Aura Noir @ Hard Luck Bar, Toronto, 13 October 2017

Finally, one of the best black thrash metal bands crash lands in Toronto! Norway’s self-proclaimed ugliest band in the world, Aura Noir, are on their maiden North American tour and it feels like a long time coming. Formed in the nastier corners of Oslo in 1993, this three-piece are the masters of blistering bitching black thrash, drawing from the same usual suspects in the subgenre (Venom, Hellhammer, Bathory) yet crafting a sound so far apart from their genre-mates, not to mention they predated the post-Midnight clones by approximately two decades. Now here they are, ready to devastate the Hard Luck Bar.

This show is unusual compared to Aura Noir’s usual live affairs because the band is performing as a trio rather than the four-piece that employs the skills of live drummer Kristian Valbo. This means that Aggressor and Apollyon are not both at the front of the stage wielding axes; Apollyon sits back and handles the skin-slapping tonight. The first bomb is dropped with ‘Sons of Hades’, striking with headbanging rhythms and beer-swilling attitude. This gives way to the evenly-paced ‘Fed to the Flames’ from their last album ‘Out to Die‘. The trio is armed to the teeth with buzzsaw thrash tremolo and pugnacious battery that pledges to take no prisoners on this battlefield. ‘Destructor’ from their seminal ‘Black Thrash Attack‘ debut rolls over the audience like a tank, one of the highlights of the night.

Two thirds of the set comes from ‘Black Thrash Attack‘ and 2009’s ‘Hades Rising‘ albums. Naturally, mosh pits conquer the Hard Luck serenaded by such aural aggression as ‘Hades Rise’, ‘Gaping Grave Awaits’ and ‘The One Who Smites’. Democratically, at least one track from each of their five albums makes the cut, certainly not a bad thing considering their discography is largely consistently solid. Even ‘The Rape’ from the pre-album era ‘Dreams Like Deserts‘ EP is featured for the die hard fans. The gritty vocals of both Aggressor and Apollyon (simultaneously deftly handling his drum kit) provide an additional level of filthy depth to the performance. The Norwegians’ stage presence is as devotedly thrashy and spirited as the headbangers and moshers below.

The night gallops past too rapidly. The slower ‘Grin from the Gallows’ bleeds an insistent stomp; ‘Black Metal Jaw’ takes a chunk out of the attendees; and finally, ‘Black Thrash Attack’ leads with its paced Destruction-style intro before torpedo-ing itself into uncompromising hacking strikes. This is the final song of the night and delivers an apt summary of the band’s music. Such a thrilling show should not have been skipped by any Toronto black metal adherent. Who knows when Aura Noir will return to defile this city!