Deafheaven

I’ve been listening to Deafheaven’s first two albums and am very impressed. In one sense, as a heavy, fast, technical band, they could not be more different than Pallbearer. In another, they have the fundamentals in common: gifted songwriting; a heavy sound with a sensitive ear; neither band is in a hurry.

After a few weeks I have moved on to, and now also love, their third, New Bermuda. I also see the genius that is Sunbather: had they not written it we would not know Deafheaven as such. Their first, Roads to Judah, is a very strong take on modern black metal. But had they not moved beyond it, they would have merely been another talented instance of it.

I’ve been prepared to see their fourth as more difficult to like. However, as I listen to the opening track I realize that the fans who do not like it would have been content had they only written the first. And as I just experienced Honeycomb into Canary Yellow I am blown away.

With three minutes to go in the last track I am still entranced. I do not want it to end, and yet I could not have imagined it ending in a better way.

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They are a little like Katatonia in the sense that you are constantly tempted to try to pick one song that captures their sound perfectly, only to realize the folly of this task.

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I am also realizing that I do not oppose speed as such, rather, that I like it done in a certain way: it must be precise yet behind the beat, in other words, it must swing.

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I still can’t believe I’m going to see them in less than a week, and realized they could literally play any song off these albums and I will be delighted. In the same sense, they could simply play one album and I would feel the same: I would both be satisfied and still want more. As I read what I wrote above I know to resist the folly of hoping they play Baby Blue, or Sunbather, or Honeycomb into Canary Yellow. I also realize this is true of any band I love. This helps to explain my constant temptation to rank things, one over the other. Perhaps a better way to think about it is I love this in particular because of each thing that surrounds it. These great songs would not exists without the others, which, in turn, makes them great as well.

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Part of the joy in their music is that they know how to play metal in a major key.

As I listen to the title track of Sunbather I recall a friend at work saying that, among metal fans, Deafheaven was divisive.

All gods are divisive.

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I got to see them last night in Worcester (7 April 2019). They were amazing. The combination of musicianship, technical ability and stage presence was second to no band I’ve ever seen. When you combine that with their songwriting and song selection for the evening it was easily among the best shows I’ve experienced. From where I sat I could see the other bands (Zeal and Ardor, Baroness) in the wing, watching as well.

Baroness felt like you were watching a very good band, and was enjoyable. Deafheaven felt like you were watching a phenomenon, and all you could do was submit.

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I’ve been away from them for a while as I explored Alcest and Hooded Menace. As I listen to Canary Yellow and remember seeing it live I realize it may be one of the best songs I’ve ever seen performed. They even nailed the harmonies at the end.

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