Everybody loves Friday night, but do you know what makes a Friday night even better? DEAFHEAVEN and ZEAL & ARDOR performing live, that’s what. These international Metal powerhouses united for an intoxicatingly violent performance at Chevron Gardens as part of the Perth Festival, and if I were to summarise the performance with just one word, it would be “mind-blowing”. Okay, that’s two words, but nothing else does it justice.
While most gathered at Chevron Gardens for DEAFHEAVEN, who were undoubtedly SENSATIONAL (I’ll get to that in just a minute), I have to admit that I personally was enraptured with ZEAL & ARDOR, whose unique flavour of Scandinavian Black Metal and Southern Gospel Rock, complete with Black American slave spirituals left the entire crowd mesmerised. Their Southern Rock come Metal sound was pure genius, the seamlessly oscillating genres evoking emotional parallels nobody anticipated. The performance was utterly captivating, which is not exactly what you’d expect of a band that sprouted from a joke on 4Chan. Transforming what was a racist comment into a dark exploration of America’s violent history, neatly packaged in Black Metal and Soul, lead to the musical brilliance that is Manuel Gagneux’s brainchild; ZEAL & ARDOR.
The performance was intense, powerful, and soulful, complete with a bluesy twist of violent despair. This brilliant combination of genres resulted in a unique sound that emanates an emotional power rarely seen on the stage, whilst allowing it to retain its aggressive command. Despite its melancholic touches, ever evident in the African American Slave spirituals, there was a subtler melody intertwined with the harshness, a tenderness hidden amongst the violence that I loved.
I’ll admit that Black Metal purists won’t be fond of ZEAL & ARDOR, with their seemingly dissonant generic influences that break traditional Black Metal rules. Philosophically, however, it couldn’t be any more Black Metal; rejecting the norm to instate their violent, corrupting presence. I would be so bold as to argue that “corrupting” purist Black Metal values with other genres that also explore the dark depths of humanity is quintessentially Black Metal. Purist elitism aside, the performance was EXCEPTIONAL. There was none of this fluffing about that many musician’s attempts to pass off as mediocre “crowd engagement”. No, it was pure, uninterrupted ecstasy. They engaged on but two occasions to say what was necessary; their name, and their finale, giving us a glimpse of their characters while allowing the set to be dedicated solely to their music.
Never before have I been so enthralled with performance, nor mesmerised by the level of utter musical artistry that stood upon a stage. From their haunting gospel-like voices, artfully echoing one another to create musical depth, to the way their soulful lead erupted into torturous shrieks and ferocious growls; it was musical diversity at its finest. This oscillation of various modes of music within the same performance allowed it to remain musically accessible, while also allowing the audience to indulge in a darker, gloriously heavy side. There was song or two that I felt lacked the ‘wow’ factor found in their other work, however, merely serving as “filler songs”, but their strong start and finish more than made up for it. While Perth may have been their first stop on their debut Australian tour, I can officially say that I’m envious of the other Australian cities yet to see their performance! You DO NOT want to miss this.
Then came the wait for DEAFHEAVEN. I have to say I have never seen a more efficient set change in my life. The crew at the Perth Festival did an AMAZING job across the board, from the creation of the venue’s overall aesthetic to the construction of the spacious stage area that somehow still felt intimate. The venue itself was outdoor, situated in the heart of the city for a change of pace. While the stands themselves were spacious, the chairs reminded me of my high school graduation, which is not something I wanted to relive at a Black Metal concert. On another note, the audio-visual team EXCELLED. The spectacular lighting display truly transcended the performance, creating a masterful display that would have been an epileptic’s worst nightmare.
It was time. From the second DEAFHEAVEN crossed the stage, they delved straight into the kind of divine chaos that has garnered them their international following. Dwelling somewhere between black metal, shoegaze, and post-rock, the band embraced their rock-driven sound, complete with the occasional thrash-like influence. It was amazing to see an artist so consumed in their music, emotionally drawing the audience into the experience that was both violent and fetishised. An incredible, elating display, it felt as if you were experiencing a film score, complete with psychedelic touches and a violent edge.
They performed their technical masterpieces with such ease, yet the passion with which they did so permeate the entire performance. Their unique anthem-like blend of Black Metal inspired vocals, synthesised piano arpeggios, and glam guitar solos created a triumphant set that demonstrated the deep understanding of their generic influences that allowed them to blend them so seamlessly. The performance was full with melancholic drama, which, when juxtaposed against the abrasive black metal inspired vocals and harmonic instrumental build-ups, lead to a wholly satisfying climax, the kind that DEAFHEAVEN are known best for. Showcasing passages that perfectly embody their post-rock origins, their melancholy chord progressions and vocal refrains combine to create a multifaceted epic, exemplified in their most famous piece ‘Honeycomb,’ which sent the crowd wild.
On stage, their energy was contagious, translating into an electrifying performance. From explosive guitar work to layered instruments building into a crescendo for the ultimate climax, their musical display was a testament to the mastery of their genre and their unique skill to blend modes of music that were always seen as mutually exclusive. Shattering the genre paradigm, their unique sound was complemented by exceptional drumming throughout the entire performance, alongside roaring fans thrashing in a sea of DEAFHEAVEN shirts.
Perth is the only Australian city to witness this amazing musical pairing, as the two powerhouses go their separate ways to continue their tours around the country. For your entertainment, however, the entire Perth performance has been neatly compiled into a Spotify playlist. You can find it here:
https://open.spotify.com/playlist/065gN0Oc61C51bwMsA2ht7. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
You do NOT want to miss these two sensations, so make sure you check HEAVY’s Gig Guide to find out when they appear near you!
Photography by Jessica Valani