Cobalt + Brütal Wülfsex @ Coalition, Toronto, 22 October 2017

Tonight’s show makes up for yet another metal cancellation earlier this year. Colorado black metallers Cobalt were to crash into Toronto in July but frontman Charlie Fell was involved in a nasty accident on stage in Poland where his leg was nearly amputated. Fortunately, he was able to save his leg but understandably his recovery meant the remaining tour dates were no more. Better late than never.

Chiming in with their take on the sleazy ubiquitous black/thrash metal that has exploded in popularity since Midnight enthralled the underground are Toronto’s own Brütal Wülfsex. Formed in 2013 with two members of now-defunct local black metallers Sylvus, this three-piece’s debut full-length is incoming soon. The band’s moniker accurately portrays what the listener can expect to hear and the actual product is just that: whiskey-scented blackened thrash stained with Venom’s bodily fluids. With each of the trio sporting matching mirror sunglasses, they waste no time bulldozing through a no-frills aural assault.

There are only approximately forty attendees around but they show some enthusiasm for this rabid patrol. The Coalition’s sound is superb, sharpening the riffs and adding a few extra tons to the drums. Ripping influence from the notes of Motörhead, Aura Noir and Speedwolf means catchy infectious music. A classic rock ‘n’ roll edge gleans through the music, underscored when they dedicate a track to ZZ Top. For a support act, these canines hit the mark.

By the time the headliners hit the stage, it’s gone half past midnight on Sunday so it’s officially Monday. Consequentially, the crowd has thinned out even further. Still Cobalt and their ambitious black metal go for the throat immediately with opener ‘Hunt the Buffalo’ from last year’s double disc offering ‘Slow Forever‘. What instantly strikes is vocalist Charlie Fell’s foot still encased in a cast so it’s fantastic to see him back on the road before a full recovery. This first song lasts nearly nine minutes and features winding guitar leads, sludgy tones, rigorous rhythms and progressive arrangements. Its ambitions make the track fly past while maintaining the venue’s attention throughout. Fell’s vocals fall midway between a growl and a screech, arming the music with a bolder violence and he does not sound too dissimilar from previous vocalist Phil McSorely. Cobalt founder and mainman Erik Wunder tackles the drums with rare skill while his stand in bassist and guitarists do an admirable job of replicating his sound.

Colbalt make a good decision by performing material exclusively from the latest album and the previous effort ‘Gin‘. Such selections, including ‘Gin’, ‘Stomach’ and ‘Slow Forever’, are prime instances of contemporary progressive black metal that emit an honesty, successfully creative without being too pretentious or fucked up. The atmosphere is akin to a dehydrated doom release and oscillates between the sinister and the pensive. The lengthy songs are transporting without falling into the same needless repetition that countless atmospheric black metal artists bury themselves under in the quest for ‘epic’. It’s unsurprising that these Americans were picked up by high quality label Profound Lore who have a penchant for metal that colours outside the lines. Their stage presence is as dynamic as their music, with Fell producing such an abundance of energy that it’s difficult to believe he actually was injured before.

The audience may be thin but their ovations at the end of each song testify how impressed they are with the performance. In fact, the only downside is that the show whizzes by so rapidly that the band doesn’t get an encore when it feels like it should. Mind you, passing the 1am mark may be responsible for that. Either way, Cobalt put on a surprisingly sprightly show that was as compelling to watch as their unpredictable metal is to hear. Kudos for them going on stage while Fell still had his cast on too.