Machine Head / Suicide Silence / Darkest Hour @ The Sound Academy, Toronto ON, January 28th 2012

By Natalie Zed

I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a bad metal show. Even if the bands are horrendous and the vibe is weird, I’ll manage to have a good time because, well, it’s metal. Like that adage about sex and pizza, even when a metal show is bad, it’s still pretty good. This particular evening, however, was definitely one that went off the rails, for a variety of reasons.

It’s a well-known fact, at least to anyone who reads my reviews or follows me on Twitter (@NatalieZed), that I loathe and detest the Sound Academy as a venue. The sound is terrible, unless you’re dead front-and-centre, the drinks are ridiculously overpriced and it’s located down on the docks of Polson Pier. This location can be decent in the summer, when a cool breeze is blowing off the lake and one can bike or walk down. But on a frigid, late-January night when angry sleet turned all the roads to ice, I flat out hated it and resented every freezing step to this inconvenient location.

As soon as I was in the door and began to thaw out, my chilly mood dissolved. I was looking forward to a solid night of aggressive performances and for a bit, it looked like the rest of the night would be smooth sailing. Darkest Hour played a straightforward, but enjoyable set. Their set-list was drawn heavily from their most recent release, The Human Romance, which is the most pedestrian, and my least favourite, of their albums. However, this is the material they’re currently most excited about, and they play it well. I was also pleased that they at least played an up-tempo version of “No God,” from The Eternal Return, and closed with “Doomsayer (The Beginning of the End).” Their set was bright and tightly wound, and did a great job setting a solid pace.

The momentum of the evening unfortunately ground to halt, as fans had to wait for Suicide Silence, who began their set 45 minutes behind schedule. By the time their blasting deathcore struck up, the Sound Academy was bursting at the seams. Frontman Mitch Lucker Becan spent the set perched above his bandmates, crouching on a riser and demanding that the entire crowd put up their middle fingers and leave them up all night as a giant “fuck you!” to the world. This heralded one of the most awkward and hostile sets I’ve ever witnessed. Shortly after telling the crowd to keep flipping the bird, Lucker turned on his audience, threatening a woman in the front row, saying that he would knock her teeth out if she kept flipping him off. Next, he asked the crowd, “How many of you like sleeping with women? NOT MEN, ONLY WOWEN.” Finally, he began to order the pit around like a disgruntled gym teacher, micro-managing a wall of death and then demanding a circle pit. I’ve never disliked someone on stage as much as I disliked Mitch Lucker, and he made it genuinely difficult to enjoy their performance. “Bludgeoned to Death” had a driving violence to it and “Fuck Everything” featured a nihilistic purity I could otherwise get behind, but Lucker made it all unpleasant.

It was up to headliners Machine Head to deliver the magic, and I’m pleased to report they did an excellent job. Their set was definitely the most technically involved of the night, and huge screens displayed a complex suite of images to accompany the music, ranging from alchemical symbols to religiously charged etchings and spiraling, hallucinatory patterns. The set leaned towards newer material, and “Locust” and “Darkness Within” certainly went over well with the crowd. That said, it was unquestionably older numbers like “Bulldozer” and “The Blood, The Sweat, The Tears” that got the crowd roaring. It was great to see the change in the crowd as the fans reacted with passion and enthusiasm, rather than halfheartedly responding to being ordered about like cattle. There was love in the room again and that turned the night around.

However, before their set concluded, a couple of things convinced me to cut the night a little short. Just as “Ten Ton Hammer” began to gather momentum, someone standing next to me pooped his pants. He originally tried to deny it and blame the stench on someone else. Thankfully his buddy wasn’t buying it and dragged the fellow away. I fled to the back of the venue to escape the lingering stink and promptly witnessed a kid fall down, turn blue and begin to retch uncontrollably. As security whisked the fallen, hopefully just alcohol-poisoned youngster away, I decided that the universe was giving me a sign to abandon ship.

Sean Palmerston

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