Having just toured Europe and two albums under their belts, reigning Kiwi metal champions Devilskin have continued to stay busy, recording new music and embarking on a nationwide tour. After conquering Wellington, Hamilton and New Plymouth with Written By Wolves and Coridian, the entourage stopped off at Auckland’s Powerstation to get some local blood pumping. DJ and writer Paul T Gheist last encounted Devilskin at Wellington’s 2018 Homegrown festival, and after witnessing a spectacular performance, Paul was eager to see what Devilskin had to offer this time around, plus check out the work of the other established NZ bands.
The four-man Auckland band Coridian set the evening’s tone nicely with songs ranging from alternative rock to progressive metal, tinged in parts with post-hardcore elements. Throughout many songs the guitar takes centre stage, changing between wide strums to deep, ambient notes reminiscent of Deftones’ mellower recordings. Drummer Kris Raven put on a wondrous display of technique, painting the rhythm with wide strokes, whilst lead vocalist Dity Maharaj quite visibly gave each song every ounce of his vocal ability.
By the middle of the set, a sizeable and energetic crowd had already gathered at the front of the stage, and the barrier upstairs was fully lined with ultra-black tee shirts.
To build upon the energy brought by Coridian, it was up to Written By Wolves to lead the energy up to that of the headliner. Opening with a quiet extract from the Inception soundtrack (don’t think this Hans Zimmer fan didn’t notice!), the band hopped straight into their signature entrance with the guitarists beating on toms, accompanying drummer Karl Woodhams. Lead singer Michael Murphy then emerged and began the band’s setlist staple Not Afraid to Die.
The song To Tell You the Truth is always a highlight of the band’s sets. “We like to jump a lot!”, exclaimed Murphy, and indeed, it’s a dynamic number, changing between lush layers of sound and stripped-down vocals in the verses. And as stated, definitely lots of jumping. And head banging!
By this time, most of the floor-space of the Powerstation had become occupied; mid-way through, the audience were treated to an abridged homage of Linkin Park’s One Step Closer, which instantaneously prompted majority of the floor to bounce, and ending to warm applause. The band also broke into their latest single Oxygen, another one perfectly suited for a stadium matched with a singalong-friendly chorus. After thank-you's, the band leapt into the staccato intro notes of Metallica’s Master of Puppets. The keyboardist even grabbed a microphone and helped with backup vocals, whilst the riffs were laid down effortlessly thanks to the guitar and bass chops, including the song’s famous harmonised solos.
The aural and visual experience of Written by Wolves has never been anything short of bold, engaging and energising. With a range of sounds and styles to offer, ranging from electronic to heavy metal, from scream vocals to pop sensibilities, this is a band that catches the attention of many. Judging by tonight’s crowd response, they did that and more.
The number of square LED screens on stage all lit up and displayed Devilskin’s latest emblem of skull, stars and the Union Jack when the band took their positions. The set kicked off with Limbs, complete with the band’s signature blend of rolling guitar grooves, courtesy of Tony 'Nail' Vincent on lead guitar and Paul Martin on bass, set to lead singer Jennie Skulander's long-drawn notes. Devilskin continued to deliver many fan-favourites like the pummelling Elvis Presley Circle Pit, break-up ballad Fade, the Alice in Chains-esque Burning Tree, and Until You Bleed, which featured a tense crescendo that led to a beautifully chaotic breakdown.
All members of the band appeared more invigorated compared to their Homegrown performance earlier in the year. Devilskin showcased their brand new song Endo, which – as Skulander described – “It’s a song about my ovaries!” Unconventional not just in topic, the song started off deceptively slow before it jumped in and out of palm-muted riffs, closing with a heavy breakdown with Nic Martin on drums. One couldn’t help but feel moved by the band's approach on writing about such a delicate topic, yet Skulander does so with such frankness, it was truly awe-inspiring.
Immediately after the song Start a Revolution, the band retreated, which in turn received an encore that lasted no more than 2 minutes, as Devilskin jumped back on stage. In a return to their early stage-stunts, Skulander emerged with a chainsaw, revving it in a lead-up into their hit single Vessel. Being a drinking song, this one was welcomed with excitement from most punters.
The highlight of the set came with the second to final song Violation, perhaps the band’s most aggressive out of their discography thus far. Skulander utilised every vocal style she was capable of, from long drawls to guttural growls and shrieks, set to a thrashy series of guitar and drum riffs, all combined to ensure any remaining amount of moshing energy was spent. Indeed, as the band finally left the stage after completing their signature song Little Pills, every single audience member also left satisfied.
Seeing Devilskin twice in one year, feeling impressed and inspired on both occasions, the experience reminds one why the band is at the forefront of New Zealand's alternative and heavy metal scene. As a band that also represents a genre largely lost amidst popular music today, Devilskin are certainly worth holding in esteem for years to come.