Marduk / Incantation @ The Garrison, Toronto, 2 September 2017

Black and death metal form an unholy alliance to deliver evil to Toronto. The instigators in question are Marduk and Incantation, both acts at the forefront of their genres with pedigrees few can surpass. Swarms of black-clad metal heads take over The Garrison for a dose of darkness.

Household death metallers Incantation need no introduction beyond this year seeing the release of new album ‘Profane Nexus’, another slab of swarming old school death metal. ‘Rites of the Locust’ unearths crazed guitar leads, consistent insistent drumming and the sinister growls of John McEntee. With a career surpassing 25 years, there’s ample material for these Americans to choose from to create a set that promotes ‘Profane Nexus’ and demonstrates the highlights of their enduring career. The new album incorporates stronger foreboding doom metal elements and far more accomplished guitar nuances into their compositions. ‘Lus Selpulcri’ and ‘Messiah Nostrum’ are particular highlights from this fresh-faced release.

The remainder of the set shines a flashlight on the beginning and tail end of their discography. ‘Carrion Prophecy’ stalks the venue in a doomy sulk, while ‘Dominant Ethos’ is less than three minutes of pronounced aggression and angular pinch harmonics. The gritty ‘Christening the Afterbirth’ from classic debut ‘Onward to Golgotha’ infects the venue with rabies and one of Incantation’s finest moments, namely ‘Ibex Moon’, demands the attendees break their necks with face-punching rhythms. The venue is packed with metalheads rocking out, a reaction Incantation are very used to by now. ‘Impending Diabolical Conquest’ closes the set in a frenetic manner frequently adopted by black metal bands these days and testament to how this old school death metal band is still very relevant in 2017.

Swedish black metallers Marduk must put on quite a show to surpass the death metal assembly. ‘Frontschwein’ ignites their set and sets the tone for its entirety. Blastbeats, blastbeats, blastbeats is what this brand of Swedish black metal concerns itself with and the opener delivers this course. ‘The Blond Beast’ follows, providing respite from the blasts in favour of rhythmic war stomp that is almost strangely danceable. But being Marduk, the violent blastbeat outburst reigns supreme and the likes of ‘Throne of Rats’ ‘Cloven Hoof’ and ‘Souls for Belial’ level the venue like a tide of tanks. So far into the night, with so much alcohol imbibed, the audience appears restless and bored.

Given the rate of new and creative bands emerging from the black metal cauldron these days, Marduk with their dripping corpsepaint and predictable arrangements feel underwhelming. The attendees thin out as the set progresses, enthusiasm dramatically dropping. Presumably, people are just waiting for ‘Panzer Division Marduk’ to be fired out and when the time for these Swedes’ most popular track arrives, the fans’ excitement is unleashed again. The song is performed effortlessly as always but it’s not enough to create a memorable live show. Marduk have been around for a while and in some ways, they can be considered a nostalgia act, somewhat dated. It’s difficult to foresee this changing unless they do something drastic. Fortunately, Incantation still create stimulating death metal at a time when more bands than ever before seem to want their signature sound. Not bad for a band that formed in 1989.