The Black Dahlia Murder in Toronto, 18 October 2017

+ Suffocation + Decrepit Birth @ Opera House

What’s the best way to get over Wednesday hump day? Why, exposing yourself to some loud and skillful death metal, of course! Tonight’s midweek feast offers a varied selection of tech, brutal, slam, old school and melodic death metal so there’s something for all of the subgenres’ loyalists.

Toronto tech death aficionados rejoice at Decrepit Birth‘s inclusion on this bill, given that the talented quartet cancelled their support slot with Cryptopsy back in May. Since this ill-fated time, the Americans fired out album number four, ‘Axis Mundi‘, a lengthy seven years after the launch of their beloved prior full-length ‘Polarity‘. Dynamic arrangements of complex chugga-chugga riffs are intersected by atmospheric leads that soar into the stratosphere before being dragged down back into a vortex of uncompromising beatings.

Jaw-dropping guitar noodling can be likened to veteran extreme metallers Death during their proggy later years. Sam Paulicelli’s drumming alternates between irrepressible blastbeats and sinister complications. Growler Ben Robertson is tireless with his stage presence, the apex of his performance when he fearlessly invades the crowd for a bit of mosh pit action. This is fan interaction you should tell your friends about, especially when the band member is in his fifties! Decrepit Birth have no problems making the audience rattle the Opera House’s walls with an ovation that any other support would be extremely honoured to attain.

Toronto does not get completely lucky tonight. It’s no secret that New York death metal legends Suffocation no longer level cities with original vocalist Frank Mullen full time but Mullen joined the band on the earlier Ottawa and Montreal dates on this tour, meaning Toronto’s show features Kevin Muller steering the helm. All is not lost though; from the first note Muller is faithful to his substitute and infuses the set with his excited demeanour. The New Yorkers waste no time opening with a spirited performance of ‘Thrones of Blood’ from the excellent ‘Pierced from Within‘ album, a recognizable classic to satiate rabid death metal appetites.

This summer, the godfathers to brutality issued new album ‘...of the Dark Light’ but tonight only sees two songs from this release make the cut. They are ‘Clarity Through Deprivation’ and ‘Return to the Abyss’ and although they are performed expertly, it’s the classics that drooling fans flail their limbs hardest to.

Any fan who has witnessed Suffocation live by now knows the death metal staples to be expected but songs like ‘Effigy of the Forgotten’, ‘Catatonia’ and ‘Liege of Inveracity’ are among the highest calibre in their storied discography – so why change this bone-grinding formula it if it attacks flawlessly? The signature bludgeoning guitar riffs redefined the brutal death genre, spawning innumerable intercontinental clones from the early ’90s to today. The rhythm section offers obstinate slam death grooves that truly come alive in a concert. The mosh pit swirls throughout the set, a standard attribute at a Suffocation show.

The usual curtain-calling ‘Infecting the Crypts’ rounds off a steadfast set of old school death metal mastery that shows Suffocation in 2017 may only harbour one original member but their live performances still have very sharp teeth.

Michigan’s The Black Dahlia Murder have always been a fairly consistent act, releasing melodic death albums with predictable regularly and rarely straying too far from the successful path they have wrought for themselves.

The Opera House fills up considerably for the headliners who ignite their set with ‘Widow Maker’ from this year’s ‘Nightbringers‘ album. Guitars are caustically frenetic and proffer competent Swedish-style melo death solos. The drumming is unhinged, thrashing over each composition. Trevor Strnad’s vocals are armed with a fair amount of variation from metalcore shouts to death metal bass-rumblings, effectively commanding the crowd to mosh and pit as much as humanely possible.

The songs they air tonight span the breadth of their fifteen year career. ‘Kings of the Nightworld’, ‘Matriarch’ and ‘Nightbringers’ exhibit their most recent creations while ‘Statutory Ape’, ‘Funeral Thirst’ and ‘Unhallowed’ revisit their more humble origins. Their brand of melodic death is peppered with the metalcore moments that were en vogue when they peaked in the mid-2000s and the lack of evolution in their discography makes their songs somewhat pedestrian and lacklustre. This defect is even more pronounced when The Black Dahlia Murder are sharing a stage with the tech death maestros in Suffocation and Decrepit Birth. But their more youthful fan base certainly outrank the supports and exercise their spirits throughout the set.

Closing song ‘I Will Return’ scores thunderous hails from around the venue and it’s safe to conclude that the vast majority of the attendees are impressed with at least one thing they witnessed tonight. |