Review by Natalie Zed; Concert photography by Adam Wills
The last weekend in August was absolutely bat-shit insane in the Zediverse. Not only did Fan Expo take place at the Toronto Convention Centre, for the nerdy among us (which, let’s not kid ourselves, is all of us here), but this was also the weekend of the Braveboard BBQ in High Park. Smack dab in the middle of all of this, the Coronary Evidence tour rolled into town, featuring Augury, Aborted and System Divide (supported by Horde of Worms). As badly as I wanted to stay cocooned on my couch, I pried by bloodshot eyes away from UFC 118 to go to this show. I have a great weakness for death and black metal; it’s a genre that manages to be unfailingly entertaining as hell live. Also, black and death metal frontmen provide the absolute best soundbites to text to Lily the Pirate.
I walked early into Horde of Worms’ set. Hailing from Islington, ON, they churn out a gritty death/black/grindcore concoction with some gore sprinkled on top. Alexander Erhardt is a fine frontman (providing “lead vokills”) and is well suited to their aesthetic: skinny, bald and wild-eyed, he projects an air craziness. It is, at times, difficult to tell whether he’s being tongue-in-cheek or dead serious with his banter — not that it matters, as it’s deadly entertaining either way. He never drops his harsh vocals, so all his conversation with the crowd sounds like he’s gargling thumbtacks, which always tickles me. I had a great time during their set. Their music isn’t brilliant, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun, and it’s hard not to laugh out loud at lines like: “This song is about a fucking sick magician. It is called ‘Abra Cadaver.’” I don’t want to be dismissive when I say this kind of music is funny as hell; I appreciate the aesthetic and genuinely dig the sound while also finding it profoundly amusing. I’m never going to win any tr00ness points for this, but I’ve always been better at sardonically chuckling than grimly scowling, and Horde of Worms make me smile.
The first touring band to take the stage were System Divide. Formed by couple Sven du Caluwé (Aborted) and Miri Milman (Distorted), this gothic metal entity have produced on EP (The Collapse) and have a full-length about to be released (The Conscious Sedation). I have to admit that they didn’t do it for me. Their sound is one-dimensional, and that one dimension isn’t my thing. They reminded me a great deal of a deathier Lacuna Coil, and not because they feature a male and female vocalist. There’s something about their gothic death metal aesthetic that strikes me as easy. On stage, their guitarists stand off to one side and mechanically head-bang from the waist, in sync, while the vocalists stride/bounce around the stage; he doing harsher vocals (no black, just some growls here and there), she singing high and clean. System Divide set up their pins and knock them down. There is nothing life-altering in their music, and this is part of a larger issue I have with a great deal of gothic metalcore; it meets my expectations perfectly, with no deviation or surprises. However, I enjoy being completely knocked on my ass by music and can’t help but be disappointed when I want a band, sound or genre to go for the throat, and I end up with a slap (or maybe a half-hearted slash?) on the wrist.
Augury played a long and intense third set, which I absolutely loved. I was excited to see them live, and in an intimate venue like Dee’s. I’ve played the hell out of both Concealed and Fragmentary Evidence, and was fascinated to see how they were going to perform such complex, layered work. The answer surprised and impressed me: they kept everything as complex as possible, showcasing the sheer musical talent and skill of each member. The resulting performance was still quite stripped down, compared to the recorded work. They did use a few recorded tracks as intro and outro pieces, but generally, what you heard was what was being played. It was completely fascinating to watch as well. This is an aspect that pleases about technical death metal: how mesmerizing it can be just to watch fingers on strings, unusual hand positions and the almost meditative expressions of concentration on the faces of the musicians. Augury also bring a great sense of humour to their performance, a willingness to play with the conventions of their genre, which added greatly to my affection for them. Only in death metal can you seriously announce that the next song is about the secret shadow-dwellers who live underground, have the room nod along seriously and then play a blisteringly brilliant song without a hint of irony. It’s damn fun to play mind-bogglingly intricate, complex music and still assert that the subject matter is inspired by psychic vampires. It is excellent, serious music delivered with charm, humour and monsters — there is nothing not to love.
I left before Aborted started; I know. After the rest of the weekend, brave and impetuous photographer Adam Wills and I both opted to throw in the towel. Sometimes, when a banquet is placed before you, as delicious as that final course might be, you have to wave away dessert.