Deathstars, Swan Basement (Perth), 27/09/2009

A night of death, glam and rock n’ roll.

The change of venue, from the centrally-located Club Capitol to Fremantle’s Swan Basement, was probably indicative of low ticket sales, but did not do a lot to improve the total numbers at the show. Neither did the ridiculously early starting time of 6 pm. We arrived to find opening act The Creptter Children playing to a group of maybe 40 people.

This is a pop-rock goth band that shows some promise, for those that like that kind of music. The two “official” band members, guitarist and lead vocalist Iballa Chantelle and guitarist and backing vocalist N8or, obviously have good chemistry, but they really need to find a real keyboard player instead of relying on a recording. Chantelle has a strong voice despite some pitch issues early on, but I can’t help thinking that the guys crowding around the stage in front of her were hoping that one of her near-miss wardrobe malfunctions would result in an eyeful – she really was wearing not a lot at all - and a more cynical reviewer might suggest that sex appeal is something this band is relying on. The Creptter Children have an EP launch shortly.

Next up were another band that contrasted strongly with both the opening act and the headliner: current Perth favourites Voyager. Their keyboard-heavy progressive metal was even more keyboard-heavy than usual with the venue’s mix rendering the guitars almost inaudible, but they were likable as usual and frontman Daniel Estrin coaxed a great reaction from the crowd. They ended their set with Total Existence Failure, a song nominated for the WAM (Western Australian Music Industry Association) Song of the Year award.

By this time, the venue was starting to fill up with people who certainly looked the “deathglam” part – their numbers swelling to maybe 120. There was enough hairspray in the small room that a carelessly lit match could have caused total devastation. It was time to greet Deathstars.

The Swedish outfit bounced onto stage, black costumes immaculate, like a quintet of pretty Marilyn Mansons, and launched straight into the title track of their latest release Night Electric Night. Frontman Whiplasher Bernadotte – also known as Andreas Bergh – was very talkative, describing playing in Perth as an “odd” experience akin to “rehearsing naked” – although whether this was in reference to the small venue and turnout, an excuse to talk about getting naked, or something else entirely, I couldn’t tell.

As with the previous bands, initially the sound was terrible. Although the vocals and keyboards were clear, the guitars were almost non-existent – but this did improve as the set progressed. The venue’s lights, which had been quite bright for the opening acts, were turned down – no doubt to the annoyance of the photographers – so low, in fact, that the guitarist and bass player at the extreme edges of the stage were almost permanently in darkness.

Night Electric Night featured heavily in the set list, mixed in with some tracks from the previous two Deathstars releases, 2006’s Termination Bliss and 2004’s Synthetic Generation. Mark of the Gun, Blitzkreig, and Blood Stains Blondes drew big punter responses with Bergh taking every opportunity to get the crowd to help with singing.

At one point, shirt removed, Bergh explained that he was “very narcissistic” and that we were probably thinking that the band were “the best band in the world”. Minutes later, however, he was expressing appreciation and amazement that a crowd of people appreciated their music from the other side of the world and requesting that applause be held; instead stating, “if you like a song, remove a piece of clothing and we will continue”. 

Cyanide signalled the official end of the set, but it didn’t take much for the band to be coaxed back on stage – not just for “one more song” as the chanters requested, but two more: Death Dies Hard and The Revolution Exodus. Then it was “thank you and good nightmares” from the Deathstars.

Their lyrical material may be more than slightly ridiculous, but the Deathstars play that boppy Euro-metal industrial style that is hard not to get swept into and despite the dramatics, they do have a very fun show. Venue and sound annoyances aside, I don’t think anyone went home disappointed.