Review by Natalie Zed; Photos by Adam Wills
Going on at seven p.m. is tough, especially when the crowd is still thin and no one has finished their first beer. Lecherous Nocturne did what they could with the time they had, earning my respect. They played hard, dirty and loud, dripping sweat and egging the crowd on. When a heckler started getting a bit too wily, vocalist Jason Hohenstein cheerfully threatened to “beard fuck” the culprit and kept on playing. It was a totally enjoyable set and a great way to start the night.
After a strong start, Abigail Williams took the show down a notch. Their performance was muddy and un-engaging, doing nothing to draw me in. It felt as though the band were distracted. Abigail Williams have often been criticized for lacking a cohesive aesthetic, mimicking the style of performative black metal without fully committing to the substance or developing their interpretation of the genre. In a live setting, this uncertainty is front and centre. Also, guys: all of you (barring the drummer) wearing absurd shin guards bristling with studs and spikes looks ridiculous.
Happily, this was the only set of the night that didn’t hold up, in terms of quality. Hate performed in the middle slot and regained both my attention and good will. I was unfamiliar with this band prior to the show and I have to admit the appearance of a full-length man-skirt was cause for concern, but any hint of dubiousness quickly faded away. As theatrical as their appearance may be, their music backs it up. They play with an intense, focused energy that makes them fascinating to watch. Their blackened death metal, with a tinge of industrial, translates extremely well in a live setting. I had a blast during their set and will be excited to see these Polish legends again.
Melechesh performed what was, for me, the most highly anticipated set of the night. Friends who had seen their set at Maryland Death Fest in 2010 raved about it. Their performance at the Mod Club only proved that all the compliments I’d heard were whole-heartedly deserved. They play their instruments as mercilessly as blazing sunlight. Their “Mesopotamian metal” is a brilliant blend of well-executed musicianship and a profound commitment to, and understanding of, their aesthetic. Their greatest strength is their sense of rhythm, of the urgency of percussion. During “Grand Gathas of Ball Sin” and “Ghouls on Ninevah,” I could feel my body reacting viscerally to the cadence of the music. Frontman Ashmedi is wickedly charismatic, effortlessly commanding the audience while also displaying sincere graciousness for Melechesh’s positive reception. This was one of those sets I willed not to end.
A very neat thing happened before Rotting Christ took the stage. A group of about seven young Greek men clustered right up at the front, all wearing Rotting Christ shirts. As soon as the lights began to dim, they raised a Greek flag over their heads and furiously waved it aloft for the entire set. They were overjoyed that their band were in Canada, in Toronto and made sure they felt welcomed and appreciated the entire time they were on stage. It was fucking lovely.
Rotting Christ’s set itself was everything I expected from the veteran black metallers: heavy as hell while never becoming mired in sludge, always scorching in its intensity. The band were also having a damn good time on stage; vocalist Sakis Tolis spent the entire set snarling and grinning. Their set was drawn heavily from Aealo, their latest offering, but also featured some of their older work. Most notably, they played “Non Serviam” as an encore, which warmed the cockles of my black little heart. That song represents a lot of what is fantastic about Rotting Christ: that Luciferian refusal to follow and obey, and their glorious stubbornness in creating their own way forward.