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Life is Good: HEALTH at The Opera House

Updated: Apr 4

California’s alternative, industrial, electronic, experimental, androgynous noise rock band HEALTH thoroughly understands what being alive today feels like. By pitting monstrous drums and simmering guitars and electronics against Jake Duzsik’s melodic, disembodied vocals, they conjure images of humanity’s last stand to survive the monolithic machine we’ve created. Like yin and yang, their songs delicately balance light, dark, good, evil, humanity, and inhumanity. Ultimately, they express a beautiful catharsis unlike anything else. Their name—always in all caps—is perfect because knowing others feel the same way accelerates healing. They also give free condoms at their shows with “FEEL NOTHING” written below their logo. You can get a shirt reading “100% PURE CUM METAL” on the back for $55. If that’s not the 2020s summarized, I don’t know what is.

I discovered HEALTH a little over a decade ago after they did the soundtrack to 2012’s seminal video game Max Payne 3. Exhilarating, gorgeous, and contemplative, it is one of the best video game soundtracks ever created. Standout tracks include “PAIN,” “TORTURE,” and “TEARS.” Since then, the band has contributed music to Grand Theft Auto V, Atomic Blonde, and Cyberpunk 2077 alongside their records. Prone to experimentation, they released DISCO 4 parts 1 and 2 in 2020 and 2022, respectively. Almost entirely comprised of collaborations with artists like Nine Inch Nails, Poppy, and The Neighbourhood, these albums were many’s introduction to HEALTH. Their last album, RAT WARS, dropped in December 2023 to great reviews. Tracks “DEMIGODS” and “DSM-V” are stunning.

I was beyond excited to see HEALTH on their RAT-BASED WARFARE TOUR at The Opera House on March 19th, 2024. I arrived early, and bassist Johnny Famiglietti and drummer BJ Miller were grabbing beers. Starstruck, I waved at Johnny, and he came over, hugged me, took a photo with me, and signed my dusty Xbox 360 copy of Max Payne 3. HEALTH never shies away from engaging with their fans, whether online or at shows. They constantly promote their open Discord server, and Famiglietti’s phone number appears on merch and after music videos. When one of their slogans is “YOU WILL LOVE EACH OTHER,” it wasn’t surprising that every other concertgoer was so friendly.

Opening acts King Yosef and Pixel Grip captured disparate aspects of the HEALTH experience to wetten our appetites. The former is industrial screamo, the latter seductively electronic. Neither opener was particularly to my taste, but they poured themselves into their setlists. HEALTH’s opening song was the commanding “A Cruel Angel’s Thesis” from Neon Genesis Evangelion, followed immediately by the melancholic “PAIN” from the Max Payne 3 OST. The cognitive dissonance between wanting to dance and cry preheated my brain for the 19-song setlist. 

The level of pure energy in the venue cannot be put into words, but I will try anyway. Tracks “STONEFIST,” “GOD BOTHERER,” and “MAJOR CRIMES” lit my skull on fire.  “FUTURE OF HELL” and “PSYCHONAUT” were pure gasoline. On “NEW COKE,” Duszik sang, “Let the bombs explode” and “Life is good,” followed by nuclear blasts of drums and guitars, and I think about how lucky I am to have been there of all places. Songs from RAT WARS spread their wings on stage, but my favourite song was “FEEL NOTHING.” With its charging riffs and raw anxiety, aliens could understand 2020s humanity from only an initial listen. A mosh pit transformed the ground floor. People crowd-surfed. You could feel sparks flying out of these guys’ amplifiers on your face. The colourful strobe lighting blasting to Miller’s drumming possessed my whole body. Forget a machine gun; he’s the entire army. Even my eyelids followed the rhythm. My neck still hurts slightly from headbanging nearly a week later. My ears don’t, thankfully. Noise rock bands have an excuse to push their volume past tolerable because the pain is part of the experience. I appreciate HEALTH’s consideration. Plus, the venue gave out earplugs. Hearing the band’s relatively softer songs like “DECIMATION” and “DON’T TRY” would’ve been a nice change of pace, although it would’ve been a 50-song setlist if it were up to me. Notable absences include “TEARS,” “CYBERPUNK” and “CHILDREN OF SORROW.”  “DSM-V” was the perfect closer.

Leaving the show with my head burnt to a crisp, I struggled to remember things that made me anxious and sick. Every step toward the street felt weightless. All the voices and footsteps surrounding me were silent for a few precious minutes. Maybe the noise ejected my soul from my body. Maybe I found the yin to my yang and ascended toward a state of nirvana, realizing my worries were silly. HEALTH also sells a branded steel or silicone buttplug for $55—the same price as a T-shirt. I mean one could be useful, but the other’s a T-shirt.

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