Emperor and Deafheaven

It’s rare that I get to see a concert because I usually work evenings. But luck had it that Emperor was performing with Deafheaven in Tokyo on a prefectural holiday in Saitama. It was still an official workday I was told, but I could take a paid day off and that’s exactly  what I did!

The venue was Tsutaya-O East in Shibuya. It’s wide but not so deep. Perhaps long enough to play basketball but not wide enough if you consider the raised step at the back. I was glad for that because it meant I could get close enough to take photos with my phone.


I knew of Deafheaven but I had never heard their music until my coworker and also my concert companion let me hear a little off his phone one day at lunch. It sounded intriguing; like a combination of post rock and black gaze. Rolling Stone put their album “Sunbather” at #94 on their list of top 100 metal albums of all time. I didn’t expect how good the band would be live.

Vocalist George Clarke was a real showman. The way he glared out at the audience, moved around the stage, and made dramatic gestures with his hands made him an entertaining figure. Also active was bass player Chris Johnson, who moved about behind guitarist Shiv Mehran, throwing his head back, smiling, and generally looked like he was having a good time. The lights were pretty cool too. I was constantly taking out my phone and snapping photos of the band.

George Clarke of Deafheaven in action at Tsutaya-O East in Tokyo. Click on any picture to enlarge it.

Kerry McCoy (guitars) and Shiv Mehra (guitars) and Chris Johnson (bass) of Deafheaven, live in Tokyo. Click on any image to enlarge it.

The music was terrific and easy to get into. By the fourth song, the band was going through a long and beautiful instrumental passage, and as the music built up you could feel the energy of this ride. Bass player Chris Johnson seemed really into it, and he and guitarist Shiv Mehra appeared to be totally riding the music. The whole band was in the groove! It was a pretty awesome moment to behold.

When George Clarke announced that the next song would be the final song of the evening, the audience let out a collective groan of disappointment. I heard later from my companion that one young women was gushing over Deafheaven’s performance. Like us, she had come to see Emperor but was blown away by Deafheaven.


Emperor hit the stage a short bit after Deafheaven, and as the headliner the fans were thrilled. I’d say at least half the people there were wearing Emperor T-shirts. My friend and I each grabbed one for ourselves from the merch tables.

Emperor’s performance was less active. In fact, except for Ihshan walking around, most of the members remained in their spots. Only guitarist Samoth would step forward between songs, stand at the front of the stage and glare down at us, then raise his fists overhead, to which the audience responded by throwing the horns and cheering.

But even though Emperor were not as active on stage, I was impressed with the music. I have Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk and In the Nightside Eclipse but I guess I never listened closely enough to catch all the changes in riffs and in the music overall. I will certainly listen to both albums more carefully in the very near future.

Once again, I had a blast going to a live show. Unfortunately, no band members came out to chat with us this time, but that was alright. It was still great fun!

I decided to check out Deafheaven’s Sunbather album. It was available on Amazon Japan through the market place for ¥1,162. Two days later, I decided to order it, but the price had doubled. Suddenly, it looked as though it was going to become a rare item. Discogs had only one mint copy listed for under $15 US, and Amazon dot com only had new copies for over $44. I first gave up and ordered Ordinary Corrupt Human Love instead, but then finally conceded and ordered the more expensive Sunbather.

Now I must begin work on the next Music Is A Journey episode (#22) which will be about the top 25 black metal albums of all time as per my research on the Internet.