By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy, Photos by Matt “Rabit” Martinez Red Hare Images
I love going to the House of Blues in Anaheim. It has practically become my favorite venue to see shows because a lot of superb hard rock and heavy metal artists come through there. From Korn to Stone Sour, Trivium, Iced Earth, Orgy, Steel Panther, and the Struts, the House of Blues has been on a dominate run ever since they relocated from Downtown Disney to the Anaheim Gardenwalk. On March 14th, I heard that sludge metal titans Baroness were coming through Anaheim with Deafheaven and Zeal & Ardor. We metalheads were in for something special by witnessing groups from all walks of heavy metal, which includes black metal, blackglaze, screamo, avant-garde, and sludge metal. Either way you put it, we had some deaf-defining metal coming our way.
Zeal & Ardor opened up the night. They recently dropped their sophomore LP, Stranger Fruit, and critics have been foaming at the mouth for it. I have been following them very closely ever since they released their debut, Devil Is Fine. I wanted to see them for a while, and now was that time. The brainchild of Manuel Gagneux was so sinister looking when “Sacrilegium I” was being played, but then he and his gang hit us with the demonic “In Ashes.” Gagneux is full of devilish charm and screams, all the while screeching out monstrous lead riffs. Denis Wagner and Marc Obrist handle the backup vocals with unholy charisma, while rhythm guitarist Tiziano Volante bears out delicious riffs that stand tall. He also handles the bass beats with ease for Mia Rafaela Dieu, who was unfortunately ill and could not be on this tour. Zeal & Ardor gave Anaheim a beautiful yet sinister mixture of black metal, death metal, and avant-garde metal that dug into the metalheads soul, forever ingrained there. Fans sang to every song that was thrown their way, from “Servants” to “Come On Down,” “Blood in the River,” “Gravedigger’s Chant,” and “Baphomet.” For one night, the Devil is fine thanks to Zeal & Ardor’s ominous and pleasurable performance.
Full Zeal & Ardor gallery below:
Up next was a group that I was never really a big fan of, Deafheaven. Having seen them twice already (first with Lamb of God and second at Blackest of the Black), and I was not originally impressed with their style. However, during this particular evening, their energy levels were through the roof. Frontman George Clarke howled with such ferocity, and he was running all over the place. I do not usually see that from him, which is a nice change of pace. The guitar twins Kerry McCoy (rhythm) and Shiv Mehra (lead) riffed up vicious blackgaze hooks, with Shiv playing badass solos. Drummer Daniel Tracy and bassist Chris Johnson gave 110% on their set, giving the rhythmic beat a deadly pulse. Deafheaven recently released the 2018 Ordinary Corrupt Human Love to universal acclaim, and the fans in the Anaheim were truly digging the songs performed off that record, including “Canary Yellow,” “Worthless Animal,” and the Grammy nominated “Honeycomb.” Other tunes that fans raved over were “Dream House,” “Brought to the Water,” “Sunbather,” and the newly released B-side track “Black Brick.” They are known for playing songs that are between 8 and 12 minutes long, but it was a hit for the crowd. At first, I did not care too much for them, but now after witnessing their latest performance, I am beginning to warm up to Deafheaven. Let us hope they can keep up the momentum.
Full Deafheaven gallery below:
Baroness walked onto the stage and fired away the sludge metal magnificence, starting with “A Horse Called Golgotha.” Right out the gate, frontman/rhythm guitarist John Baizley was a beast when he steps up to the microphone. Sporting his trademark bushy beard, he gave us a melodic sheer force of will. Ever since Gina Gleason took over lead guitar duties from longtime axc-man Peter Adams (who left amicably to focus on home life), she has been dominating the set with her illustrious playing. She is a beauty to watch when she plays the solos of the songs, full of passion, progression, and tenacity. Gleason is up there with Lzzy Hale and Lita Ford in my mind. Bassist Nick Jost and drummer Sebastian Thomson do a magnificent job on giving the melodies and beats its heavy alternative pulse. Baroness is known as a sludge metal band, but when they add the elements of progressive and alternative metal, the music is kicked into high gear. Most of the songs they wailed on came from 2009’s Blue Record, 2012’s Yellow & Gold, and 2015’s Purple. From “Morningstar” to “March to the Sea,” “Little Things,” “If I Have to Wake Up (Would You Stop the Rain?),” “Eula,” the Grammy nominated “Shock Me,” “The Sweetest Curse,” and “Take My Bones Away,” sludge metal never sounded so smooth before. Baroness even played a new song that will be featured on the upcoming record, Gold & Grey, entitled “Borderlines.” After hearing it (and it is fantastic), it makes me more anxious for the album to come out.
Full Baroness gallery below:
This was a good night to be a metalhead. The House of Blues in Anaheim has disappointed me with a single performance. Zeal & Ardor were everything I thought they were, Deafheaven just got a whole lot better, and Baroness gives us progressive perfection. It is never a dull night at the House of Blues, unless Cardi B drops by. Hahaha! To Baroness, Deafheaven, and Zeal & Ardor, I salute you. Horns up!!!