Review by Laura Wiebe; Concert photography by Adam Wills
Clearly, Thanksgiving Monday in Canada isn’t the ideal day for a metal concert. Despite the lure of Tom Warrior’s Triptykon and Norwegian black metallers 1349, surprisingly few Toronto-area metalheads emerged from their turkey-drugged haze to cap off their long weekends with a face-full of metallic grimness. And though I think they missed out, I can’t entirely blame them – if I had been relying on self-motivation I would probably have been curled up on my couch.
Local openers Sylvus welcomed early arrivals with a short but compelling set, easing the transition from long-weekend laziness into concert mode. This was my first chance to catch them live and I’m intrigued to hear more. A little stumbling didn’t disrupt their collective chemistry or – and this is what really stood out – the dynamic interplay of the band’s two-guitar attack.
The highlight of the night, for me at least, came early when Chicago’s Yakuza stepped up to the stage. They performed with a doomy jam band kind of vibe and a hint of jazziness. During the first few songs, the band’s singer juggled two different saxophones and the microphone, going delightfully spastic in between. Meanwhile the rest of the band maintained a steady crushing momentum, all but the drummer obscured by curtains of hair. Yakuza’s set felt painfully short, ending too soon in a faster-paced climactic frenzy.
That energy didn’t last throughout the rest of the night, through the soul-sucking and monolithic severity of the headlining bands. 1349 played next, winning the performance spectacle award. Complete with with black robe, armour and face paint, they remained grimly theatrical to the end. Drummer Frost seemed a particular draw, but a youngish and passionate following crowded around the small stage all through the band’s set, chanting out their name and bashing fists in the air, even breaking out into a tiny pit. 1349 are forceful and even slightly hypnotic but went on too long, seeming to wind up to a close and then driving on. For several more songs. Maybe it’s fitting though – there seems something very black metal about pushing sonic pleasure to the point of pain. (Our friendly neighbourhood editor claimed they had him thinking how he could have stayed home and clipped his toenails.)
Triptykon‘s performance had a related effect, but more devastating – steamrolling through until there’s no pleasure or pain, just colossal sound. If you saw Celtic Frost play at the Opera House a few years ago (with 1349 no less) you have a pretty good inkling of what Triptykon delivered and can probably picture a black-toqued Warrior dominating the stage despite his small stature. Visually the band’s performance style is understated, but the smaller venue allowed them to overwhelm the space. Alongside the expected Triptykon material, sounding much like it does on record, the set list was Celtic Frost-heavy, songs like “Procreation (of the Wicked)” snarled out with vicious intensity. The older tracks were played much the bulldozer-ish way Warrior works now, so that there was little sense of transition between band identities and eras. Song after song Triptykon stormed the endurance threshold, finally rumbling to a close at the end of a solid set, leaving some of us dazed but ultimately (especially the Celtic Frost fans) satisfied.
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