Zeal & Ardor, Sylvaine, Imperial Triumphant
As Imperial Triumphant (New York City) took the stage, Bottom Lounge was already starting to get pretty crowded. It was clear that some attendees were familiar with the band before they stepped on stage, as there was a decent wait for the merch booth prior to the show. I was personally very excited to see them live for the first time after discovering them through a Behemoth live stream in 2020. They stepped out to a round of applause and dazzled the audience with a chatoic avantgarde black metal soundscape. The audience as a whole took a couple of songs to warm up to the departure from typical metal, but by the time the band stepped off stage to prepare for the divine ritual of the champagne baptism, the crowd was getting excited. After the ritual, in which frontman Zachary Ezrin douses the crowd in champagne and pours tastes into their mouths, the band played a bit more before taking their leave for the night. Overall, they were well-received by the crowd with a notable uptick in interest by the end of their set. The set had a wide range of experiences, though it unfortunately lacked any live players for the brass sections of the songs. Perhaps on a future headlining tour they’ll be able to bring the additional performers.
Next up was Sylvaine (Norway), who I also saw early in her tour with Amorphis in the spring. The whole band seemed notably more cohesive on this run and also felt like they had more of a stage show, though I feel they could interact with each other more. In the recordings, Sylvaine plays all of the parts herself, so there are some slight stylistic differences in the live show from the different artists who join her on stage. The most notable part of the live show for me was Dorian Mansiaux on the drums, who brings a lot of energy to the otherwise relatively static performance. The band is rounded out at the live shows by Maxime Mouquet on bass and Florian Ehrenberg on guitar, with both also adding backing vocals. In Chicago, Sylvaine also brought out one of her locally based vocal students to perform on a song, to excited cheers from friends in the crowd. Overall, I enjoy Sylvaine’s mix of somber post-black/shoegaze and occasional more harsh black metal and I found the performance on this tour to be more engaging than the one in the spring.
Zeal & Ardor
Zeal & Ardor (Switzerland) closed out the show to a raucous crowd with an almost continuous pit and several crowd surfers throughout the set. Zeal & Ardor is most known for their unique mashup of black metal and southern blues where they explore an alternative history in which deep south slaves turned to satanism over Jesus. The band entered on a dark stage with their hoods up, leading with Church Burns as the opening song. Next up, they played their most popular song, Götterdämmerung, departing from the usual process of bands saving their big hits for the end of the show. Even early in the set, the crowd was full of hype for the band, showing the characteristic “right hand up, left hand down” Baphomet hand signs throughout the set. For many of the songs, including the popular ones like Death to the Holy and Devil is Fine, the crowd was singing along with the band, and the high energy was sustained for the full set. The closed out with the aforementioned Baphomet and nearly the entire venue joined in the hand gesture with the band. When I had a chance to talk with lead singer Manuel Gagneux for a few minutes after the show, he mentioned several of them were feeling a bit tired and under the weather after festival season and the first couple weeks of tour, but this was not apparent at all in their hard-hitting show, which had an impressive 20 song setlist.