Napalm Flesh: Deafheaven Interview

Posted September 29, 2011 in
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Welcome to Napalm Flesh! This week we have an interview with yet another band taking black metal to uncharted territory: Deafheaven. Their mixture of black metal, hardcore, shoegaze and post-rock is one of the most interesting and fresh spins on aggressive music to emerge in the last year, and their album Roads to Judah is sure to show up on many end of year “Best Of” lists. We also have links to streaming music, reviews of new and recent releases from The Body & Braveyoung, Old Silver Key, Opeth, Midnight Odyssey, True Widow and Warbringer, as well as this week’s rundown of metal events.

Before we jump into this week’s events, check out these links to new streaming music:
The Body & Braveyoung – Nothing Passes
The Tangent – Comm
Wayne Static – Pighammer

On Friday September 30, Spineshank will be playing at Kamikazes in Ogden, if you’re into that. Tickets are $15, the show starts at 8:00, and you must be 21 or older to get in.

Also on Friday, Dream Theater will bring their brand of prog metal to Kingsbury Hall with openers Trivium, who were interviewed for the blog about a month ago by our own Megan Kennedy.

Saturday October 1 brings the highly anticipated Wolves in the Throne Room to Salt Lake City at the Utah Arts Alliance (2191 S. 300 W.). Show up early, not only because space is limited, but because locals Eagle Twin and IX Zealot definitely should not be missed. Tickets are $10, doors open at 9:00, and this show is all ages. Check out last week’s episode of SLUG’s new podcast Soundwaves From the Underground for a great interview with WITTR’s Aaron Weaver and SLUG’s Gavin Hoffman.

Also on October 1, locals A Balance of Power will perform  at The Dawg Pound (3550 S. State) with Deathead, Orion's Wrath and Darkblood! $5 gets you in,  doors open at  8:00 and The Dawg Pound is a  21+ venue.

And finally, Tuesday August 4 sees the Rockstar Uproar Festival hitting the USANA Ampitheatre. Slated for the Salt Lake date are Avenged Sevenfold, Seether, Three Days Grace, Bullet For My Valentine, Escape the Fate, Sevendust, Black Tide, the Art of Dying and the Black Cloud Collective. Tickets start at $20 and go all the way up to $200, with doors opening at 2:00 PM.

Interview with Deafheaven vocalist George Clarke

Stream the 2010 Deafheaven demo/download for a dime
Free downloadable Deafheaven live set

: Hi George, thanks for taking some time out of your day to answer these questiosn!
George Clarke: No problem. It's always a pleasure.

SLUG: In other interviews I’ve read and based on Nick’s other project Whirr, I get the sense that the members of Deafheaven don’t necessarily come from a “metal” world. What is your musical background?
GC: Our influences span various styles of music. However, we all have backgrounds in aggressive music. Whether that be metal, punk, or otherwise.

SLUG: To me it seems that fans of “aggressive” music (metal, hardcore, whatever you wanna call it) are quicker than most to label and compartmentalize what they listen to. Do you define your music with labels? Why do you think people so badly want to call you a “metalgaze” band?
GC: Even though placing genres on bands can get extreme, it makes sense. There's a vast amount of experimentation in aggressive music and just using the term 'metal' can sometimes be short-sighted. In that regard, we do categorize ourselves to an extent when trying to explain our music. However, we do not submit to the confines of any genre. If people want to call us 'metalgaze', then that's fine—whatever makes things easier for them.

SLUG: Going along with that, you guys seem to be lumped in with bands like Liturgy and Krallice as a “hipster” black metal band. Have you seen any sort of negative reaction from black metal purists? Do you even care?
GC: Not everyone is going to like what you're doing musically. It's a natural part of making music and you can't let it bother you. There's no point in it. The term 'hipster' is a nonsensical tag used to complain about the state of newer bands or to denounce any form of modernism. Musically, both Krallice and Liturgy bear little similarity to us.

SLUG: Deafheaven’s music is very harsh sounding, and your voice  definitely evoke a certain mood, but without staring at a lyric sheet they’re indiscernible. As a lyricist and vocalist, how important is it for people hearing your music to understand what you’re saying?
GC: Lyrics are an important element to what we do, but the vocals are sung in that way to match the intensity of the music. If anything, reading lyrics while listening only strengthens my connection to what's being played.

SLUG: I really like the cover art and design for Roads to Judah. Is there any special meaning behind the cover illustration or the font the band used?
GC: Reuben Sawyer came up with the cover art and Nick Steinhardt created the layout and logo. I'm a fan of their work and trusted them with the art direction of the record. Other than that, the art holds no special meaning.

: What is the general reaction to your music in the live setting? Do you think you create a different kind of energy than other bands in the hardcore and metal realms?
GC: The reaction to our live show can be 50/50. Honestly, we play to a wide variety of audiences. Some we cater toward, others we don't. Regardless, there's no an act being put on. Whatever we look like while we play is just how we feel while performing the songs. All I can hope is that on some level, people can appreciate it.

SLUG: You guys went on a full US headlining tour this summer. How was the reception? What was it like having people come to your shows specifically to see Deafheaven, given that you’ve only been a band for about a year?
GC: Our tour this summer was actually headlined by KEN Mode, who were fantastic. The experience was huge for us and being able to see fans across the country and appreciate their support was immense.

Blog Exclusive CD Reviews

The Body & Braveyoung
Nothing Passes
At A Loss
Street: 09.27
The Body & Braveyoung = Sunn 0)) + The Body + Godspeed You! Black Emperor + Braveyoung
Collaborations between artists can be a tricky thing to. Boris’ multiple collaborations, while interesting, have never quite struck a fully unique chord—there are other examples that exist, but the mentioned band comes to mind especially with the subject and content of The Body and Braveyoung’s musical styles. One thing this collaborative effort has going for it is the lack of familiarity in the musical scene from each artist, The Body is gaining a foothold as being a forward thinking mind-altering sludge metal band especially with their last full-length All the Waters of the Earth Turn to Blood. The Braveyoung are fresh on the heels of their full-length debut We Are Lonely Animals. Really this collaboration is the end result of The Body a maniacal sludge metal band intent on pushing discomfort to listeners and Braveyoung an instrumental shoegaze/drone/experimental type band that blends beauty and fear seamlessly in their music. The two bands collaboration feels far from two bands playing on top of one another – each song is thought out with purpose. The production of the songs is next to perfect, to hear this release in analog would be its epitome. Take a good thirty-five minutes block out all distractions and enjoy being beautifully frightened with Nothing Passes. – Bryer Wharton

Midnight Odyssey
Funerals From The Astral Sphere
I, Voidhanger
Street: 10.04
Midnight Odyssey = Drudkh + Alcest + Lustre
There are memories I like to call audible memories—the mind remembers things not just from sight, but from every sense. Audible memories strike particular chords with me. Midnight Odyssey’s double album Funerals from the Astral Sphere will imprint one of those audible memories, like hearing wolves howling at the moon in the middle of a remote forest or the complete absence of sound, which in a weird way, could be considered a sound. There’s something beyond special when you first hear a piece of music that alters perceptions, makes that strange organ lodged in your skull start tingling and sending shivers and other sensations throughout your body. The musician/songwriter known as Dis Pater has already made headway with Midnight Odyssey’s Firmament and his other project, The Crevices Below. There is no avoiding the pure fact that when you decide to take on this sonic opus of over two hours of music, you need to be doing nothing else but listening to it. To slap a label on this undertaking is difficult; you could call it ambient black metal, but it pushes far beyond any genre. Forget the notion that you think you’ve heard every little bit and piece of what is considered music, this record is a firm and lovely reminder that you haven’t. –Bryer Wharton

Old Silver Key
Tales of Wanderings
Season of Mist
Street: 09.27
Old Silver Key = Drudkh + Alcest + romanticism
Let’s see here, a side project with Alcest and Drudkh do I need to expand and talk about the album or should you just go buy it? Well technically both. There is a distinct feeling with Tales of Wanderings not only showcasing the strengths of Alcest and Drudkh but also almost exposing some weaknesses of each band and their cumulative musicians. Expectations on the end result of this record from fans of either artist are going to be high – I don’t want to necessarily say lower those expectations but as mentioned before there is a distinct feeling behind this record. As the history of each artist lends to the idea that this composition of seven tracks is some massive production that took hundreds of hours to come to fruition would be a misleading statement. Tales of Wanderings does not resemble anything black metal the album is post-rock to its very core. That feeling I was talking about is a live recording type feel as if the mysterious Drudkh members just jammed some melodic and melancholy post rock tunes and singer Neige (who is Alcest) came to sing while the Drudkh guys jammed. The songs have great ability to at times be minimalist sounding and then at times multi-layered with this odd law of physics defying feeling that trying to immediately grasp the concept and feeling of certain songs as if it’s an attempt to hold the hand of a ghost. If Neige were not singing the power of this album would be lost just as if the instrumentation were not coming from the powerhouse of Drudkh. Production sounds almost hollow or thin especially with the guitar tone it has a shell aspect to it that initially feels like the album is missing something. There is a texture to the sound and it’s simultaneously rough and smooth. In the end Old Silver Key just scratches the surface on what could become of this collaborative effort, but also for any listener with an open mind there is a multitude of things to discover – definitely a challenge worth taking. –Bryer Wharton

Roadrunner Records
Street: 9.20
Opeth = Yes + Rush + Opeth
Opeth has a sound so original, so trademarked, you know instantly when you’re listening to them. This is just as true on Heritage: it is, at its core, Opeth. But if past albums were recorded on misty, haunted mire, this one is from a backwoods hippie commune possibly fueled by black magic. Mikael Åkerfeldt is no pussy with experimentation; this time he’s laced their sound with jazzy, 70s folk guitar work, and the result is interesting but lacking muscle of albums past. “Haxprocess” is easily as emotionally wrenching any song from Orchid or Blackwater Park; the final 2-3 minutes is a bluesy but Euro-dark guitar and bass tale that chills your blood. “I Feel The Dark” is ghoulish with good sections that seem pieces of separate songs. The highs and lows of “Nepanthe” are a sonic ride and a solid demonstration of the direction the band is taking. There are some transition problems, both within songs and between them, but this could be just growing pains of a new progression that will be rubbed away over time. – Megan Kennedy

True Widow
Street: 10.04
True Widow = Whirl + Young Widows + Dwellers
I bought True Widow’s As High as the Highest Heavens and From the Center to the Circumference of the Earth earlier this year after I read a review in Decibel that described the album as “glacial,” which appealed to the side of my that likes big, heavy, frozen things. The first time I spun the album I was floored—it turned out that I was playing it at 33 RPM and it was supposed to be at 45, but even when sped up, its beauty still lay in its slow spaciness. This 33 minute EP is being released only six months after their latest full length, and it complements As High... while expanding True Widow’s sound in some subtle and some not-so-subtle ways. Opening track “For Grace” is immediately striking because it is entirely acoustic, but the heavy air that permeates True Widow’s sound is undeniably present, even without their trademark volume. The title track follows, and it is in its 14 minutes that those subtle and not-so-subtle expansions really shine through. While As High As... was largely about repetition, I.N.O. is more about creating a space and moving about it freely (albeit very, very slowly). True Widow’s music has always evoked a certain droniness, but “I.N.O.” actually transforms into a Boris-like drone track after about 8 minutes of super heavy shoe gazing and Nikki Estill’s seductive, dreamy vocals. Because of the weight of the volume, listeners will have to really pay attention to hear True Widow growing, but I have a feeling that I.N.O. is paving the way for some major transformations for this band. -Ricky Vigil

Worlds Torn Asunder
Century Media
Street: 09.27
Warbringer = Vio-lence + Death Angel + Exodus
Warbringer’s always instilled an irrepressible giddiness in me. Call it my biased bent towards bullet-belted metallers playing anything moshable and primal, but when it comes to iGeneration jeans-tucked-into-Reebok thrash, these Ventura nutjobs lead the pack, and Worlds Torn Asunder proves it. Maybe it’s Dan Seagrave’s artwork. Maybe it’s Steve Evett’s beefy production, lending John Kevill’s slobbery bark the rabid edge it’s never had. Maybe it’s the leadoff cut “Living Weapon”—four minutes of war-time audial savagery abuzz with machine gun riffing, air-raid siren solos, and psychotic lyrical fare spat forth with all the subtlety of a meat hook in your pimply forehead … but it’s exceptionally memorable. “Wake Up … Destroy!” and “Demonic Ecstasy” prove capable of reducing brains and necks to quivering mushes of Bay Area bongloads and teutonic clashing, and somewhere in hell’s inner sanctum, Paul Baaloff is stomping poseurs into the devil’s nutsack while listening to this record on repeat. Come stagedive at The Complex (11.01). –Dylan Chadwick