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This Little Underground: Deafheaven, Wreck & Reference, Pallbearer @ BB

June 17, 2014
By

This Little Underground is Orlando Weekly’s music column providing perspective, live reviews and news on the city’s music scene. Read the latest column here.

Deafheaven at Backbooth (photo by James Dechert)

Deafheaven at Backbooth (photo by James Dechert)

 

It’s a daring, golden time for metal right now. Due to some great work by a new generation, the genre has moved up – past niche and stereotype – in recent times and into the most exclusive chambers of rock-snob hearts everywhere (Awwww). And perhaps no band has been as vaunted in the past year as San Francisco’s Deafheaven (June 16, Backbooth). Their merge of black metal, shoegaze and post-metal is frequently cited as one of the most groundbreaking sounds today. And they’re mostly equal to the hype, especially live where their relentless and grand storm expands the possibilities of heavy metal to express beauty in surprising and singular ways. And even if he is kind of like the Chris Martin of black metal on stage, all of Deafheaven’s widescreen drama and flair is embodied in singer George Clarke, who is a powerful and iconic performer. As long as their searing sonic blitz is met by the rage and release of a packed house like this one, their show will always be a true happening.

Deafheaven at Backbooth (photo by James Dechert)

Deafheaven at Backbooth (photo by James Dechert)

At least partial extra credit goes to Deafheaven for drawing a crowd that was notably attentive and receptive to opening acts that were nothing like them. In fact, fellow Californians Wreck & Reference aren’t just unlike Deafheaven, they’re unlike practically everybody else out there with a convention-bucking post-metal template that synthesizes black metal, noise and dark electronic experimentation. Furthermore, unlike even many of their fellow genre jailbreakers, their sound isn’t about density and crush. Instead, it’s rendered with space and atmosphere not typical of heavy music.

Live, the duo rocks drums and (gasp!) a pad with buttons instead of the typical guitar. With an arrangement like that, you can already hear the groundswell of belly grumbles from purists rising. But although not exactly full-body gripping, their set was intriguing, especially since the dual, contrasting vocals were much more pronounced live than on record.

Also opening was the more tradition-minded Arkansas doom-metal band Pallbearer, whose performance on the other hand fell short of their recordings. Their rock is nice and heavy but the wail-moaning vocals were sometimes problematic and, in their more imprecise moments, veered dangerously close to bad dude-opera.

Pallbearer at Backbooth (photo by James Dechert)

Pallbearer at Backbooth (photo by James Dechert)

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  • Porst

    Pallbearer were great when I saw them open for Enslaved last year. It might be the sound mix, or an off night, but they’re usually excellent. I already love Deafheaven, but thanks for bringing my attention to Wreck & Reference, as I’m a huge post-metal fan and I’m always on the lookout for more.