Goatwhore + Empyrean Plague @ The Garrison, Toronto, May 11th 2017

Photo credit: Peter Beste

While it’s not quite the weekend, New Orleans extreme metallers Goatwhore are currently rampaging throughout the United States supporting Amon Amarth and have managed to squeeze in a headlining Toronto date without their Viking partners, so late night boozing it is. Although the Americans were most recently in Canada’s most populous city just last year, many metalheads are extremely excited that they have returned and The Garrison’s swollen attendance is testament to this.

Ontario’s Empyrean Plague warm up the crowd with their nature-worshipping pagan black metal. Formed in 2002 and wielding three-full-lengths, they have amassed a loyal following in their province. Using typical ‘90s Viking metal as a base, employing effective use of punchy rhythms, bold bass and melodic guitar work, this quartet forge melancholic yet epic tracks. It is evident that they can craft well-thought out compositions and are clearly capable musicians. However the music lacks the necessary X factor to snatch and maintain attention in such a crowded black metal world these days. Nonetheless, most of the sizeable audience in attendance are fully behind their performance, moshing and cheering tirelessly, attaining a more robust response than most local support bands receive.


The Garrison remains packed as headliners Goatwhore take the stage later than scheduled, effortlessly summoning an immense wave of moshing and headbanging appreciation. Their melting pot of thrash, death and black metal bursts with razor sharp riffs courtesy of Sammy Duet and punishing skin-smashing from Zack Simmons. Growler Ben Falgoust rasps and barks blasphemies with conviction while maintaining an active stage presence as he interacts with enthused fans. This type of metal truly comes to life in the live environment – the headbang-able thrash and the bludgeoning strokes of death metal encased in a nasty black metal swagger. Watching the enthusiasm of the band alone would make an observer want to fervently bang their head.

The band storms through a set of tracks from throughout their discography, including the likes of “Carving Out the Eyes of God”, “Baring Teeth for Revolt”, “Cold Earth Consumed in Dying Flesh”, “Sky Inferno” and the beloved “FBS”, the latter gifted with the strongest ovation of the night. The fans are even treated to an airing of the forthcoming album’s title track “Vengeful Ascension”, to be released next month. The new number is more energetically reserved than a traditional Goatwhore track but it’s more calculating and breathes more thrash metal. It certainly strikes favour with the fans, judging by their response. When the set ends, all the members take the opportunity to shake hands of those at the front and the crowd’s appreciation is immense. The metalheads in attendance tonight will be venturing home with huge smiles plastered on their faces – a great dose of unholy metal to make it through Friday and on to the weekend.