Live Review: DZ Deathrays @ Corner Hotel, Melbourne

1 July 2024 | 5:52 pm | Ellie Robinson

An explosive celebration of the DZ Deathrays we loved in 2014, charged by the dynamic energy of the DZ Deathrays we love in 2024.

DZ Deathrays

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The world of today is a vastly different place than it was when DZ Deathrays released their breakthrough second album, Black Rat, in May 2014; you’d be hard-pressed to find someone whose outlook on life hasn’t shifted dramatically over the past decade. But there’s no form of creative expression quite as eternal as music – no other medium so effortlessly transcends the evolution of any cultural or societal zeitgeist – so while Black Rat may be linked to a time that feels so foreign, the album itself has never sounded as fresh, relevant or impactful.

Played in full for this celebration of its ten-year anniversary, Black Rat is recontextualised by a version of DZ Deathrays very different from the one that minted it. The duo – singer/shredder Shane Parsons and drummer Simon Ridley – have since explored a wealth of other genres, further honed their skills as performers and even welcomed others into the hive-mind: namely second guitarist Lachlan Ewbank (who’s been with them since 2015) and touring bassist Luke Henery (who joined the fold just last year).

Even plucking the simplest root notes, Henery is a force to be reckoned with: he whips around the stage like a human Beyblade, his luscious mop of hair thrashing around like he’s trying to shake it off his scalp, all the while testing the strength of his guitar strap as he swings, drops and lobs around the bass it’s clipped to. For the bulk of the set, though, he’s not just boosting the lead guitar riffs but adding a wealth of new colour to them – the kind of low-end fury he was adored for in Violent Soho.

Of course, it’s Parsons and Ewbank that lead the fray with their vicious and visceral shredding. They wield a tight and kinetic chemistry, their riffs ebbing and flowing and weaving together as separate parts of a more dynamic whole; it’s not a case of one playing the lead while another does the rhythm, but instead bouncing off each other and working in tandem to really elevate the original riffs on Black Rat. If the album itself were a classic film, the print DZ screen us tonight is lovingly remastered in 4K and 3D, with enhanced colour grading and a new Dolby Atmos mix.

They throw in some new special effects, too: a sludgy, doom metal-ish breakdown at the end of Ocean Exploder sends a fervent mosh into overdrive, while prickly bitcrushing on the wailing riffs in Fixations make it feel even more like a digital fever dream. Part of why Black Rat is such a classic record is its distinct sound and character – and while DZ certainly honour that here, they juice it up with enough new flavour that it feels fresh and energised; we’ve heard these 11 songs, in this exact order, hundreds of times over the past decade – and yet as we stand here in the Corner Hotel, watching the band blaze through it once more, we’re consistently gripped in anticipation of what they’ll do next.

The most special part of the set actually comes after DZ finish playing through the record. The encore starts with two absolute classics from the band’s early days – The Mess Up (from 2009’s Ruined My Life EP) and Gebbie Street (from 2011's Brutal Tapes) – performed by Parsons and Ridley as a duo for the first time (in Melbourne) since 2014. The way they play it makes us feel like we’ve travelled back in time, fuelled by the same youthful exuberance and adrenalised passion they revelled in playing cramped, sweat-soaked dive bars.

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Ewbank and Henery return for the last few songs, snapping us back into the present day with two standouts from DZ’s 2023 album R.I.F.F – thrashy lead single Paranoid and rollicking fan-favourite My Mind Is Eating Me Alive – before wrapping up with one of the biggest festival anthems of the last decade, Shred For Summer (off 2018’s Bloody Lovely). The selection leaves a bit to be desired – there’s nothing on show from Bloodstreams or the Positive Rising duology, for example – but strapped for time, we can’t complain.

All in all, tonight’s show was an explosive celebration of the DZ Deathrays we loved in 2014, charged by the dynamic energy of the DZ Deathrays we love in 2024.