I’d been looking forward to this gig as soon as it was announced. Underground doom metal legends Pagan Altar supported by three of biggest names in Canadian doom: Blood Ceremony, Cauchemar and Smoulder. I’m wracking my brain to think of the last time Toronto saw a lineup like this!
Now, I’ve actually seen Pagan Altar once before, prior to Terry Jones’ passing. They played Montreal in December 2010 — their first North American appearance — on a day where the temperatures were in the minus-teens, it was snowing like crazy, and I was coming down with a bad cold that knocked me outta commission for the next couple weeks. As I recall, they played two full sets, and didn’t finish until 2 in the morning…which didn’t exactly do wonders for my immune system. Incidentally, two of the supporting acts were the same between this gig and that one, only swapping Smoulder for Maryland doom legends Revelation.
Speaking of Smoulder, this local outfit has quickly risen to the top of the epic doom pile in 2019. This was their first gig after the release of their Cruz del Sur debut Times of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring, which has already sold a bazillion copies since April. And lemme say, their power-metal-infused tales of swordplay and sorcery are even more epic in the live setting!
The last time I saw Cauchemar, they were opening for Blood Ceremony’s The Eldritch Dark release party…back in September 2013. Which speaks both to the longevity of both bands — and reminds me that neither has put out a new album in three years. Of all the bands on the bill, this French-speaking outfit was the closest to traditional, old-school heavy metal; there were even a couple of speed-metal sections in some of their songs. And when singer Annick thanked the crowd en français, she received two responses from the audience: “De rien!” followed by “Tabarnak!” 😉
Although Blood Ceremony might be the only band on the bill that wouldn’t appease a doom-metal purist’s palate, they did eschew some of the mellower moments of recent records for songs like “I’m Coming with You” from their 2008 debut. Granted, that was the only song they played from the s/t, but they mostly stuck to the heavier of their more recent fare, which certainly didn’t sound out of place in setting the stage for Pagan Altar.
Pagan Altar definitely didn’t shortchange us. They played a career-spanning, 16-song, 90-minute set, leaving some of the older classics (“Amadeus,” “Black Mass,” “Judgement of the Dead”) till the end before coming back for an extended, jammy version of “The Time Lord” as an encore. On what would have been the late Terry Jones’ 74th birthday, frontman Chris McArthur (of Magic Circle fame) certainly did his nasally best. And Terry’s son simply friggin’ shredded on guitar!!!