Review by Natalie Zed; Photos by Adam Wills
I’ve been sick. Not “honey I have a headache” sick or “boo, hoo, I am dying of a cold” sick. I’m talking lung infection, ten days on antibiotics, “please let this end” kind of sick. I feel like I missed everything while I was down for the count. And, well, I kind of did. I missed Finntroll, Ensiferum, Barren Earth and Rotten Sound. I missed Deicide and Belphegor. I missed Motörhead. And I missed Weedeater. (Huge thanks to Sean Palmerston, Adam Wills and Albert Mansour for reviewing shows in my stead and representing Hellbound when I could not.) Nothing feels more miserable than wishing with every fibre of your being you could be rocking out for all you’re worth when you don’t have the strength to crawl across your apartment.
After nearly dying of the plague, it feels incredibly good to be back in action. This is the first show I reviewed since the Black Death nearly took me and let me tell you: it felt damn good. (Pro-tip: if you date a dude in a touring band, he will bring home every disease on Earth! Worse than toddlers, I tell you.)
I got there plenty early and caught Bolero’s entire set. They drew heavily from new album Voyage from Vinland, and their performance clearly demonstrated how excited they are about the material. This was the tightest and most energetic set I have seen them play. Their material has always been catchy and has become even more so; I found myself humming “Pints Held High” for a good day-and-a-half. They played older material with equal gusto; I particularly enjoyed their rendition of “The Swordsman.” On the Mod Club stage, they sounded great, proving that their musical proficiency holds up on a larger stage with better sound. Bolero play with passion and joy; I always love seeing them live.
Next up were Woods of Ypres. Here are some photos Adam took of them.
The crowd swelled during Woods of Ypres’ set, and the Mod Club was teeming by the time Warcall took the stage. This was my first experience with this band. They play a blend of melodic death and thrash the audience ate up. Their set began and ended strong, delivering a great deal of passion, though the band’s energy level flagged in the middle. The crowd either didn’t notice or mind, and kept a swirling, energetic pit in action throughout. While this Montreal-based band’s material may not be terribly original, considering exactly how much melodic death floats across my table these days, their delivery is solid. Their music is still fresh to them, and that makes all the difference in a live performance. They didn’t blow me out of the water, but they certainly did earn my respect.
I am not sure I have ever been to a show, barring Iron Maiden, where more members of the audience were wearing the headlining band’s shirts. There were Kalmah logos as far as the eye could see, and as soon as the lights went down, the crowd went bonkers. While I tend to gravitate towards, and enjoy, a lot of extreme metal coming form Finland, I haven’t spent much time with Kalmah in the past. After this show, that’s going to change. I might have been a relative newbie, but the audience at the Mod Club was passionate and rabid. The pit that formed in front of the stage was one of the largest, and craziest, I have seen at this level of show. I hopped in for about five minutes before I took a liver shot Bas Rutten would have been proud of and decided to be a girl at the sidelines for the rest of the evening.
Kalmah played a tight headlining set that sped forward at a blistering pace, rarely letting me catch my breath. I particularly enjoyed “The Black Waltz,” the title song from their 2006 album, and “Swamphell,” which was accompanied by some of the most hilarious patter I’ve ever heard. Vocalist Pekka Kokko talked about Canadian winters and “ice hockey,” dedicating the song to Spring in Finland while reminiscing about “picking cloud berries.” All the members of the band displayed an incredible ease on stage, owning it as though there was nowhere they would rather be. During the set, I found my eyes consistently drawn to bassist Timo Lehtinen, whose flaxen blond hair and tribal tattoo, juxtaposed with his translucently white skin, made for an incredibly striking image. The band’s passion never flagged and neither did the audience’s. There was no dutiful clapping before the expected encore; the crowd positively begged for more.
Toronto seemed very serene when I left the Mod Club, in sharp contrast to the aggressive, yet ethereal, set Kalmah played. I could not imagine a more perfect band to headline a show on a wet, cold, early spring night.