Deafheaven + Dispirit Herald The New Wave Of Black Metal

These bands prove black metal is an evolving genre, capable influencing other forms of metal and non-metal music.

-By Zack Sigel

To say that George Clarke moves like Conan O’Brien is not to undercut the sincerity of his music and art, but to describe the two tall charismatic men as both rigid and choreographed. The latter moves to the music of his in-house band and the former to Deafheaven. Conan shuffles onto stage and always lands a halfway hop timed to his drummer’s snare; Clarke extends his arms as as if casting spells and summoning spirits. Both thrive on the indictment of their audience through their performance.

But Clarke isn’t funny. In fact, he’s dead serious. You can hear it in the gruesome shriek he lends to his music, or read it in his lyrics. Deafheaven is a black metal band, which means that, with few exceptions, they must be moody and austere. One may choose to hear Clarke’s screams as angry, but catharsis is an outlet for a variety of emotions. With that in mind, it’s possible to hear Deafheaven as profoundly sad or triumphant. Someone recently asked me to revise the toast she was to give as her best friend’s maid-of-honor. And so, somewhere, on a bright day in late spring, a young woman who had never listened to black metal in her life unknowingly recited a couplet from one of Deafheaven’s earlier releases. The response was rapturous.

It would be difficult to imagine a place for Deafheaven’s lyrics among the first and second waves of black metal, as bands of those eras were concerned with occult blood and necrophilia. But then, it would be almost impossible to imagine Deafheaven putting on a show then, either.

I have seen Deafheaven twice. The first time was with one of my oldest friends, not far from the town where I grew up, and the second happened to be with one of my newest. On stage, the movements of the other band members are unremarkable— the centerpiece is Clarke. He plays no instruments but his prodigious vocal cords free him to chew up the stage. It is a performance of axiomatic intimacy. Deafheaven’s music envelops you, reverberates through you, overtaxing your senses of hearing and touch until invisible waves of sound compress your being into space. That much is not unique to black metal. It is only when Clarke reaches out to feel you experiencing this that we might witness black metal diverging into its third wave.

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