Watain / Deströyer 666 / Revenge @ The Opera House, Toronto on February 25th, 2018
Wolf fetishes are the meal of the day as frequent tour partners Satanic Swedes Watain and black thrash attack Deströyer 666 spread their blasphemy across North America. Opening this leg of the trek iare Canadian war mongers Revenge, ensuring this line up as the premier extreme metal date of the waning year thus far.
The elongated queue slithering around the venue after the doors open means a sizeable proportion of the spectators miss out on opening band Revenge’s bestial devastation. These Edmonton war metallers blaze through a set of grind-coloured black death ferocity. The low fidelity of their music is difficult to replicate in the Opera House, with the instruments bleeding into each other. Tempos are either breakneck speeds or bone crunching crawls. Stabbing blast beats and messy tremolo guitar slash away the listener’s flesh, compounded by deep growls and scratching rasps. Seeing them perform in such a voluminous venue depletes some of the grit that complements their sound and the audience’s lacklustre response is less than encouraging. Nonetheless, the likes of ‘Traitor Crucifixion’, ‘Altar of Triumph’ and ‘Blood of My Blood’ are featured tonight and are enough to force any Revenge fan who got inside the venue early enough to salivate.
Arguably the most impressive act this evening, black/thrash/death wolfpack Deströyer 666 ignite their set with ‘Wildfire’ from their most recent full-length of the same name. This release saw the Australian-sourced horde reduce their idiosyncratic ‘epic’ atmosphere in favour of interspersing more heavy metal guitar conventions into their compositions, resulting in more live-conscious songs. Needless to say, these songs – the opener, raucous metal sing-along ‘Hounds At Ya Back’ and the stinging ‘Traitor’ – whip up the fans’ moshing fervour with minimal effort. Older and down-right nastier numbers ‘A Breed Apart’ and ‘I Am the Wargod (Ode to the Battle Slain)’ bulldoze the Opera House, in spite of the flawed sound proffered by the hall. Since the band’s inception over 20 years ago, Deströyer 666 is effectively powered by frontman KK Warslut. He has an austere stage presence, espousing a ‘don’t give a fuck’ attitude while rocking out. Their set feels far too brief and the lack of usual staple ‘Satanic Speed Metal’ is glaring. However, the mandatory Motörhead ‘Iron Fist’ cover that the band has performed since Lemmy passed away makes the cut and forces the crowd into energetic disarray once last time.
This year already saw Sweden’s Watain release their sixth slab of full-length black metal, Trident Wolf Eclipse. The stage is adorned with their signature tridents, inverted crosses and animal skulls and bones, looking particularly kitsch and outdated in 2018. Older number ‘Devil’s Blood’ instigates the set with early Mayhem-inspired guitar and drum work. Stained with blood, the Swedes maintain a dynamic stage presence throughout their performance, captivating those who remained after the Deströyer 666 set. Over half of the track list tonight is yanked from the new album and fan favourite Sworn to the Dark. New songs ‘Furor Diabolicus’, ‘Nuclear Alchemy’ and ‘Sacred Damnation’ feel uninspired, pedalling more anti-cosmic Satanic commercialism via their gimmicky stage antics. Older selections ‘Satan’s Hunger’, ‘Malfeitor’ and ‘On Horns Impaled’ showcase no surprises. They draw from the likes of their Swedish elders including Bathory, Dissection and Marduk, a codified approach to penning tracks that leaves more to be desired. Double bass drumming and fervent tremolo picking is the order of the day and as the set wanes on, the audience thins out. ‘The Serpent’s Chalice’ concludes the night and it’s a relief that the show has ended although disappointing that there was nothing worth waiting for, like a cover of Bathory’s ‘Sacrifice’ as they have been known to fire out.
Watain’s performance may have been style over substance, a type of boy band black metal. Fortunately, Deströyer 666 and Revenge held the torch for their respective blackened subgenres, armed with a commanding stage presence with no need to rely on hackneyed imagery.