Deafheaven – Live at Leeds Stylus [Live Review]

Lying somewhere between space rock, dream pop and blackgaze is something extraordinary. Something undefinable by insufficient portmanteaus. There lie Deafheaven. A band whose majesty wanders in an æther beyond words, as such making a critic’s job near impossible.

Though the venue is not sold out, Deafheaven play as if they were headlining an at capacity stadium. The soaring lead guitar work of Kerry McCoy and Shiv Mehra is blissfully adept; the two are virtuosic in their approach to their instruments, as well as McCoy’s sublime piano work during their latest album, Ordinary Corrupt Human Love’s opening salvo, You Without End. The song is an epic in every sense of the word with Mehra providing a Brian May-esque guitar run into George Clarke’s haunting vocals.

The rhythm section comprising of Daniel Tracy on drums and relative newcomer Chris Johnson on bass (having joined in 2017), is as precise as keyhole surgery. The duo provides a weighty and atmospheric backdrop to the ethereal leads, particularly on the title track from 2013’s critically acclaimed Sunbather. Conversely, they are also able to bring a throbbing undertow to the likes of Brought to the Water.

The star of the show is vocalist, George Clarke, appearing before the crowd on his birthday no less. A fusion of terrifying and multi-faceted black metal vocals wrapped in a lithe body adorned in an increasingly sweaty black silk shirt, he moves around the stage like a member of the cast of West Side Story, adding a sense of glamour to the proceedings, as well as a finesse in his orchestration of both band and audience. Truly, this man is a master of his craft. And quite easy on the eye.

It takes a while for the audience to really get on the Californian quintet’s side. During the opening double header of singles Honeycomb and Canary Yellow, there’s a reservation lurking in the audience. However, once the classic material drops the room falls into a trance in which every beat and purposefully placed note provides a space for quiet, reverential contemplation, as well as inciting a deliriously joyous mosh pit.

Deafheaven may be revered for their incredible recorded output, but tonight’s entertainment, 5 ridiculously talented men and a bare bones light show, prove that they are one of the best live bands our world has to offer. Do not miss this band if they are coming anywhere near you. If you give yourself to them, you will be repaid with a feeling of unbridled ecstasy.

Words and Photos by Sam Sleight

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