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Devilskin - Devilskin @ The Brownzy, Auckland - 14/11/2020

15 Nov 2020 // A review by Steve Shyu
Being one of few live hard rock shows in Aotearoa at this point of 2020, it would have been hard for any Kiwi fans to pass up this gig. Considering 24 hours ago, no one was sure if this event would even happen should another lockdown occur! Thus, I’m sure the bands and punters alike were all relieved, which should make this night even more of a treat.

Originally slated to be the very first show on their Red Tour in support of their latest album, the night’s show at The Brownzy ultimately became the last of the nationwide run. However, unlike previous Devilskin shows I’ve witnessed, this evening would involve a pre-gig acoustic mini-set for VIP fans, which becomes a sweet cherry-on-top for this particular music lover, itching to see as much live music as possible.

With Tony Vincent (AKA Nail) and Paul Martin on acoustic guitar and bass, respectively, plus Nic swapping sticks for a six-string, frontwoman Jennie Skulander welcomed the first arrival of the VIP to the evening. Breezing through hit singles like Start a Revolution and their latest, Sweet Release, and in between, inviting guests to ask the band questions. Most seemed happy enough to sip their drinks and hear the band play, with a handful of fans eager to discuss song meanings and Nail’s guitars. Having a personal touch as well as hearing an exclusive pre-show set made for a fantastic treat for rock-lovers and super-fans alike. Also, having the band express their love for their supporters simply adds to the fuzzies.

Not long after acoustic instruments, stools and beer crates are cleared, the more-familiar sight of electric gats and basses. What’s uncommon was the setup of a traditional pate drum, front and centre of the stage. With Paul having professed his love for the opening band, there was bound to be curiosity and intrigue for anybody who hadn’t yet witnessed opening act Shepherds Reign.

The Polynesian five-man group consisting of frontman Filiva’a James, guitarists Gideon Voon and Oliver Leupolu, bassist Joseph Oti-George and drummer Shaymen Rameka, blew through The Brownzy like a typhoon. With Pasifika-inspired attire, tribal-sounding drumming, traditional lyrics set to a clever sonic mix of old and new styles of heavy metal, Shepherd’s Reign swept through a ten-song set. Key hits Le Manu and Legend were performed, all to wildly enthusiastic acclaim, if the number of thrashing heads and raised fists in my radius were anything to go by!

Near the end of their set, Shepherd’s Reign blew doors off hinges with their cover of Swing by Aotearoa rap star Savage. Possibly best saved for last, this crumpin’ number reached the evening’s first peak, delivering lethally heavy guitar riffs and drum blasts fused with playfully self-aware hip-hop lyrics. For added star power, local rap stalwart Swizl Jager joined his Pasifika pals on stage, helping serve up verses and the iconic high-pitched "Swiiing!". This was wildly great fun, whether or not you enjoy Savage or even hip-hop in general.

The Brownzy was filled from front to back with fans by the time Devilskin emerged left of the stage. People were well and truly roused by the opening act and were buzzing for more. Lights dimmed to a deep red, guitars blared, drums enter to rigid pounds; like latest album’s opener, the set starts with the soaring hard-rocking Do You See Birds? The radio favourite All Fall Down quickly followed, to great applause, with many headbanging along to the tune’s running tempo – myself included, of course.

No holds were barred; the North Shore crowd were treated to an eighteen-song setlist, including crowd favourites Little Pills, Elvis Presley Circle Pit, Start a Revolution and the anthem dedicated to fans, Voices. There’s the sludgey, stoner-like monster hit Corrode from their most recent album Red, and also the deeply personal Endo, dealing with frontwoman Jennie’s past surgeries.

My personal favourite has always been Until You Bleed. There’s the epic build-up midway in the song, where the guitars fall back, and bassist Paul repeatedly whispers "Breathe, breathe...", then the gargantuan breakdown lashes away and there’s not a single body in the room that isn’t moving to the drum-heavy rhythms.

Throughout the show, Jennie's singing never faltered. Ranging from growls, soaring long notes and barking verses, one is reminded at every performance why she’s touted as one of Aotearoa’s most potent and adaptable vocalists.

Between bass guitarist Paul and six-string master Nail, you’re treated to a fantastic fare of guitar solos and in-your-face barrage of riffs, topped off with Paul’s 'machine gun' bass pose, one is never short of sights to see.

The surface of one’s eyes could almost blister from Nic Martin’s, not one, but two, intense minutes-long drum solos, appearing only slightly out of breath by the end.

Closing with the entertainingly frantic final song Everybody’s High But Me, the members of Shepherd’s Reign joined the headline act on stage, jumping about, headbanging, miming and strutting around with unplugged instruments. This was the sight of two bands celebrating, not only the end of a countrywide tour, but one suspects, the fact they all pulled off a final show not knowing the day prior whether or not it would even be going ahead!

At no point did Devilskin appear as a band at the end of a tour; performances were electrifying, energy levels were endless, and the audience were on cloud nine. This level of dedication can never be feigned; the musicianship of every member spoke for itself. Special mention must also go out to the band’s roadcrew, who very visibly went to every length to make the show happen as effortlessly as possible.

It was also extremely endearing to see a well-established band such as Devilskin sharing love and support for up-and-coming act like Shepherd’s Reign. The way the two bands enjoyed one another’s company at the end of the show, and indeed, at the end of a long tour fraught with uncertainty, really showed the strong bonds between individual members. This is what everybody needs in these times: Appreciation and support, no matter personal choices or cultural backgrounds.

Plus, being a long time supporter of blending music with ethnic influences, witnessing this evening gave me hope this growing trend of so-called 'cultural heavy metal' can thrive, and reinforces the notion that music DOES bring people together, regardless of who they are.

For many reasons, this show would personally go down as one to remember. Having seen the sheer joy of fans, and feeling the overwhelmingly positive energy around, I can only hope that both Devilskin and Shepherd’s Reign perform live again. And soon. We all need this!

Photos thanks and courtesy to Ginny C Photography.
Devilskin Acoustic
Shepherd's Reign with Swizl Jager


About Devilskin

Devilskin formed in June 2010 in Hamilton New Zealand and features the spectacular Jennie Skulander on lead vocals. Her powerful and compelling voice and alluring stage presence sets her apart from any vocalist New Zealand has put up so far. With an unerring gift for melody, Jennie's incredible voice sweeps from whisper to roar, rips with power, drips with melody and captivates with sincerity.

Jennie previously fronted Rotorua band Slipping Tongue garnering a swathe of fans with their videos, EPs and album. Slipping Tongue also impressed many when they opened for Coheed & Cambria in 2008.

On lead guitar is Nail from the popular Waikato band Chuganaut who won the NZ Battle of the Bands and the World Battle Of The Bands in 2004. Played BDO in 2005 and opened for Iron Maiden at Mt Smart stadium in 2009. Chuganaut has played numerous national tours and released several singles, EP’s, videos and an album. Nail's searing guitar work and high energy performance bring real intensity to the live show. Nail also performs with Beckoned.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Devilskin


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