Six months ago, no one would’ve pegged San Francisco’s Deafheaven as a likely juggernaut on the national heavy-music scene. Though its 2011 debut Roads to Judah was powerful, Deafheaven’s blend of scabrous black metal and morose post-rock was definitely an acquired taste. It seemed like a band that, with some luck, might one day fill a small club like Hemlock Tavern.
But in 2013, all the right elements lined up. After a successful run opening for Japanese cult metal icons Boris, and playing in front of sold-out crowds in its biggest venues yet, Deafheaven released sophomore effort Sunbather. The album took a more layered approach than its predecessor, highlighting the band’s dense guitar work, and critics went crazy for it. Mere days after the record’s release in June, Deafheaven hit the road across the United States and sold out show after show, several of which were comparable in size to ones it’d shared with Boris. “I remember at one point looking at our itinerary and just seeing the whole Eastern seaboard filled with sold-out shows,” says vocalist George Clarke over a beer in the Mission. “I thought, ‘It’s happening. This is what we’ve been working for all this time.’”