December 4, 2023

Deafheaven played Sunbather at Knockdown Center

Deafheaven are celebrating the 10-year anniversary of their stone-cold classic album Sunbather by playing it in its entirety with life-affirming power and urgency.

I've made my love for Deafheaven's record Sunbather rather clear if you read this site. It was one of my favorites the year it was released and I named it the best album from the first fifteen years of writing this site. I never grow tired of hearing it and every time I choose to blast my way through the album's brilliant tracklist, I find new discoveries that unlock deeper core emotions than I have ever realized. While I've seen the band bring these songs to life time and time again on subsequent tours promoting their follow-up records, I jumped at the chance to see the band play Sunbather in-full, giving the album the proper highlight and credit it deserves as one of the best in its genre, but also best in a class all of its own as well. Opening with the stunning and surging riff behind "Dream House," the energy in the room immediately started to build to a towering height as Kerry McCoy chugged along with serious vengeance before the rest of the band cut in with absolute domination as George Clarke's epic scream acted like a chokehold, gripping the crowd with cutting force and evoking a dire sense of unrelenting passion. The song's extreme power came to life with laser-sharp precision, everyone in the band hitting their mark in the exact right places, bringing the symphonic nature of this track (and the rest) to the forefront and witnessing the band navigate the course changes through the flowing masterpiece was another highlight of the night. With all of the crushing power that comes from these tracks, its the power of the instruments melding together that make the album such a sinister force to be reckoned with, the onslaught of brutal drum beats and punishing riffs erupt with the power of a jet engine and reach staggering heights that when you witness it live, it begs the question if there is anything that can feel more pure and full or purpose. Metal music can often be intimidating, the violent screams and aggressive rhythms and lack of melody can drive people away, but Deafheaven make for a warm and inviting sound, even when it feels larger than life. From the pink album cover to the blanketing guitars, it's easy to get wrapped in the magic and the ethereal shoegaze elements before even realizing there's a wicked howl piercing the mix. There are the moments of lush guitar work that recall the dreamier sides of Slowdive or the gothic moments from The Cure's Seventeen Seconds and there's also the more driving moments that embody Alcest's most glorious moments or the droning forces of Mogwai's exquisite grandeur. Deafheaven take the best of all of these moments and distill them into seven tracks of the most remarkable metal tunes ever to comprise an album. Sunbather captured a time and a mood that the band has chased ever since and at times, they've replicated  the beauty found on the album, but never with such conviction and with the same brilliant intensity. "Vertigo" held the middle section of the night with more esteemed beauty as the band locked-in for some dizzying rhythms that spotlighted the jackhammer-like drumming that kept everything firmly in place for the entirety of the show with amazing diligence and tenacity like no other. Leaving it all on the stage, the band brought things to a close with the magnificent "The Pecan Tree," a final blow that left the crowd firmly in a daze before Clarke came back to say "I'm not one for false promises, but the next time we see you, we'll have a new record and if you like this next song you'll love what's coming." Following the mixed reception to the band's last album Infinite Granite, this statement was met with crushing elation as the band tore through "Brought to the Water," the opening song from New Bermuda. It was one last blast of high octane black metal that closed the night with one final charge of white-knuckle intensity from one of the best bands brining heavy music to the masses.

Set list:

01 "Dream House"
02 "Irresistible"
03 "Sunbather"
04 "Please Remember"
05 "Vertigo"
06 "Windows"
07 "The Pecan Tree"
08 "Brought to the Water"

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