Sometimes a tour is announced that’s a perfect package we didn’t know we needed in our lives until it’s announced. The combination of Baroness and Deafheaven, mixed with the unflinching vision of Zeal & Ardor is one such tour. When the tour was announced it immediately shot to the top of my most anticipated concerts this year.
THE DEVIL AS A SAVIOR
Born from the mind of Manuel Gagneux, Zeal & Ardor was destined to get under the skin of everyone who listened. The music is a perfect balance of raw passion, pain, and a heaping portion of dark, sinister bite. For those who missed the memo, Zeal & Ardor is a combination of Spirituals and Black Metal, two genres that before 2013 would have the most open minded metalhead confused. Yet, just like this tour, it makes sense once you hear the idea, it sits with you, burrowing its way into what you see as possible and the zeitgeist. If you’ve listened to the band, you know what I’m talking about, and while the songs back a hell of a punch, they’re so much better live. The music takes on a religious sermon quality, dark hymns for the dark lord with more soul than ever before. Gagneux’s screams will eviscerate your ear drums, while his crooning on “Devil Is Fine” will break your heart. While most music that provokes Satanic imagery comes solely from a place of resistance, confrontation, and anger, Zeal & Ardor seems to come from a place of compassion informed by those three. The resulting performance left the best kind of impression, one that I still can’t shake the next day.
The End of the Rainbow
If I asked you to pick some adjectives to describe what Metal is and what it could be, I’m sure angry, intense, raw, emotional, and melancholy would come to mind. I think there’s one more that gets overlooked too often: beautiful. Some of life’s most impactful moments can be described by any combination of some, if not all, of these. They also all apply to the music of Baroness.
With a new album, Gold & Grey, on the horizon Baroness is back with renewed energy and are at the top of their game. They got off to a quick start with the frenzy of guitar work that is the opening to “A Horse Called Golgotha” from their Blue album. From there they went into the chunky riffs of “Morningstar” from Purple and meditative, hypnotic “March to the Sea” from Yellow. While the songs sound great at home on the turntable, they come to loud, powerful life when played live. Equal parts soaring, triumphant guitar riffs and quiet moments with room to breathe and reflect.
A BEAUTIFUL, VIBRANT NIGHTMARE
When the stage has flowers on it, you know you’re not in for a normal Metal show. And Deafheaven is far from your typical Metal band. While they’ve been steadily growing in popularity, gaining a dedicated fanbase, even grabbing a Grammy nomination for “Honeycomb” this year, they’ve also gained their share detractors. Often labeled as ‘Hipster Metal’, whatever the hell the means. They’ve defied what a metal band can sound like, combining guttural vocals with melodic, beautiful music, that will snap your neck with how fast it goes from soft to frenetic blast beats and a cacophony of guitars.
This all translates into one of the most intense live shows I’ve ever seen. Singer George Clarke’s presence is a mix of bat out of hell energy we’ve come to expect of metal singers and a presence and poise similar to Nick Cave. To say he’s captivating to watch is an understatement. He commands the audience’s attention.
This tour package is nothing short of impressive, bringing genre pushing bands together. Hopefully both headliners come back through with something equally interesting next time.