Photos by Anne-Laure Marie

Setting the scene for tonight, punters entering the Corner Hotel for the ensuing feast of progressive delights on offer were suitably chilled by the venue’s heavily overcompensated air conditioning. 

This ultimately proved the perfect ambient backdrop for the dark and harrowing tones of the sludge-afflicted, dense and morose two-piece Divide and Dissolve. With a unique experimental setup including woodwind instruments, loopers, an upside down guitar played through a bass amp and fifty distortion pedals, the sombre and crushingly dense riffs pounded heavily through the air as drummer Sylvie Nehill through Takiya Reed‘s soulfully morbid meanderings. 

With their dense aural assault came impassioned speeches on decolonisation, dismantling cultural hegemony and pleas to return Indigenous lands of the Kuluin nation of the Wurundjeri people back to their rightful owners. These speeches were met with varying degrees of applause, silent (and perhaps guilt-laden) or admonishment. These cries were well received however, and served to provide an extra depth of emotional weight to an already emotionally and sonically in-your-face set.

Proclaiming their excitement to play for an equally appreciative Deafheaven, the band receded. After a short interlude, the iconic red curtains dropped from the last bars of a soul-inspired melodic intro to the warped ambience preceding the mighty opener Brought To The Water

Immediately pounding into a furious assault, the relentless hammering of Daniel Tracy‘s incomprehensibly tight assault boomed alongside bassist Chris Johnson‘s lock-step but creative low end. Furiously emanating a wall of tremolo laden riffs and clever chord and lead interplay were guitarists Kerry McCoy and Shiv Mehra. 

Immediately whipping long hair in early 90s Burton C Bell style, vocalist George Clarke was something of a post-black metal frontman enigma. Sporting smooth black velvet gloves and a plain tee and oscillating from pointed fist-pumping to sultry interpretive dance, his writhing movements mirrored the band’s seamless shifts between black metal fury and introspective dream pop and shoegaze. 

As the opener faded out to thunderous applause, the band gave thanks and announced a new song, Black Brick, which was to be released the following 3am Australian time. And oh my occult lord would that have been worth staying up for! Easily one of the heaviest and most intense Deafheaven tracks yet, the completely uncompromising new number whipped the subdued band and audience into supercharged, writhing mania. Yours truly lost all conception of control, moving with the kinetic force of the very Darkthrone-inspired number with abandon. 

From here, the band bounced into their more recognisably bipolar duality between melodic but relentless black metal hammering and moving, emotionally charged post-rock segues. Clear cut juxtaposition of the almost bluesy newer album tracks and ‘Sunbather’ favourites (such as the energetically received title track and encore Dream House) were pushed with greater emotional energy and participation from the band, whose members were now completely incapable of sitting still. The frontman’s mic handovers, gratitude and snaps between windmills and sensuous Prince-esque gesticulating were the topping on a diverse, eclectic and appreciative cake.

While the purists scoffed at home from their keyboards, a captivated audience of prog, shoegaze and black metal devotees rounded out the night with a booming and elongated applause. A night of intensity and emotional depth that perfectly bolstered the Deafheaven experience.