CHEVRON GARDENS REVIEW: DEAFHEAVEN'S BLACK METAL SOJOURN
Deafheaven playing as a part of this year’s Perth International Arts Festival at Chevron Gardens is about as far from likely as not bumping into someone you know in the city. Both Deafheaven and Zeal and Ardor play unique brands of black metal, a genre many unsuspecting passer’s by would have baulked at walking up William St into the city’s centre.
However, had they even been a touch curious and ventured into the wider surrounds for a bite to eat courtesy of Filos and Yiros, grabbed a Biggie Juice beer and vegged out in the garden they would have found a sub-community filled up with all sorts. Both of these bands have a wide following not only (and occasionally especially not) consisting of ‘metal purists’, but having been branded black-gaze and hipster metal, have fans from many sub-genres of extreme and boundary pushing music.
Zeal and Ardor feature the Swiss-American Manuel Gagneux who is a talented musician capable of hitting a gospel note, shriek like a B-grade horror movie victim and shred. He has surrounded himself with a group of friends capable of conveying the music he writes which, at times, carefully blends African-American slave music and black metal; genres he states were both born out of the persecution of two very different groups of people.
Regardless of high-minded ideals, Zeal and Ardor put on an amazing show, and are an impressive unit to experience. Complete with Manuel’s two microphones (one for low end gospel and the other for high end demonic screech), two backing singers, rhythm section and an axe man they seamlessly recreate his impressive albums. Although perhaps at times I find them borrowing a little more from column A than B (less singing please), ‘Don’t you come looking for us’ best exemplifies the band’s genre-bending attitude and was a highlight of the set.
The patrons flooded back out to the gardens for a beer at this stage which is certainly a big tick in the + column for the organisers, the whole area had a relaxed vibe and was sized for the large crowd. Better than standing indoors next to another sweaty individual.
Deafheaven played their first dissonant chord and blackened metal featuring spine tingling almost-post-wave instrumental passages interwoven with constant outsider imagery (if you speak the language) filled the Chevron Gardens with a wall of sound met with positive approval by the crowd. The band drew largely from Ordinary Corrupt Human Love with ‘Honeycomb’ featuring early. The crowd were receptive to George Lesage’s snarling tone as the blast beats and distorted notes created a mood swinging between head bang and appreciative nod.
Although Deafheaven’s songs don’t necessarily beg to be played live, the band turn minutes long instrumental passages into momentum building moments with George constantly engaging the crowd and expressionately dancing away on stage with his long black gloves and hypnotic movements the centrepoint. As a counterpoint, Kerry on lead guitar effortlessly played expansive melodies in between oxymoronic high energy black metal dirge.
The best reception was reserved for cuts off the bands most critically received album Sunbather, such as the title track and ‘Dream House’. These were likely the songs through which people discovered the band and are also at times their most aggressive material, whereas newer songs incorporate additional passages and dreamier vibes.
Deafheaven and Zeal and Ardor brought their A-game to Perth for the Festival and with attendances like this we can only hope for more international metal on show in Perth!