Ares Kingdom / Riotor / Demontage @ Coalition, Toronto on 15th June 2018
Last year, Missouri natives Ares Kingdom hit up western Canada and this year, they have returned to hit the east all guns blazing. This death/thrash band formed way back in 1996, never breaking up to reunite when extreme metal enjoyed more potent popularity thanks to technological advancement spawning a wealth of new labels, festivals and fans.
Toronto loud mouths Demontage are on stage yet again, vomiting their heavy/thrash metal all over the Coalition. ‘80s thrash homage is the order of the day, drawing influence from Venom but not as dependently as the usual black/thrash fare this side of 2010 does. Roving guitar work is supported by reliable drumming and beaten growls. Their heavy metal inclusion removes some of the ferocity usually lurking in thrash from the ‘80s but appears to make the music more ‘fun’. Demontage are definitely a tongue-in-cheek trio with light-hearted song titles and frontman Spatilomantis Lout soliciting a few laughs with his theatrical metal stage banter. The music is not original but each song is dynamic enough and differentiable to the others enough to keep the audience sustained, despite the swarm of sound issues that afflict the three-piece. The highlight of the set is easily a cover of Samael’s “Morbid Metal”, indicative of where Demontage got their sound from and their love of classic extreme metal.
The primary support for tonight is Quebec’s Riotor, a fast-paced death/thrash band. When the band formed in 2007, they accumulated success in the shadow of the younger thrash metal resurgence with their 2008 demo Fucking Metal. They never really leveraged the movement’s success to elevate themselves onto international plains, usually remaining inside Quebec, and tonight is a rare one-off Toronto appearance. Their vintage thrash is shredded and nasty, wielding the same teeth-baring aggression as Razor with vocals echoing Mille Petrozza from Kreator. But the sound instructs the bass to bludgeon the other instruments, providing no favours. That aside, unfortunately the music and the performance remain rather pedestrian, not reinventing the wheel and not performed with any fist-pumping enthusiasm. The audience detects this and thins out, propping up the bar as the set progresses. In a world where modern thrash hordes consist of Vektor, Droid and Nekrofilth, plus the veterans are still rampaging, Rioter need to bring more to the table.
Finally, headliners Ares Kingdom are ready to declare war on the Coalition. Their belligerent take on death/thrash metal is more complex than meets the eye, jam-packed with surly riffs and tastefully infusing in shades of epic heavy metal melody. Not only do Ares Kingdom deliver riffs for years but they also bring strident and insistent rhythms that are extremely difficult to resist headbanging to. It’s not too long before this segues into violence as a mosh pit explodes in the centre of the venue. Only three members fill out the ranks yet their sound is like a bomb detonation. Chuck Keller’s riffs are akin to Bolt Thrower playing thrash metal and his solos are hugely appreciated, while Alex Bloom’s vicious bark is like a general commanding his army forth into perdition. These Americans cast an austere stage presence, while the likes of “Salient and Redoubt” and “The Unburiable Dead” are heated slabs of extreme metal with its jaw firmly locked around the listeners’ throats.
Keller and drummer Mike Miller have a storied history with their previous black/thrash band Order From Chaos, casting an unforgettable legacy in the subterranean. Tonight, the audience are treated to a cover of “Edge of Forever” by their former outfit, sounding more lean than the original but still with its dominating spirit. Another cover is issued forth, this time from classic Australian thrashers Slaughter Lord, “Die By Power”. This catchy rendition death rolls over the punters and even has those unfamiliar with the track howling along to the eponymous chorus. The final song of the night is not a surprise to those who have seen Ares Kingdom before in recent years. Others may be bemused to find a Dokken song concluding the show but it’s hard not to rock out to ‘80s anthem “Tooth and Nail” with growls instead of Don Dokken’s hard rocking vocals. True metal fans tend to enjoy a wide scope of metal subgenres, as evidenced by the fans who recognized the song. Ares Kingdom are a formidable band on so many levels and their frequent omission in extreme metal conversation must be frustrating. But with an enduring legacy surpassing two decades, they don’t need to prove themselves to anyone.