bermuda’, and as Clarke writhes and cavorts around the stage like the black metal Michael Jackson, Deafheaven circle back to some of their earlier material. ‘Language Games’ shows the band at their most unrelenting, and the blueprint from the pioneering force they would become. It is followed by their own take on the Mogwai classic, ‘CODY’, with a hypnotic wall of sound shrouding the delicate underlying melody.

While all of Deafheaven posses a wealth of talent, particularly in Kerry McCoy and Shiv Mehra’s innovative guitar playing, it is drummer Daniel Tracey who shines once again. Mesmerising to watch, his blast beats and time changes are jaw dropping through ‘Sunbather’ and ‘Dream House’, leading you to wonder if he is even human at all. The band close out with ‘The Pecan Tree’ before bidding London good night until next time, which will hopefully be along with a new record. For now, Deafheaven are still decadent, terrifying, and one of the most powerful bands in modern metal.