(L-R) Shiv Mehra, Daniel Tracy, Stephen Clark, Kerry McCoy and George Clarke of Deafheaven play music that transcends black metal. Photo: Reid Haithcock
The old adage about how the more things change, the more they stay the same is perfect for a description of Kilby Court, the favored venue of the underage and over-hip in Salt Lake City. Since the first time I attended a show there in 1998 or 1999, many improvements have been made to the venue, but the actual room itself is still a sweltering hot mess of juvenile machismo and shared sweat. Granted, the sound has improved immensely from when the venue first opened, but, at least to me, that doesn’t make up for having to wade through the throngs of terrible “ironic” mustaches, distressed V-neck T-shirts and dudes in cut-off chick jeans. Trivialities and old-man judging aside, I ventured out of my cave to attend the Deafheaven/Marriages/Cult Leader show at the aforementioned venue, and though not a total loss, it isn’t an experience I’m going to treasure for the rest of my life.
Opening the show was Salt Lake’s Cult Leader—essentially the remnants of Gaza, my personal most hated band from our fair city. Being that this is for all intents and purposes a new band, I was relatively interested in seeing them, but alas, I was only allowed to hear them. Due to a gaffe at the venue, I was initially refused entrance, so I used the down time to listen to the music being played. While nothing groundbreaking or earthshattering, Cult Leader does shell out some intense metalcore, and does so in a much more unique and tight way than Gaza was ever capable of. Kudos to them for continuing to make music, and I wish them the best, but they really didn’t “wow” me they way they did almost everyone else in attendance.
Admittedly, I was looking forward to the first touring act—Marriages, featuring members of Red Sparowes and Nocturnes, and was supremely let down. Where I was for some reason expecting something like a cross between Red Sparowes and The Jesus Lizard, I was instead treated to a barrage of unoriginal indie-rock garbage. As I explained to an individual or two during their performance, they seem to fit into a category of innumerable bands that are over-hyped, end up being people’s “favorite band ever” for six months, and then are never heard from again. I’m not claiming to be Nostradamus—they may well be around for years, and they may eventually stay people’s favorite band, but they were simply uninteresting, and not one chord or progression they doled out stuck with me.
Closing out the show was San Francisco’s Deafheaven—the latest whipping boys for the black metal elite. Listen, kids—I don’t give a rat’s fat, fucking dick about how “tr00,” “kvlt,” “grimm,” over whatever other misspelled adjective you want to use to describe a band is—all that matters is if the music is good or not. For my money, Deafheaven is worth the price of admission. Well-played tunes combined with an excellent performance, most reviews I’ve read have described Deafheaven as “post–black metal” or “grey metal.” Personally, I don’t really even think they’re a metal band. I lump them in more with the likes of Mogwai, Mono, Boris and the like, even though they rely heavily on blast beats and incomprehensible vocals placed over tremolo guitar picking and rock n’ roll song structures. People have run the term “atmospheric” into the fucking ground when describing bands of the black metal/instrumental ilk, but the term fits Deafheaven perfectly. The guitar riffing is insanely catchy, and at times almost disturbingly hypnotic, and I was verily impressed that they were able to pull off their live show as well as they did. I was really only able to stick my head inside the venue for a minute or two due to the absolutely intolerable heat and humidity, so I spent almost the entire show outside, simply listening. Being well past my own personal “salad days” of show attendance, I much prefer listening to live music than watching it anyway, and I prefer listening to music on a stereo as opposed to having to suffer through the innumerable hassles and ridiculousness that accompanies attending most live performances, so take that as you will. Additionally, the sound seemed better away from the crowd and out in the fresh air—a much better way to enjoy Deafheaven, in my opinion. All in all, being outside and listening to the band tear through bits and pieces of their debut album, Roads to Judah, and their most current release, Sunbather, was a relatively enjoyable way to spend an hour of my life. From my vantage point, Deafheaven has become 2013’s Wolves in the Throne Room, but are actually much more intriguing and attempt to maintain far less of an image. One can only hope that the hipster masses will eventually forget about bands like Deafheaven and move on to destroy other genres of music, which is essentially a pipe dream, considering they’ve successfully ruined crust, D-beat, black and thrash metal, stoner rock, and, well, you get the idea.
In summation, yes—the idiotically mustachioed masses bug the living piss out of me, but I’m glad I was able to actually venture into the outside world and experience a band like Deafheaven. Now I can return to my hole and continue on with my judgmental attitude and superiority complex, and therein lies the joke.