Deafheaven at Ultra Lounge on Sunday

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If you read a lot of music media, you might be getting the impression that this is the year of black metal. What was once a stubbornly underground, even recondite subgenre has been all over the place lately: The New Yorker's Sasha Frere-Jones wrote an analysis of American black metal in October, NPR premiered Liturgy's Aesthethica and a cut from Wolves in the Throne Room's Celestial Lineage, and plenty of music sites have gotten caught up in the perennial argument of what constitutes "real" black metal. The dispute over the nature of bona fide black metal has arisen once again because some of the bands attracting the most attention this year—Liturgy in particular—have done so with albums that challenge the genre's orthodoxy.

San Francisco five-piece Deafheaven haven't been the focus of as many angry rants as Liturgy, in large part because they simply aren't as well-known, but they've likewise done their fair share of coloring outside the lines.

I discovered them late one night after getting sucked into the wormhole that is Tumblr (thanks, Jordivision), then scoured local record stores in search of their four-song debut LP, Roads to Judah (Deathwish Inc). Their sound knocked me out and has stayed compelling: they take epic, glacial postrock, drape it in warm sheets of slow, melodic shoegaze-style distortion, and then spike it with jackhammer blastbeats and guttural howls. Sometimes I have to force myself to listen to other albums just so I won't burn out on it.

Deafheaven have been opening for local postrockers Russian Circles for most of their current tour, but on Sun 11/20 they're headlining a show at Ultra Lounge; Austaras, Thieves, and Spanyurd open.

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