By Natalie Zed
This was the first show of “metal summer 2011”. I didn’t know it on my way to the Annex Wreckroom, but by the end of the night, I was convinced that summer concert season had officially begun. The night was hot and the venue was hotter, leaving my skin sticky and gritty when it was over, my eyeliner smeared across my face. I went to the show alone and ran into more people I know than I could properly spend time with. I found myself drinking too much just to keep cool, chatting on the sidewalk outside between sets. And what better line-up for the first show of “real summer” than start-to-finish, filthy black metal?
This show kicked off promptly at 7:30 p.m. with San Antonio, TX-based black metallers HOD. Their set was plagued by sound problems that wouldn’t be resolved for most of the night. The band kept asking for more kick drum in the monitors (as Panzerfaust, Black Anvil, and Aura Noir would also do), and the tech responded by simply turning up the volume in general (especially the drums). I like music that rattles my ribcage, but this resulted in the sound being drowned in reverb as the speakers strained. This wasn’t HOD’s fault, of course, and something they visibly battled. I enjoyed the vocalist’s snarling, almost troll-like demeanor, glaring and contorting his face, but it was difficult to pick out his voice from the wall of sound. I did find my eye consistently drawn to new bassist Trans Am, who played with genuine passion, absorbed in his performance. I’d like to give this band another show under more ideal aural circumstances before passing judgment.
Next up were Toronto, ON-based titans Panzerfaust. I have seen them perform several times and at each show they impress me by consistently upping their game. Each time they are better than the last performance. I admire their drive and desire to improve, as well as their incredibly imposing stage presence. Vocalist Tom Remigio is a familiar face in the Toronto metal community, where he uses his impressive (6’7,” I believe) height to his advantage as an incredibly genial security guard. On stage, he’s a towering presence, scowling and projecting a great kind of threatening, almost violent energy. Panzerfaust fought against similar sound issues, but ultimately triumphed. Their aesthetic — dark and grim, yet vibrantly realized — shone (or glowered) through the feedback. I expect good (or maybe terrible and wrathful) things to come from them in the future.
The audience at the Wreckroom thinned considerably near the stage for Black Anvil’s set, as many retreated outside for a cool-down and recharge for the rest of the night. This was a shame, because they are an excellent live band, spiky and relentless. Composed of three members of Kill Your Idols (Paul Delaney, Gary Bennett and Raeph Glicken), their punk aesthetic glimmers through the black metal sound like grim scowls cracking into wise-ass grins. Drummer Glicken, in particular, is a joy to watch. Animated and responsive to his fellow musicians, he plays theatrically from his wrists, at times, and thunders away with an impressive display of pure punishing muscle at others. I will be happy to see these NYC-based monsters whenever they deign to visit Toronto.
The venue filled up and the cramped space in front of the stage was again crowded shoulder-to-shoulder for Aura Noir’s set. The band had just put in an excellent performance at this year’s Maryland Death Fest and so the crowd was buzzing about them. Speaking of buzzing, a couple of songs into Aura Noir’s set, the horrendous sound improved dramatically. Finally, I felt like I was being sonically assaulted for all the right reasons. Aura Noir play a style of blackened thrash that’s comparable to Slayer and Kreator, but add a dose of additional filth. They bill themselves as “the Ugliest Band in the World” and do a great job of incorporating this anti-aesthetic into their sound. They balance relatively simply, thrash-inspired riffs, played raw with chaotic drumming, achieving a grotesquerie that’s nonetheless extremely listenable, even catchy. This performance definitely won me over and I will be seeking out this Norwegian band’s recorded material in the very near future.
Before legendary Swedish blasphemers Marduk took the stage (and I use the word “took” in the sense of “ravished”), the lights dimmed and for several minutes the room was still, save for a recorded violin repeating the same simple phrase over and over. The effect was chilling, like deceptively soft music in a horror movie, and the crowd quickly became jumpy. There was a spectacular break in tension when the band filed on-stage and yelps of combined relief and exultation when Daniel “Mortuus” Rostén claimed the mic. From the first two songs, “Phosphorous Redeemer” and “Burn My Coffin,” the room was in complete chaos. Marduk are a band that have complete control over a room, that can incite a crowd to violence with a gesture, and this kind of mastery over the audience was something to behold. They are also a band that genuinely make you feel like you are listening to something dangerous, something that might be getting under your skin and making you a little bit dirtier, a little bit worse. Had I a soul, I would say that Marduk stained it.
It was still hot when I finally stepped into the street, late on a Monday night. I was totally exhausted, wretched and desperately needed to bathe. I could not have asked for a better start to the summer.