The diversity of Black Metal has seen a multitude of talent that have earned their fair share of stripes and recognition. While many from Deafheaven to Wolves in the Throne Room have shone through their own interpretations of the genre, one that has recently stood out from the majority is Zeal & Ardor, who have been touring extensively in support to 2018’s ‘Stranger Fruit.’ This February saw the Swiss-American sextet make their debut in Australia not just as part of the Perth Festival, but also for their own headliner across the country all thanks to the folks at Carbon Sunset. Thus we decided to visit the Stay Gold venue in Brunswick to see how Zeal & Ardor would do with their Melbournian fan base that helped sell out the show.
The formalities were proceeded by Suldusk whose sound was portrayed by a variety of genres including neo-folk, atmospheric Black Metal and post rock. Their onstage production involved very little electric equipment as opposed to the rest of the evening’s lineup; for their compositions consisted of acoustic overtones. Emily Highfield and co. opened to an intimate, yet responsive crowd that contentedly hearkened and observed the aura of their Blackened Folk signature sound. Suldusk would later pay tribute to an old depressive Black Metal outfit known as Austere by performing a cover of one of their songs, which later gained great reactions from the audience right before they would close their set with Sovran Shrines.
Soon after, the stage lights dimmed as Encircling Sea brought a much heavier, yet ethereally-driven performance involving a perplexing emulsion of post and Black Metal music. The Melbournian quintet’s setlist focused primarily on their 2018 release ‘Hearken,’ and it didn’t take long for the increasing capacity of patrons to adapt themselves to the abrasive droning of Encircling Sea’s effervescence. With almost no silence between songs, Encircling Sea remained consistent within their timeframe and mustered nothing but a powerful resonance in each of their lengthened, and belligerent melodies — and at the closing of their set, they would then receive the great, accumulated applause from the crowd.
With Sacrilegium I pulsating it’s strong drum ‘n’ bass undertones, Zeal & Ardor finally stormed the stage with a strong, wicked presence as they began with In Ashes. While no moshing took place throughout the show, a most exciting alternative took place; the loud unison of devilish chanting from the congregation who devotedly sang along with the band to such pieces like Servants, Blood in the River, You Ain’t Coming Back, and Row Row. Perfectly synchronised with one another, Manuel Gagneux and co. implemented a confronting, and aesthetic approach with a variety of tremolo picking, blues riffs, and blistering percussion which altogether could describe such a melodic cocktail as Tom Waits if he sang for Darkthrone.
Instead of putting on a facade by leaving the stage after We Can’t Be Found, and acting surprised that the crowd yearned for more, Zeal & Ardor remained where they were and kept going, ending the set with Don’t You Dare, followed by an astonishingly emotional singalong with the audience to Devil is Fine. Gagneux then chanted, “Right hand up, left hand down, flame on the top and a moon around,” as he and his troubadours executed Baphomet as the grand finale of the evening, later showered with grace by their dedicated supporters and spectators before leaving the stage. Being their first ever appearance in the country, it was as transparent as the looking glass to see how welcomed Zeal & Ardor were the minute they walked onstage. Having seen multiple footage of their live performances, the experience between that and actually witnessing them in the flesh is especially uplifting and awe-inspiring. Fear not if you missed the opportunity to catch them live. After such a well-endowed recital, there’s no doubt that Zeal & Ardor will be returning as soon as possible, and that their return will be just as incredible as this.
Get tickets for the remaining Zeal & Ardor shows from Carbon Sunset HERE!