Baroness + Deafheaven + Zeal & Ardor @ Corona Theatre

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Baroness + Deafheaven + Zeal & Ardor @ Corona Theatre

It’s a bit of a strange situation for me.  I am by no means a Metalhead, but here I am, heading into a sold-out Corona to watch 3 of the heaviest bands on my Spotify playlist.  The crowd is unmistakably different to the ones I usually associate with at my alternative indie shows at Bar Le Ritz or Casa Del Popolo, and I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb, here in my bright red White Stripes shirt in amongst a sea of black ones.  Still, every band on tonight’s bill is about crossing boundaries and defying convention, so if ever I was going to enjoy a metal show, surely this would be it.  And wow, enjoy it I do!

Zeal & Ardor @ Corona Theatre

Basel/NYC-based 6-piece Zeal & Ardor are first up, and despite an early 7.30pm start time, lay waste to Theatre Corona as if they were the headliners.  Theirs is a sound that is truly unique, somehow fusing Lead Belly-esque Southern Blues vocals (courtesy of frontman Manuel Gagneux) with thunderous metal riffs and double-time drum beats, and song structures a little reminiscent of Kashmir by Led Zeppelin.  Having 3 vocalists only adds to the cacophony.  It’s a relentless barrage for 35 minutes and draws huge cheers from the already packed house by the end.

Zeal & Ardor @ Corona Theatre in Montreal
Deafheaven @ Corona Theatre in Montreal

Continuing the crossover theme are San Francisco’s DeafheavenTheir last visit to Montreal was without guitarist and founder Kerry McCoy, who was denied entry at the border, but no such issues this time around.  Frontman George Clarke is quick to acknowledge this; at the start of the set, he declares “we want to thank your Government for letting Kerry McCoy in this time!” 

Deafheaven in Montreal

The set itself is truly one of contrasts.  Brought To The Water and new song Black Brick continue the sensory pummelling started by Zeal & Ardor, thanks to the ultra-bright spotlights blazing around the room and George’s incomprehensible banshee-wail vocals.  Seriously, he sounds almost alien, it’s kinda terrifying.

Deafheaven on stage at Corona Theatre in Montreal

Things relax a little mid-set with the arrival of the stellar Canary Yellow and then Worthless Animal, taking a turn into the sort of heavier post-rock territory usually inhabited by Caspian or The End Of The Ocean, and sees George slip behind a keyboard for a while, as guitarist Shiv Mehra noodles on his electric guitar and Kerry shuffles around his part of the stage almost in a waltz, cutting a figure that looks almost Rivers Cuomo.  The respite doesn’t last too long though, as both the pit and sound system return to chaos on Sunbather and Dream House to close out their 75-minute set to rapturous applause. 

Deafheaven Setlist

1.       Brought To The Water
2.       Black Brick
3.       Honeycomb
4.       Canary Yellow
5.       Worthless Animal
6.       Sunbather
7.       Dream House

Baroness @ Corona Theatre

Co-headline shows can be a risky business.  It can be a worry that once the first ‘headliner’ has finished, a chunk of the crowd who came primarily for that band will drift off.  Not a concern when the other ‘headliner’ is a metal heavyweight like Baroness, though; I literally see nobody leave early and skip their set.  The Savannah 4-piece arrive on stage and blaze into A Horse Called Golgotha, with guitarists John Baizley and Gina Gleason harmonizing over rampant riffs, before the stutter-start drums of Morningstar sees bassist Nick Jost join the harmony party.  As John tears out the last note, he bellows “MONNN-TREEEEE-ALLLL!!!” at the top of his lungs, and the crowd responds in kind. 

And again, the sound changes.  Green Theme takes us into instrumental post-rock territory too, before Little Things and Borderlines, dare I say it, sounds almost groovy and dancey, with drummer Sebastian Thomson tapping the hi-hat and Nick providing a bass line that sounds almost funk.

Baroness on stage at the Corona Theatre

The lights momentarily drop, before John and Gina howl in sync “KILL THE LIGHTS!!!” to detonate If I Have To Wake Up, which, as it happens, brings the light back.  It’s the closest thing we get to a ballad, which, granted, is not actually that close, and merges seamlessly, and indeed somewhat eerily, into Fugue.  Stars swirl around the stage, and Nick switches to the keys to add space-age effects and distortion as an ominous tribal drumbeat continues.  Eula and Shock Me soon bring us firmly back to metal territory, though.

Baroness drummer on stage at the Corona Theatre

John switches up his guitar for one of those beyond-cool double guitars, and the band runs through the instrumental Ogeechee Hymnal, before tearing through a thumping The Sweetest Curse and Isak. After promising “we’ll be back as soon we can!“, Take My Bones Away closes out the spectacular 75-minute set to a massive singalong, and even the middle-aged security guard near me can’t help but play some air guitar to it.  A remarkable show from start to finish.

Baroness Setlist 

A Horse Called Golgotha
March to the Sea
Green Theme
Little Things
If I Have to Wake Up (Would You Stop the Rain?)
Shock Me
Can Oscura
Ogeechee Hymnal
The Sweetest Curse
Take My Bones Away

What was already an undeniably awesome line-up of metal on paper ultimately delivered even more than that tonight.  A range of influences, an array of sounds; perhaps the White Stripes shirt wasn’t so out of place after all.

Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Steve Gerrard

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