Rushing through the rain to get to Paper Tiger in time to see glittery-blackmetal outfit Deafheaven, I didn’t know what to expect. I had never seen the band before, but their second album Ordinary Corrupt Human Love,
released in July, made an unusual impact on me, considering I had written the band off years ago as a one-trick pony.
I’ll admit, I was a naysayer with the release of their critically acclaimed Sunbather
record back in 2014. At first listen, it felt gimmicky. As a longtime listener of both black metal of post rock in the vein of Mono and Explosions in the Sky, it felt like they were just smashing the genres together in a way that felt contrived.
Looking back, I realized I was being that old-bro, hipster-douchebag and found that it wasn’t that I didn’t like Deafheaven, it was the fact that I didn’t like their fans, which I’ll admit is a douchey reason to hate a band (I know I’m not alone here though). It’s a sentiment I still felt days leading up to the show, which I was trying to let go of: I feel like these poseur Deafheaven fans didn’t know enough about the layers of influence of Deafheaven to really get what they’re doing, and to throw their loyalty to the five-piece who mixe elements of post-rock, blackmetal, post-hardcore, classic rock ‘n’ roll and shoegaze for a mixture that’s shimmery, heavy and fucking epic, it all just made me scoff.
Last night at Paper Tiger, I surrendered to my judgements and did my best to enjoy myself and soak in the band’s live show and unsubscribe to my faulting aloofness (I’m sorry guys, I’m trying).
Contrast to the crowd at the Behemoth show (I went to go see Wolves in the Throne Room and At The Gates – which made me miss the openers at this show DIIV and IONNA GIKA – sorry) the room was a lot of teens and twenty-somethings; some donning the traditional metal show outfit band shirts and boots, but mostly it was just cool-looking folks in hip outfits that may or may not have cared who was checking them for scene cred.
Overall, the vibe was relaxed, and when Deafheaven took to the stage, the entire energy in the room shifted into a collective vibration of “fuck yes.” The quintet tore open the show with “Honey Comb,” the 11-minute track off the aforementioned Ordinary Corrupt Human Love
. Clutching the microphone stand, while furiously whipping his hair in good ol' metal fashion, singer George Clark birthed high-pitched black metal shrieks over the audience.
What was cool to see about the crowd was that there was no tough-guy machismo bull shit – which can often be seen at a lot of metal shows here in town. It was just smiles, and this feeling of ... joy? It’s sort of hard to describe, and maybe the triumphant, major-key progressions of the next song “Canary Yellow” attributed to it, but even through the intervals of moshing, there didn’t seem to be flare of ego or negativity in the audience.
As pummeling drums and furious tremolo guitar-picking crescendoed into tidal waves of distortion and colorful textures, Clarke would throw stark gazes into the crowd and move his arms and hands to the music almost like a classical music conductor whilst drawn-out squalls would escape his clenched teeth like a demon pulling itself into the atmosphere from a hell dimension.
“Thank you for coming out here again,” Clarke said as the audience applauded. "Thank you to everyone who made this show possible – it’s great to be back, and we will be back again," as one of the guitarists began strumming the beginning notes of band’s closing song “Glint.”
Stage diving erupted through the last few minutes of the band’s set while a couple members from Deafheaven stole glances at each other smiling like seeing this rambunctious of a crowd at their shows was a rare occurrence.
Ears ringing as a friend and I walked to the car with bellies yearning for some after-show Whataburger, I couldn’t help but appreciate how stoked the crowd was for the band. Regardless of whether or not we all could breakdown and decipher the layers of Deafheaven, the band creates a beautiful sound that’s equal parts angelic and demonic, and us San Antonians can dig that sort of dichotomy.
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