Morbid Saint live in Toronto, March 2018

Morbid Saint @ Coalition T.O on March 9th, 2018

Time to lock up your children! Underground thrashers Morbid Saint have arrived in Toronto. Formed in 1982 in Wisconsin, the five-piece released the highly respected Spectrum of Death debut album before undertaking the route of so many ‘80s thrash acts and dissolving by 1994 when the subgenre declined. 2010 saw the band reunite and 2015 saw their sophomore effort Destruction System meet the light of day. Despite their storied history, this is actually their first jaunt in Canada and the Coalition is stocked with fervent thrashers tonight. New Jersey death/thrash force Blood Feast were supposed to make the trek but malevolent weather saw the band cancel last minute. Local thrashers Apokalyptic Warrior were also supposed to round out the line-up but one of their members sustained a cracked rib, forcing them to drop off too.

It’s past midnight when thrash assemblage Morbid Saint take the stage but the audience numbers are resolutely high. The band makes the unpredictable decision to open with non-album track “Thrashaholic,” which has closed their performance at festivals. This latter addition to their discography peels away the death metal accents that permeated Spectrum of Death and sounds significantly less nasty. However, this does nothing to deter a full force mosh pit which, amazingly for Toronto, is drawn out through more or less the entire set.

Before long, the clock rewinds back to 1990 as the headliners unveil “Burned at the Stake,” spewing out frenetic thrash that makes the Bay Area thrash packs look like easy listening music. The only original member of the line-up is guitarist Jay Visser but his new members make a valiant attempt of capturing the excitement that a thrash addict enjoys when faced with the prospect of seeing Morbid Saint live. The sound is drum heavy, to the detriment of the guitars, and vocalist Cliff Wagner has less of a venomous snarl to his voice compared to early days vocal-shredder Pat Lind.

All of Spectrum of Death (except the instrumental) is played tonight, meticulously executed without striding into isolating technical chaos. As can be expected, “Lock Up Your Children” and “Damien” are highlights of the night, speeding through the venue and leaving ashes in their wake.

Freshly penned compositions “Flesh of the Disease,” “Conjure the Fire,” “I of Hate,” “Daku” and “17” from a forthcoming album are premiered for the Canadian audience. Those expecting this unreleased material to mimic the debut will be disappointed; the music tends towards contemporary thrash features – emphatic rhythms, more melodic guitar leads and an absence of death metal characteristics.

The band’s exuberance maintains all eyes on them, despite the destructive pit, and the poor sound quality improves after a couple songs. Visser is an amicable frontman and with the other fresh-faced members, they collectively relish playing live which an older band may not communicate. The heart-beat-raising one-two punch of “Assassin” and “Crying for Death” wraps up the show commendably.

It was fantastic to see this legendary speed metal assault. Hearing virtually all of Spectrum of Death is a true pleasure. The newer tracks are admittedly not as impressive but it was brilliant to see a Toronto audience thrash out for the whole night in sizeable numbers even after midnight. Toronto needs more obscure classic thrash shows because evidently there is a significant amount of support for speed metal in 2018.