Between the Buried and Me / Deafheaven / Intronaut / The Kindred The Phoenix, Toronto ON, February 28

Between the Buried and Me / Deafheaven / Intronaut / The Kindred The Phoenix, Toronto ON, February 28
Photo: Adam Wills
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Much anticipation led up to this show, the long awaited Toronto debut of Deafheaven. The suspense had been building since the release of 2013's acclaimed album Sunbather, even in places where metal would usually be shunned.

The first of the openers was Ottawa's the Kindred, a recent Sumerian Records signing whose debut (at least under that moniker) came out this past week. The band were certainly more rock-leaning than the rest of the night's lineup, but they pulled off their set with an intensity that brought them up to the level of their peers. Led by David Journeaux's acrobatic vocals (and unique stage presence), the Kindred nailed their set, which was made even more impressive by the fact that they had a fill-in drummer in Matt HK of Mandroid Echostar, who would have been a great choice to fill out this lineup.

At the end of their set, Journeaux thanked the audience for being there and paying attention — something often lacking for openers — and was met with uncertain, sporadic claps at first, which blossomed into a much fuller applause. The artist formerly known as Today I Caught the Plague were done for the night, and caught the plague the audience seemingly had.

After a quick changeover, Intronaut took to the stage with a smoke machine on one side, shrouding its guitarist in mystery, and multi-coloured lasers swirling about. Although the effect would have been better with a complementary machine on the other side, it did its job. The effects mesmerized the crowd during a band who was very anchored in place by the sheer weight of their music, only bobbing their heads and rocking back and forth in lieu of more intense movement.

The post-metal troupe was centered on bassist Joe Lester, both literally and figuratively. He took center stage while his fingers around his instrument's neck pumped the band's post-metal along. The atmospherics were at the forefront here, in contrast to the impending black metal-leaning punishments.

Finally the moment came when Deafheaven took the stage, with vocalist George Clarke raising his gloved hands as if a puppeteer, commanding resounding cheers from the audience. His theatrical movements were bombastic and brought to mind a conductor. Fortunately, his band didn't need any conducting as they nailed every note of their set, which was bathing in Sunbather songs and only one from debut album Roads to Judah.

The crowd fell into a trance, interrupted only briefly by an overpowering bass. Despite that brief technical difficulty, the audience was quickly reined in again by the dichotomy between calming shoegaze and driving black metal. Clarke closed the set by screaming his vocals while crowd surfing, then blew a kiss to the audience as if he were a theatre performer — and a what a performance it was.

Headliners Between the Buried and Me had quite the task following up Deafheaven, which was only made worse by their decision to play The Parallax II: Future Sequence in its entirety. Although not an awful album, the exclusion of many key catalog tracks led to a slightly empty feeling set, which was unfortunate considering the precision with which they executed it. Vocalist Tommy Rogers' range was especially impressive amongst a bevy of talented vocalists, from crooning to growling and everywhere in between. Playing in front of a backdrop, complete with two circles in which video clips corresponding to each song was shown, the band did not miss a note. Unfortunately, they just weren't the notes that should have been played, with the exception of encore number "Sun of Nothing."

Still, the band did the best with what they had and somehow churned out an engrossing performance, temporarily making the audience forget the lack of "Selkies: The Endless Obsession." Endlessly obsessed, the crowd remained throughout the performance and rightfully so; the band perfected every twist and turn.