Deafheaven And Touché Amoré with Portrayal of Guilt Live at Electric Ballroom, Camden 3rd October

Co-headliners can be a tricky business. Finding two bands who work cohesively with their musical styles without being too similar, and finding artists with egos in check so as not to demand headlining status nightly can be a great task for a booking agent or promoter. It’s rare that they don’t work in all fairness, as the people behind the scenes do a stellar job of uniting two seemingly disparate tribes, and having sold out the venue this evening, it’s clearly not a thankless task. People clamour for these kinds of mixed bills in 2019, coming out in their droves to support myriad artists of differing genres. Blackgaze and post hardcore may seem opposed on the surface, but the linking factor between tonight’s headliners is an ability to express a wide range of emotions with ease, and an aptitude in manipulating genres into a unique sound. Touché Amoré play post hardcore with fierce emotional resonance, while Deafheaven play shoegazing black metal with aplomb, both of them able to communicate a rainbow of thoughts and feelings in their respective disciplines. It promises to be a might not to forget in a hurry.

Say the term ‘screamo’ to most people and it will conjure up images of snakebite piercings, skinny jeans and colourful belts not through the loops on the trousers. This is of course a bastardisation of the humble sub-genre that occurred in the mid 00s, and tarnished the name so heavily that nowadays it is a forgotten term. Reclaiming the word in its true form are tonight’s openers, Portrayal of Guilt, though there are many strings to their bow as the evening proves. Hardcore, post hardcore, grindcore and indeed screamo are all utilised to mesmeric effect on latest EP, Suffering Is A Gift, and tonight’s show is a stellar demonstration of those abilities. Portrayal of Guilt are able to succinctly bring together multiple genres to make blasting noise. Undeterred by the initially small crowd they smash through material from their various Eps and debut full length, Let Pain Be Your Guide, with intensity and verve. Matt King in particular stands out pulling what is essential triple duty on vocals, screaming, grunting and clean singing – occasionally – through their venerable if not brief back catalogue. [8]

Playing an album in full can be a bold move. Playing your debut album in full is especially ballsy, but when your debut is as celebrated as that of Touché Amoré’s … To The Beat Of A Dead Horse, you’re on to a dead cert. It’s an especially wise choice as the album has not only be re-recorded and released as Dead Horse X, but it’s only roughly eighteen minutes long so doesn’t overshadow the set for those who may not be fans. The set itself is a journey through the band’s already illustrious career, and as it goes on you get a sense of just how much Amoré have both grown as song writers while maintaining that essential flair that made them such an exciting proposition on arrival. The material from the stunning Stage Four in particular pulls at heartstrings and shows the breadth of the band’s dexterity, but everything they do is with sincerity and purpose.

Jeremy Bolm is quite the frontman. His energy makes Jacob Bannon look positively reserved, and his imperative stance makes you take notice of his abilities. They may not be the most virtuosic of bands, but simplicity is sometimes the most effective method, and in this instance they play a no holds barred set at the peak of their powers, but not over playing beyond their abilities. There’s no overtly showy moments, and nothing esoteric to put off prospective fans, but instead good, solid post hardcore delivered with passion and emotional deftness. The cheers that greet many of their song introductions sound like that of a far larger crowd, implying that Amoré won’t be staying in venues like the Ballroom for long. And on the strength of this evening’s show, they deserve far bigger slots. They are head and shoulders above their contemporaries and make many of their peers look tired and out of date. Genuinely excellent stuff, and Bolm cannot thank the crowd enough for their support. It is a heartfelt and heartening display, and one that you must experience the next time they make these shores – next year according to Bolm, so hooray for that! [9]

After the rapturous reception to Touché Amoré, it seems as though the initial response to Deafheaven is somewhat muted. There is a dedicated sect of hardcore fans at the front, but much of the room treats opener, Honeycomb, with ambivalence. It doesn’t take long for this to be rectified however; by the time second song, Canary Yellow, begins the entire room is onside with the San Franciscan quintet, ready to provide all the adoration they deserve and then some. This reverence for the band only increases throughout the night, with the zenith of bodies hurling themselves into a swirling mass being finale, Dream House from the universally acclaimed, Sunbather. As vocalist, George Clarke, throws himself into the expectant crowd for the final notes of the band’s set, the band fully embrace the rock side of their shoegazing black metal, with guitarists Kerry McCoy and Shiv Mehra playing the part of rock gods moving gracefully around the stage, instruments held in defiance of naysayers.

Clarke is a frontman extraordinaire. His ability to conduct both the band and the audience with just a subtle flick of his fingers, or a bombastic sweep of his arms, shows him to be a man with an incredible amount of control and influence as an artist. His elegant dancing movements around the stage interspersed with savage windmill headbanging are delicate and extreme in equal measure, juxtaposing one another as the two key ingredients of Deafheaven’s music do. As he rings in the final four notes of Dream House, stunning in their simplicity yet so beautifully effective at inspiring emotion, it feels a crying shame that it is all over. Much like the rest of their set, it is a moment of transcendent beauty. The response to this finale is the most jubilant of the evening, and so the night ends on a high. The old edict of “always leave them wanting more” could not ring more true tonight, but we certainly got our money’s worth after sets from three phenomenal, forward thinking and musically ambidextrous bands. It’s safe to say the future if heavy music is looking very bright indeed. [10]

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