This was my first time going to a show at the Taft Theater. It was held in the ballroom. Turnout was great and there was a very large amount of people who showed up that I'd never seen at a metal show here before. There was also the highest amount of women at a metal show that I've ever witnessed and many of them were incredibly beautiful. That said, thank you, Deafheaven, for what you're doing and I hope to see that happen even more.
I've read in a lot of places about how Deafheaven's release last year, Sunbather, has garnered praise and interest from people who weren't even into metal. They've gotten a lot of flack from the underground metal scene (mostly strange people like myself, for whom that is a place of refuge from "normal" people) for their sound and aesthetics. Some of the insults accusations made against the band include such things as "ruining black metal" and causing hipsters to "infiltrate" it. While I understand the paranoia and fear metalheads have about their beloved music (which is one of the few places where many of them find some level of happiness), I think their fears in this case are ill-founded. Outside of a Deafheaven show, these people are very unlikely to rub elbows with hipsters or "posers". It's not like the band is likely to have a gold record or make it onto rock radio. And they're certainly not "infiltrating" the black metal scene like deathcore and slam bands have with death metal. Which is a reason why the few large death metal shows that come through here have been replaced with bills of the aforementioned genres. But, at least at this point, I don't see that happening anytime soon. Especially with a band who has album cover like THIS:
So yeah, that's just plain silly. Anyhow, back to the review...
Despite the poor acoustics of the venue, both bands had strong performances that were met with a positive response. Deafheaven's singer's moves on stage made me think of something akin to a black metal David Bowie and their psychedelic, shoegaze-influenced sound was powerful and moving. Unfortunately, about halfway or three-quarters into their set, they just seemed to run out of energy. Their playing was still very tight and on-point, though. I think this was mostly because of how much people's interest in them exploded, suddenly making them a headlining band so early in their existence. That's something that will take them some getting used to and I'm sure that they'll adapt. The final song of their set was from Roads to Judah. Don't ask me the name of it, though. I managed to completely forget it (sorry!).
You can check out Deafheaven's latest album, Sunbather, on their bandcamp.
(photo taken from cincymusic.com - not sure what the date or venue on it is...)
The opening band, mala in se, I found much more interesting. They also played a better set where they maintained a high energy level the whole time. It's of my opinion (and a number of the people I know, not to mention a lot of music critics in multiple publications) that they're one of the best bands in Cincinnati. Made up of longtime scene vets Andy Perkins, Joe Thompson, and Danny McPherson, they have a very unique sound. It's noisy, heavy, and has multiple layers. The song-writing is unusual, with odd time signatures. Also, the guitar riffs are angular, like the classic "noise rock" bands of the 90's. For their set, they used auxiliary percussion (including a propane tank), samples, and disturbing visuals. It left a strong impression on everyone, leaving some of the audience confused or repulsed, while others "got it" and were totally stoked.
I would recommend checking out mala in se's tracks on a 2x7" compilation that local label Phratry Records released. There's two songs on it (one on the 7" and one available only as a digital download). It took me awhile to wrap my head around the first one, "Crowd of Dead Grandparents", but I connected with "Cats" right away. If you like those, you'll like the single "Dragon" even more. Be sure to check out their self-titled album, as well. The single and full-length are both available for free/pay-what-you-want on their bandcamp.
Here's some video from the show, shot by Jon Krech of local metal band Silver Cypher:, who you should absolutely check out. If you didn't, you would be doing a great disservice to yourself.
He took more video of Deafheaven's set, which you can find here, here, and here.