Kreator, Voivod, Nachtmystium, Evile @ Opera House, Toronto, ON, March 9, 2010

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Review By Natalie Zed, Photos by Albert Mansour

I arrived at The Opera House at 7:20pm. Somehow, I had missed LAZARUS A.D. entirely, and walked in during the middle of EVILE’s set. When the hell did this show start? It’s rather challenging for people like me, who enjoy being dorkily early to things, when shows start at 6-freaking-pm.

After the requisite coat-check, acquire-beer, locate-roommate dance, I expected to settle in and watch EVILE’s set from the comfort of the bar. After about a song and a half, I abandoned my passive position and found myself right up front, snapping pictures and headbanging away. EVILE brought a great deal of positive, infectious energy to their performance. They were also gracious performers, generously praising their tour-mates and effusively thanking the crowd. “We Who Are About To Die” and “Enter The Grave” went over particularly well, especially with the younger contingent of the audience. This band was just plain fun to watch, and I’m looking forward to their return to Toronto with OVERKILL and VADER next month.

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NACHTMYSTIUM’S set was short, tight, and almost impossibly refined. This is a band that knows exactly who they are and what they’re on about. A great deal of time and energy has clearly gone into carefully crafting and refining their performance, and it shows. They command a remarkably strong stage presence and project complete control over their performance. I caught myself wondering, though, whether such refinement, such precision, might have strayed over the line and become mechanical. In the end, even a sense of industrial coldness works for them and adds to their caché rather than detracting. NACHTMYSTIUM might have gunmetal at its heart.

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Something mysterious happened just before VOIVOD came on stage: in the span of time it took me to buy a drink, the crowd managed to double in size, as though a silent VOIVOD-alarm suddenly went off in every metalhead’s mind. Lily the Pirate (my kickass roommate) and I got as close to the stage as we dared, expecting to be crushed. The crowd really surprised us, however: despite the excitement vibrating through The Opera House, everyone was incredibly well-mannered and polite. It seemed contextually perfect that VOIVOD’s performance was greeting with such quintessential Canadian courtesy.

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VOIVOD gave all that they had to give and did not disappoint. Snake is a hell of a showman, owning the entire stage, smiling like a crocodile and dancing like a zombie. The setlist skewed towards older material, which the crowd devoured. The selection of material from Infini that they played, including “Global Warning,” was greeted with a slight reserve that morphed into full-on reverence once Snake raised a lighter to the ceiling and dedicated their performance to Piggy. It’s been a strange, death-filled year already for the music world, which made that moment of tribute even more poignant. The encore mercifully allowed the crowd the opportunity to purge any softer feelings that might have been generated. VOIVOD conserved their energy and played their hardest right at the very end of their set, going out in a blaze of fists and sweat.

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Guilty admission time: I was not expecting to love KREATOR. A bit of this expectation comes from experience, as I tend to be far more impressed with supporting acts that headliners (for example: I adored DEVIN TOWNSEND’s performance back in January, but was very lukewarm about BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME). The majority of this assumption, though, was me being hetero-normative. When I think of German thrash, it fits firmly in the “metal that’s mostly for dudes” category in my brain. Silly and sexist, of course, but however unconscious it does make me a little reserved.

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KREATOR, of course, positively destroyed The Opera House. “Hordes of Chaos” raised the energy level in the room to near-riot level early on, and “Enemy of God” and “Extreme Aggression” kept it there. Whatever chilliness I’d initially felt evaporated almost immediately, and there was rarely a moment when my fist wasn’t in the air and my neck muscles weren’t burning. Mille’s take on crowd control bordered on cheesy, but the cliché only served to create a call-and response environment that made the experience all the better. The band and the audience knew exactly what they wanted from each other, and each delivered. It was loud and fun and deeply satisfying.

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I left this show feeling even more cheerful than I usually do–which is saying something. Metal puts me in a spectacular mood, but there was something especially good-natured about this show that added and extra shine to the evening. The combination of solid performances, helping a dude find his glasses by the light of my phone (a service that has been done for me in the past and oh how grateful I am for the courtesy), and the incredibly positive attitude of everyone at the venue warmed my black little heart. It’s not just the bands that are responsible for a good show; it’s also the audience.

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Sean Palmerston

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.