Zeal & Ardor
The Brightside, Brisbane QLD
February 28th, 2019
Supports: Sam Haven and Balloons Kill Babies
Sam Haven begin things with a slow dirge sound.
The guitar, bass, and keyboard coalesce into a sonic wall of oppression, before being joined by the ethereal and otherworldly vocals ripped straight from the realms of hell. The crowd, on the other hand, aren’t overly interested. There’s something to be said about contrast here and while the music Sam Haven makes may be beautiful. Their lack of stage presence hinders their performance because even though the music they make, sounds like it was not made from this world, their awkward performance, particularly from the keyboardist means every action they do on stage, takes you back to Earth when the noise they make takes you somewhere else.
Subsequently, Balloons Kill Babies are an intense performance of instrumental metal. Their sonic palette ranges from into sludge, prog, and various other genres. Their bassist is the real star here as he exceeds nothing but infectious energy. The crowd themselves soak all of this up as they headbang over and over again to the sonic assault being spewed out of the speakers.
Tonight, however, is all about one band. Fresh off the release of their masterful album Strange Fruit.
Zeal & Ardor step out onto the stage, sporting nondescript black hoodies, the tones of their song ‘Sacrilegium I’ fill the room. The lights pulsate to the music, building, and building before they embark on the utter destruction of your senses. Kicking things off proper with the intoxicating ‘In Ashes,’ the crowd lose their collective shit, strobe lights slap you in the face with their intensity, as the crowd sings every word back to frontman Manuel Gagneux and his merry chain gang.
‘Blood In The River’ increases the intensity even further.
Awash in red light and enough strobe to give even the most normal person a seizure. Frontman Manuel Gagneux sweats profusely, his eyes staring out into the crowd with crushing menace. The crowd responds in kind by flinging themselves around in glorious religious rapture and headbanging endlessly. Shifting gears, the band plays the exceptional ‘Row Row’. The crowd bop along to the hand slapping bounce, before losing themselves in a sea of banging heads when the main riff strips away your flesh and the screaming vocals soar over your head and into your soul.
This is a particular highlight of a setlist full of them.
Nearing the end of their set, the band plays the beautiful soul-inflected ‘Built On Ashes’. Built on a foundation of haunting vocals, the song grows in rapturous splendour until it breaks under the weight of the vulnerability pouring out of Gagneux’s mouth. It’s an absolutely unforgettable performance that leaves every single person in the room utterly enthralled.
Zeal & Ardor have proven they are here for the long haul. Tonight they have bled every inch of themselves into an unmissable performance. No words will ever articulate the level of emotion the band displays on the stage. This performance was special and everyone lucky enough to have seen it will remember it as the birth of something special.
I expect to see Zeal & Ardor playing bigger venues than this one soon.
Zeal & Ardor Setlist:
1. Sacrilegium I
2. In Ashes
4. Come On Down
5. Blood in the River
6. Row Row
7. You Ain’t Coming Back
9. Ship on Fire
10. Stranger Fruit
11. Gravedigger’s Chant
12. Fire of Motion
13. Built on Ashes
14. We Can’t Be Found
15. Don’t You Dare
16. Devil Is Fine
Gig Review by Kaydan Howison @Unicorn_Christ
Revisit our review of Zeal & Ardor‘s new album Stranger Fruit here