Thantifaxath and more in Toronto, March 2018

Thantifaxath / Cleric / Pyrrhon / Suffering Hour @ Coalition T.O, 28 March 2018

Metal is often accused of lacking creative development and rehashing the past. Briefcase Show Inc. has done a fine job at curating tonight’s event and laying waste to such trite assertions. The bands at the Coalition are all relatively youthful outfits, each bearing their own discography of intrigue. Their well-executed sounds delve into the unorthodox, rule-shattering and straight up strange, while showcasing a rare level of skill.

Last year, Minnesota’s Suffering Hour released their debut album ‘In Passing Ascension’ and this is their first Ontario appearance. Their black death fits into the suffocating, cavernous and well-executed vein that is popular with the underground these days but their style is truly idiosyncratic. Their output is studded with oddities reminiscent of Voivod that makes them instantly memorable on first listen. The trio hammers out their pitch black assault behind black and white faces and studded wristbands. Their austerity is impressing but the sole guitar is mired by the overpowering bass. Still, the sizeable audience crowds around the stage as tracks from the full-length like “Devouring Shapeless Void” and “The Abrasive Black Dust” are smashed over their heads. It’s encouraging to see such support in the Toronto scene for such an outstanding opening band and hopefully they won a few converts tonight.

Next up is New York City’s Pyrrhon, the musical manifestation of absolutely losing your mind. Bipolar technical death metal is the order of the day, gorging on the frenetic nature of avant-grind and ensuring they touch every colour on the spectrum and add a few more in. Understandably the musicians are meticulously focused on their instruments while vocalist Doug Moore disseminates bassy growls and throaty rasps at the crowd. Time signatures eternally alter themselves; pinch harmonics stab through the chaos; billions of notes are played per second. They tick off plenty of tech death conventions but the presence of Ulcerate-style dissonance and a bias more towards the prog/avant-garde side rather than the death metal marks them separate from the riff salad pack. The end product is extremely pleasing and the audience’s attention remains piqued throughout. Fans of challenging and down-right odd metal should give these New Yorkers a spin if they haven’t already.

Things get even weirder when Cleric’s time to perform arrives. They formed in 2003 in Philadelphia, taking the standard metal instrumentation appended with a keyboard and electronics. Last December, they released concept album ‘Retrocausal’, where they sought to unify a maelstrom of genres to concoct their own. They waste to time launching into a pained avant-garde metal offensive. Naturally, their music is tricky to describe but it’s something like a jazz metal love child between Mr. Bungle and Dillinger Escape Plan… and then some. Moods flip through the neurotic, confused, light-hearted, insistent, menacing… and then some. The band are extremely consummate at their instruments, weaving technical brilliance to conceive sci fi psychotic hazes non-stop. The set romps on by at a quickened pace and Cleric leave behind a particularly satisfying set. They are far superior to the usual generic support band.

Finally, Toronto’s own Thantifaxath come on stage. The Coalition remains busy as the members commence their set sporting their usual ceremonial robes with hoods that conceal their faces. They begin with the opener from the ‘Void Masquerading as Matter’ EP from last year, namely ‘Ocean of Screaming Spheres’. This EP saw the band add more progressive attributes to their black metal to their sound while retaining the yawning despair that made them such an infectious group on debut album ‘Sacred White Noise’. This nine minute track holds a sinister poise, initially pounding and eventually unfurling itself like a venomous snake.

Unlike other times they have performed, tonight the headliners are playing as a four-piece ensemble with the vocalist wielding no other instruments as opposed to the usual trio they usually embody. But the result is the same with lucid depression and atmosphere at the core of their sound. ‘Panic Becomes Despair’, ‘Where I End and the Hemlock Begins’ and ‘The Bright White Nothing at the End of the Tunnel’ proclaim nihilism from ‘Sacred White Noise’. The last song of the night is ‘Cursed Numbers’, concluding the set with a new track. This selection is haunting the swan song of sanity in an irredeemably corrupted psyche. Tonight has been a brilliant exhibition of iconoclastic metal that refuses any kind of subservience. Here’s hoping Toronto is gifted with a similar spectacle in the near future.