Aggression + Domination @ Coalition, Toronto, 6th November 2017
Canada’s thrash metal scene is internationally revered. Few can dispute that this nation disproportionately conceived premier thrash throughout the ’80s: Voivod, Slaughter, Razor, Exciter, Annihilator and Infernäl Mäjesty to name a mere handful. One of the lesser uttered names in this canon is Montreal’s Aggression, formed in 1985 and authors of underground gem ‘The Full Treatment‘ in 1987. Fast-forward to 2017 and the veteran thrashards are touring the country to perform this album in its entirety for its 30th anniversary, hitting Toronto for the first time since their 2015 reunion tour.
This tour has already proven the dedication of these hardened metal brethren. Before any shows, their van broke down, forcing them to cancel the first three Western Canada dates. When they hit the Trois-Rivières Metal Fest, founding member Denis ‘Sasquatch’ Barthe was put in an ambulance and driven to hospital as he had a stroke. He made the decision to continue the tour, putting his love of metal before his own health and missing no dates. Respect.
To complement the Canadian thrash headliners are new blood, Ottawa’s Domination. This youthful collective issued their debut full-length ‘Unholy Lands’ last year, fusing classic thrash such as Sodom and Slayer with the death metal darkness of Carcass and Nunslaughter, peppered by a subtle strain of heavy metal. They exert plenty of vigour on stage, clearly delighted with the opportunity to play live, and vocalist Zac even joins the more energetic of the spectators in a round of mosh pit action. Despite the small crowd, Domination confidently engages the Monday night metalheads and a well-executed cover of Slayer’s beloved ‘Raining Blood’ attains full support from the audience. This is what you should expect from a young support act – enthused, energetic and able to win over the crowd.
It’s long past midnight by the time the headliners land on stage and it’s probable that this is the reason for the low twenty-odd person turnout; these guys deserve far more. Nonetheless, the fervent thrash supporters who stayed this late on a Monday night surely did not regret attending such a spectacle. Aggression kick off the set like the Coalition is sold out. Mean, fist-throwing thrash is the main course, the sound adorning the music with a contemporary bludgeon rather than the vintage stab.
Before long, vocalist Brian Langley (formerly of Toronto’s own Infernal Majesty) announces that they will begin ‘The Full Treatment’ and ‘Forsaken Survival’ immediately melts bones with its early Kreator dominance. Langley is an admirable replacement for original crooner Pierre ‘Cactus Pete’ Fleurant and he effortlessly pleases the fans, the centre of the venue ruled by a handful of moshers who rampage for the whole set.
‘Frozen Aggressor’, ‘Green Goblin’ (dedicated to their green-haired soundman), ‘By the Reaping Hook’ and ‘Rotten By Torture’ exhibit Aggression sublimely. Their metal is more demanding than brain dead thrash, technically proficient without sacrificing its violence. The band members work together formidably as a tight unit; Sasquatch may be the sole member from the group’s heyday but he has selected his line up very well.
When the final ‘The Full Treatment‘ song, namely ‘The Final Massacre’ finishes after eight brief minutes, the band proceeds to launch a volley of Motörhead covers: ‘Ace of Spades’, ‘Love Me Like a Reptile’ and ‘We Are the Road Crew’, the latter actually dedicated to the road crew.
It’s far beyond 1am by the time the last notes dissolve and Aggression leave behind a fantastic set that would embarrass most metal bands surpassing the thirty year mark. You’d be hard pushed to find a band that would put its metal orthodoxy ahead of seemingly everything else to play in front of a few thrash fans across Canada and this reviewer certainly appreciates that!