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Live Reviews : Zeal & Ardor, Balloons Kill Babies & Sam Haven @ The Brightside, Brisbane 28/02/2019

By on March 1, 2019

Zeal & Ardor have made a name for themselves as innovative pioneers of Metal since forming in 2013. Led by Swiss American, Manuel Gagneux, Zeal & Ardor’s sound is an avant-garde hybrid of African American spirituals and Norwegian Black Metal. With two stunning releases in their arsenal, Devil Is Fine (2016) and Stranger Fruit (2018), Gagneux and company blessed Brisbane’s The Brightside with a dark ceremony of sublime beauty and blasphemous unity unlike anything I had ever witnessed before.

Beginning with Brisbane’s own Sam Haven and Balloons Kill Babies, who both brought their own unique, instrumental orientated, atmospheric sounds to the stage and respectively set the tone and warmed up the crowd for what was to come. And then the ceremony began. With 3 guitarists, 3 vocalists (spearheaded by Gagneux) and a drummer, Zeal & Ardor’s presence on stage is akin to that of a religious sermon heightened by gospel voices blended with a Blackened ceremonial ritual of Aleister Crowley’s cult of Thelema.

The trinity of voices – Gagneux, Wagner, Obrist – created a visceral reaction through the gravel and soul of their harmonising and combined with the precision of guitarists Gagneux and Volante and the complex rhythms of bass player Dieu and drummer Allmen, Zeal & Ardor had the enraptured audience grooving and headbanging away to such a point of reverence that someone actually called out “beautiful!” in the middle of their set; perhaps the first time ever that particular exclamation has been voiced at a Metal gig. Pounding on their chest to keep the pulse of their cinematic stage show vital and poignant coupled with samples of Crowley’s readings of the “Book of the Law”, The Brightside was transformed into a dark church to praise the Devil in all of his finery.

The setlist was expertly chosen, foregoing their electronic interludes, Zeal and Ardor played a fine selection of their beloved songs from both releases with only a brief pause to thank the audience which was greatly appreciated by all in attendance. Their performance expertise was also shown when Gagneux dismissed the cliché of the “encore” and finished off the night as superbly as they began.

Everything about this show was perfection. The support bands set the stage perfectly and Zeal & Ardor proved why they are one of the best Metal bands out today and one of the most original and heartfelt Metal bands of all time. I look forward to seeing how Gagneux and company progress their sound in the future and to them returning to our shores with their satanic spiritualism for their enthusiastic, black brethren. A truly, incredible gig by a phenomenal band.