Carcass & Deafheaven Live At Fete Music Hall in Providence, RI
In what’s perhaps a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of how odd the billing looks on paper (and a pun worthy of the Crypt Keeper), posters for Carcass and Deafheaven’s co-headlining North American tour proudly proclaimed it “A Matrimony Made In Sickness and In Hell.” The British grind/death metal legends and San Francisco-bred black-gaze upstarts undoubtedly court different audiences, which was plenty evident at Providence’s Fete Music Hall on the 19th, a drizzly November Saturday night. More than a few conversations struck a “no, my friend is here for Deafheaven” tone. But as Carcass frontman Jeff Walker explained to Decibel back in August, those disparities in style and appeal were kind of the point. A diverse bill exposes audiences to the unfamiliar, and avoids the rote insularity of watching four consecutive bands that sound like Carcass.
The evening offered anything but that. Massachusetts-based deathcore band Murdoc played first, serving as a somewhat conspicuous local outlier on a bill that otherwise thrived on diversity. The five-piece did their thing efficiently enough, but couldn’t help but feel like a strange addition to a package tour that already included a pitch-perfect opener.
Richmond, Virginia’s Inter Arma released one of the year’s strongest metal records in July’s The Paradise Gallows, and their brand of blackened atmospheric sludge complemented both of the night’s headliners as the touring support. The quintet raged with conviction, translating the seismic force of their records to the stage with a Neurosis-esque gravitas. Their allotted half-hour ran out entirely too quickly though. Just as the set reached an engrossing peak, it was over and done with.
Deafheaven, as the junior band in this arrangement, took the first of the co-headlining slots. They covered quite a bit of ground in just over an hour, delivering two tracks each from their 2013 breakthrough Sunbather and last year’s darker, meaner follow-up New Bermuda along with non-album single “From the Kettle Unto the Coil” and a set-closing “Unrequited” from their 2011 debut. Each lengthy composition sounded appropriately huge and sweeping, dynamic shifts and jet-engine fury under the band’s total control.
Deafheaven retain their divisiveness among metal fans for a variety of reasons, but their performances are pretty undeniable. Incessant touring behind both Sunbather and Bermuda has honed the current five-piece lineup into a powerful live band.
Experience has especially sharpened vocalist George Clarke into an otherworldly frontman. He expertly worked this crowd with an uncanny command, and danced with free-interpretive abandon between piercing vocal turns. While the room seemed initially reluctant to get moving, gleeful stagedivers abounded by the mid-point of the set and didn’t let up until its conclusion.
As gear turnover began, screens across the stage lit up to bring us the holding signal for “Carcass TV” – a stream of band-related imagery and gross-out medical footage to accompany the group’s musical onslaught. Carcass are a long way from their goregrind origins, but that aesthetic remains with them even now. In front of an enormous backdrop featuring their 2013 reunion effort’s titular surgical steel, founding members Walker and guitarist Bill Steer led the charge through an hour-plus survey of the band’s blood-soaked discography.
With the odds-defyingly great Surgical Steel and 1993 favorite Heartwork as the set’s main focuses, Carcass’ melodic death tendencies were at the fore, but a longer set time in comparison to their spring tour supporting Slayer allowed for more than just that. Walker referred to a suite of Reek of Putrefaction and Symphonies of Sickness cuts as “some gnarly shit from the 80s,” jokingly wondering where Carcass went wrong when contemporaries (like Slayer) were making it big. Song titles like “Genital Grinder” probably factored in.
As a live unit, Walker, Steer and new-ish recruits in drummer Daniel Wilding and guitarist Ben Ash are a viciously precise machine. Steer, looking as though he’d stepped straight out of the mid-70s with his bell-bottoms and flowing locks, sneered and shredded with evident delight. Walker served as an effective ringleader, even if his fixation on crowd engagement occasionally bordered on counterproductive.
By the end of a night which saw enthusiastic turnouts for both a disruptive young band and their elder co-headliners, one of the year’s weirder metal tours ultimately proved itself a success. Carcass and Deafheaven may not share many stylistic similarities, but their “matrimony” for an adventurous double-bill brought some disparate factions of the broader community together, at least for a night.