Live review by Renée Trotier and Natalie Zed; Concert photography by Adam Wills
If the large crowd at The Opera House on Sunday night was any indication then it would be fair to assume that metal heads aren’t really into football. It’s either that or the allure of two very different tours meeting up for one show right here in T.O. was too intriguing to pass up, or at least more intriguing than commercials and chilli. Death Angel vs. Eluveitie? Now there’s a matchup to sink your teeth into! If you couldn’t make it, never fear because Hellbound’s own metal insiders Natalie Zed and Renée Trotier were on hand to bring you the play by play.
Okay, stop me if you’ve heard this one. There’s this melodic death metal band that sounds kind of like Soilwork only with two singers. Let’s call them System Divide. It’s sort of a beast meets harlot scenario where the guy sings all these low, guttural verses and the girl sings all the choruses in this clean, operatic voice. They’ve got atmospheric keyboard intros without really having a keyboardist and…Oh wait, you have heard this before? Let’s just move on then, shall we? (Renée Trotier)
Lazarus A.D. might be just another thrash band but theirs is a redundancy that is more tongue-in-cheek fun than it is boring facsimile. They play just what you’d expect from a thrash band and somehow that’s okay. With material chalk full of guitar solos and double kick, they put on an entertaining performance save for some initial moments of lacklustre stiffness I’ll attribute to nerves. By the time they closed the set with their new single “Ultimate Sacrifice” they were thrashing with a passion. Besides, any band that has a drummer who can windmill headbang whilst playing has got my seal of approval! (Renée Trotier)
I had no previous encounters with Holy Grail but I suppose in the back of my head I was expecting something along the lines of traditional metal coupled with nerdy themes involving battles and swordplay. I’m glad I was right because what they delivered was all that and then some, performing with a level of energy and fervour I wasn’t prepared for. There was wailing falsetto, fist pumping and sing-along’s with a crowd that was more than willing to participate. When all was said and done I was left with a positive impression, their debut album and $13 fewer dollars in my pocket. (Renée Trotier)
I’d been in Peterborough all weekend, so I walked into this six-hour extravaganza of a show a little over halfway in. I missed Holy Grail, which was a genuine disappointment, as they completely blew me away when they opened for Blind Guardian late last year. The sting of my dismay was quickly soothed when 3 Inches of Blood took the stage. I was immediately struck by how completely thrilled they were to be performing, and in such glorious company. They played their particularly epic brand of traditional heavy metal (in a The Lord of the Rings kind of way) with passion and gusto, filling the stage with positive energy. I’ve seen them perform twice now and both times I was impressed by how delighted with themselves they seem when they play — they are a band that love what they do. And they’re good at it, too. Their songs gallop and soar by turns, venturing occasionally towards a violence that’s always good-natured. Vocalist Cam Pipes (whose name is incredibly appropriate) has a dizzying upper range. Near the end of the set, they performed a cover of Rush’s “Anthem” for the delighted crowd in honour of this Canadian performance, since “Canadians love three things: beer, hockey and Rush.” (Natalie Zed)
As the crowd grew in size, so did the party atmosphere. Liquor was flowing, people were socializing and somewhere in the distance Vancouver’s 3 Inches of Blood were storming the stage to the theme from Star Trek. Clearly this is a band that is serious about having a good time. Gleaning from a set list that read more like a greatest hits package, they reached deep into their back catalogue to pull out one favourite after another. Songs like “Goatrider’s Horde”, “Destroy the Orcs”, “Night Marauders” and “Fear on the Bridge” were upstaged only by a fantastic cover of Rush’s “Anthem”. Throw in a new unreleased track (“Lord of Change”), denim vests and a couple of gnarly mosh pits and you’ve got yourself a party! (Renée Trotier)
Death Angel were the undisputed highlight of the night. Calling this band “Bay Area Thrash” seems almost reductive now that so many other bands have adopted that particular aesthetic. Death Angel still wear the crown as sovereign overlords of this particular genre of metal, and their performance in Toronto only served to reinforce their reign. Mark Osegueda is an energetic, charismatic and incredibly gracious frontman. He praised the crowd, insisting that Toronto was one of his favourite places to play, coming across as completely genuine and charming. His voice was as clarion clear as the guitars blistering. Their generous set drew from across their decades-long career, including several pieces from newest album Relentless Retribution. They performed a brilliant cover of “Heaven and Hell” that brought a tear to my eye and invited good friend Danko Jones to aid in vocal duties during their set, which was a lovely surprise, adding even further to the feeling of positivity in the room. On this frigid February night, their set was red-hot. The show was actually running a little ahead of schedule, so they were able to play an extra song, to the ravenous crowd’s delight. They closed their set with “Thrown To The Wolves,” which brought their performance to a crescendo. I did not want them to leave the stage; I wished their set could have continued for hours. (Natalie Zed)
The biggest surprise of the night for me came courtesy of Death Angel. I had never seen them live before and although I was anticipating a fine tuned dose of thrash metal from a band that had been doing this for ages, I was unexpectedly blown away by their performance. Frontman Mark Osegueda is charismatic in the most genuine of ways, repeatedly thanking fans both new and old and injecting a bit of good natured humour into his between song banter. Not only that, but their bay area brand of thrash sounds just as heavy and relevant as anything that’s been released in the past five years. Although they no doubt played numerous hits I was unfamiliar with, even the hardcore fans were surprised when Toronto’s own Danko Jones joined them on stage, helping out during the circle-pit-friendly anthem “Thrashers”. What did it for me however was when they broke into an impeccable rendition of Black Sabbath’s “Heaven and Hell” in the middle of the song “Bored”. It was a spot on, grin inducing tribute to Dio that has since provoked me to dig the entire album out of my collection and put it into obsessive rotation. Talk about impressive! (Renée Trotier)
Elueveitie are undoubtedly a sight to behold. With eight members on one stage and more instruments than people to play them, this is something that should go without saying. I took them in a bit like I would a glass of wine, sipping and savouring each element in turn. From hurdy gurdy to violin, there was always something new to take in. Bringing out bagpipes for the track “Inis Mona” is a perfect demonstration to this point, and was an obvious crowd pleaser. Both fun and fierce, Eluveitie’s blend of melodic death metal and folk brought the perfect balance to an eclectic night of metal. (Renée Trotier)
Co-headliners Eluveitie weren’t content to allow Death Angel to steal the show, however. They opened their set playing some of their harder, more intense material, “Otherworld” and “Nil.” Their sound was rich and full, a product of their complex yet well-balanced instrumentation and tandem male/female vocals (and an excellent sound person). They eventually eased up on their sonic assault, allowing the crowd to catch their breath. The set was positively plaint and haunting during “Slania’s Song” and “Brictom.” drawing less frenzy and more catharsis from the audience. Eluveitie definitely understand how to manage a longer set (they played nearly 90 minutes), how to control the ebb and flow of the show, because before the energy could fully settle, possibly allowing the audience to get fatigued, they amped up the set with heavier songs like “Quoth The Raven.” It was an enthusiastic, well-rounded performance from a band that show up both to play their instruments with solid skill and to have a damn good time. (Natalie Zed)
I wondered, initially, how combining these two tours would work, how the aesthetics would fit together. After seeing the show, I happily report that it all coalesced quite well, the disparate aesthetics wonderfully complementary. Also, both frontmen of the headlining bands have dreadlocks as long as I am tall. It all fits together perfectly. (Natalie Zed)
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