Archive for May, 2010

Týr/ Crimson Shadows/ Bolero at Sneaky Dee’s, April 30, 2010

Posted in Concert Reviews with tags , on May 30, 2010 by Natalie Zed

Here is my review (originally for Hellbound.ca) of the Týr/ Crimson Shadows/ Bolero show that took place at Sneaky Dee’s on April 30, 2010. You can read the original here, and take a gander at some pictures of hot Faroese metal-men captured with my iphone.

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While I’ve never claimed to write anything from an unbiased perspective, I feel that it is my duty to supply an additional caveat prior to this review. I first saw Týr when they played with Korpiklaani on January 10th, 2010. Lily the Pirate (my trusted Companion in Metal) and I were both completely blown out of the water by how good they were. When I heard that Týr was coming back to Toronto so soon, and headlining, I did an incredibly undignified dance of glee. Whereas I often find myself walking into a venue ready and willing to be surprised by a performance, this was a show I actively and eagerly anticipated. I knew exactly what I wanted and fully expected to get it.

I was initially a little dubious about the choice of venue. Sneaky Dee’s had always struck me as a small, sweaty space, one that didn’t immediately seem to fit. It wasn’t long, however, before I started to see the wisdom in the choice. The space lent the event a real sense of intimacy. Right around the time I realized that every member of all three bands were wandering around, mingling in the crowd, chilling at the bar and happily chatting with fans, I started to warm to the idea of a small, snug venue.

Bolero started off the night with their raucous, cheeky, cheerily violent brand of Celtic-folk metal badassery. I’ve seen them play several times now, and each time I’ve been impressed. First and foremost, the members of Bolero know what they’re on about. They sing about booze and battles and those who hail from Northern climes. They understand their own aesthetic and operate skillfully within it. They’re also really fucking fun to watch. There’s yet to be a show that hasn’t been improved by their presence on the bill, and this night was no exception.

In contrast to Bolero‘s tight, consistent aesthetic, Crimson Shadows were all over the place. I’ve seen them play before, as well, and I must admit I’ve enjoyed them more in the past than I happened to during this particular show. Because the other two bands had such clearly defined conceptual frameworks, Crimson Shadows came off feeling a bit grey and muddy to me. They were certainly entertaining, but their performance felt satisfactory rather than completely satisfying.

Everything else fell away, however, when Týr took the stage. I seemed as though I had handed the band a checklist of everything I hoped to see in their performance, and they generously met every request. They played “Hail to the Hammer,” “Hold The Heathen Hammer High,” and “Sinklars Visa;”Heri and Terji performed shirtless; they took long swigs from a bottle of rum throughout the performance. (The only complaint I have is directed not towards the band, but the big dude standing next to me who insisted on throwing his arms repeatedly over his friend’s shoulders, elbowing me in the head each time, during “Lokka Táttur.”) There were even a couple of lovely surprises, such as closing ending the encore with a Metallica-esque rendition of “Whisky In The Jar.” I completely, shamelessly adore these Faroese metallers, and I will do everything in my power to see then each and every time they return to Toronto.

It was still warm out when I stumbled down the stairs and outside, a little drunk and perfectly sated, in the small hours of Saturday morning. I couldn’t have chosen a more perfect show to kick off the summer.

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Alcest/Monarque/Thantifaxath at Hard Luck Bar, April 23 2010

Posted in Concert Reviews with tags , on May 26, 2010 by Natalie Zed

Here is my review (originally for Hellbound.ca) of the Alcest/ Monarque/ Thantifaxath show that took place at the Hard Luck Bar on April 23, 2010. You can read the original here, complete with gorgeous photos by Adam Wills.

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First, a little context. Tuesday night, I went to see GOGOL BORDELLO at the Sound Academy. This was one of the craziest, most high-energy shows I have ever been to. I’ve been waiting to see them live for years, and my stratospheric expectations did nothing to dampen how impressed I was by their performance. By the end of the show, over a third of the audience was walking around in their underwear, clothes balled up under one arm, sweat-soaked and cheerfully exhausted.

By Wednesday morning, I was already feeling like I’d been worked over with a blunt instrument. Instead of spending the day in the bathtub, however, I put in a full day of work and then went to see AMON AMARTH, ELUVEITIE and HOLY GRAIL at The Opera House. By the end of that show, I felt far more ready to don a breastplate and pick up a battleaxe than go to bed; it was not an early (or sober) night. By Thursday morning, the ache in my body had progressed from beaten-with-a-lead-pipe to hit-by-a-truck. And once again, instead of staying cocooned in my impossibly comfortable bed, I dragged myself up and went to work. At my two jobs. For fourteen hours.

By Friday, I no longer felt like I’d become intimately acquainted with the bumper of a speeding motor vehicle. I felt dead. I counted thirteen bruises. The temptation to spend the entire day and night in my most embarrassing pajamas, drinking whisky and watching episodes of Spartacus: Blood and Sand was nearly overwhelming. But, in the names of Music and Journalism, I put on some pants and wandered down to the Hard Luck Bar.

I tell you this not to complain, but to give you an idea of my state of mind and body going into this show. Walking in, I was afraid I might not be able to listen properly – even giving it my all would not have been giving very much. Instead, it was perfect. My guard was down, so the show was able to get around my defences. And, being drained, I was open to being refilled.

The night began with a set by the local black metal band THANTIFAXATH. I had absolutely no experience with this band prior to seeing them play this particular show; I actually had no idea they were even performing that night until they walked on stage. I was most impressed by their consistent aesthetic, both in their music and in their performance. Seldom have seen a band so difficult to pin down, so apparently unknown and unknowable, with such a clear idea of exactly what they’re on about. Also, all three band members wore full floor-length robes, hoods obscuring their faces, for the entire performance. Including the drummer. That right there is badass.

MONARQUE was next to take the stage. This may sound strange, but I found that they provided a break, an interlude in the proceedings. Where THANTIFAXATH had been at once blistering and droning, and ALCEST would be something else all together, MONARQUE were simply, almost mercifully entertaining. When the frontman yelled: “We are MONARQUE from Quebec! We play black metal! Tabernacle!” I felt myself relax into the comfort of having my expectations straightforwardly met.

After the theatricality that characterized the previous two performances, ALCEST’s use of a few candelabras and a bit of dry ice felt positively minimalist. The band members themselves were startlingly quiet, not engaging the crowd at all aside from disarming eye-contact and the occasional, nearly whispered “Merci.” This combination of subtlety and intensity dovetailed beautifully with their music, which managed to be tender, plaintive, and devastating all at once. For the first time in a great many shows, I actually sat down during a performance. I sat not because I was bored, not even because I was tired. I sat because the energy it took to operate my legs felt like energy I could be directing towards my ears. I sat on a table top with my eyes closed, rocking back and forth unconsciously, entirely consumed.

I walked into the Hard Luck Bar feeling empty; but oh, I left so full.

Amon Amarth/Eluveitie/Holy Grail at The Opera House, April 21 2020

Posted in Concert Reviews with tags , on May 26, 2010 by Natalie Zed

Here is my review (originally for Metallus Maximus) of the Amon Amarth/Eluveitie/Holy Grail show that took place at The Opera House on April 21, 2010.  You can read the original here, accompanied by some terrible pictures I took with my iphone.

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Holy Grail

Natalie Zed (text) : Where are you? I’m by the bar.

Lily The Pirate (text): I’m at your Mom’s. She says hi.

NZ (text): FU

LTP (text): On the streetcar.

NZ (text): Hurry up. It’s 1985 in here. Also, I have spotted three Viking helmets and some chainmail.

LTP (text): Gaaaaaaaaah. Fast as I can.

LTP: Whew! That took forev—holy crap this is awesome.

NZ: I knew you’d love it. They played the opening to Conan The Barbarian just before they came on.

LTP: Goddamn, this dude can wail.

NZ: You and your eighties vocalists.

LTP: Are you denying his goodness?

NZ: Never! I highly approve of his hair.

LTP: Aw yeah.

Eluveitie

LTP: Flutes are metal.

NZ: Literally.

LTP: I hate you.

NZ: I think that’s a balalaika (Russian folk instrument)!

LTP: Oh, Eluveitie. I’ve missed you.

NZ: Remind me: is the frontman one of your fictional boyfriends?

LTP: HUSBANDS. Fictional HUSBANDS.

NZ: Deepest apologies.

*later*

NZ: This? Is so much fun.

LTP: Look how happy everyone is.

NZ: I love it. The shockingly cheerful violence. Warms my black little heart.

Amon Amarth

NZ: I see a smoke machine.

LTP: I see black light.

NZ: Whoa, those dudes are moshing.

LTP: They’re still playing the intro music!

NZ: There is nothing about this that is not awesome.

“Valkyrie’s Ride”

NZ: Hold my phone.

LTP: Here it comes.

NZ: *Runs into the pit, gets a boost, and crowdsurfs*

NZ: *runs back, panting and grinning*

LTP: Feel better?

NZ: Just popped my crowdsurfing cherry. Can die happy.

“Under The Northern Star”

NZ: These are my people!

LTP: Hoo boy. Here we go.

NZ: RAWWWR GAAAH!

LTP: Sorry! Sorry everyone. She’s a Viking now. Goddamn.

*later*

Johan: *chuckles*

NZ: I am pregnant now.

LTP: Gross.

NZ: It’s going to be a boy.

“Live For The Kill”

NZ: Johan Klegg is King somewhere.

LTP: King of your dreams?

NZ: Whatever country he rules, I am going to move there. I am going to wear a breastplate and eat wild boar every day.

LTP: I am not coming to visit you.

Quote of the night: “I am a man now. I just felt my ball hair turn to steel wool.”

Dillinger Escape Plan/Darkest Hour/Iwrestledabearonce at The Opera House, March 14 2010

Posted in Concert Reviews with tags , on May 19, 2010 by Natalie Zed

Here is my review (originally for Hellbound.ca) of the Dillinger Escape Plan/Darkest House/Iwrestledabearonce show that took place at The Opera House on March 14, 2010. You can read the original here, complete with craptacular pictures taken with my iphone.

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I spent the vast majority of Canadian Music Week indulging my misanthropic side, sitting around my apartment in my underwear watching Batman: The Animated Series. By Sunday, it was time to emerge from my cocoon of grumpiness, put on some eyeliner and see what was happening out in the world. I arrived at The Opera House still feeling somewhat sluggish after several days of shunning human contact; I left feeling as re-energized as if I had put my hand on a live wire. If there was a way to replace my morning coffee with the distilled essence of IWRESTLEDABEARONCE, DARKEST HOUR, and DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, I would be the most productive (or most horrifyingly manic) person on a planet.

As soon as Krysta Cameron walked on stage wearing a dress designed to look like an enormous furbie, I knew this was going to be awesome. IWRESTLEDABEARONCE has been described as “spastic,” and I can certainly understand how their whiplash-inducing shifts in genre earned them that adjective. Their performance was incredibly high-energy, a quality that characterized all three bands’ performances. Krysta contorted her body on stage with the same merciless ferocity that she contorted her voice. Guitars were flung around bodies like hula-hoops. No song, however viciously intense, was safe from a sudden lounge-attack. IWRESTLEDABEARONCE was fun and fearless and combined a great sense of humour with their avant-garde aesthetic. Any band that performs a song titled “Alaskan Flounder Basket” and sells a t-shirt with the image of a dude in corpsepaint freaking out about breaking a nail on it is alright in my books.

My most-anticipated band of the evening was definitely DARKEST HOUR, as The Eternal Return has been a key component of my early-spring soundtrack. The crowd was buzzing before they took the stage and ecstatic when the lights finally went down. As a long-time admirer of the band, I was pleased as punch by their live performance. DARKEST HOUR is one of those bands that makes me feel as though I am losing control of my body in the very best way possible. Whether they were playing something from their newest album, like “The Tides” or “No God,” or drawing from their impressive catalogue, it felt as though their instruments were plugged directly into my central nervous system. It wasn’t me banging my head or throwing my shoulders into the people around me; it was merely DARKEST HOUR moving through me like an electrical storm.

DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN certainly know a thing or two about theatricality. They took the stage in complete darkness, raising the feeling of excitement in the room from “barely tolerable” to “hyperventilation.” They played their set with the stage sparsely lit by a few harsh white lights, which allowed the band members to step forward and suddenly be starkly illuminated, or step back and disappear. Their sound filled every inch of The Opera House with an intensity that seemed to set my entire skull vibrating. DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN were merciless performers, never letting the audience relax for a moment. Not only did their wicked on-stage energy hold everyone rapt, but so did the possibility that at any moment Greg Puciato might dive directly into the crowd and continue to perform while crowd-surfing.

I woke up the day after this show feeling like I’d been worked over with a pipe. I was sore as hell, nearly deaf, and had been kicked in the head by the headliner’s frontman – all signs of a highly successful night.

Kreator/Voivod/Nachtmystium/Evile at The Opera House, March 9 2010

Posted in Concert Reviews with tags , on May 19, 2010 by Natalie Zed

Here is a review (originally for Hellbound.ca) of the Kreator/Voivod/Nachtmystium/Evile show that took place at the Opera House on March 9, 2010. You can read the original here, with sexy photos by Albert Mansour.

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I arrived at The Opera House at 7:20pm. Somehow, I had missed LAZARUS A.D. entirely, and walked in during the middle of EVILE’s set. When the hell did this show start? It’s rather challenging for people like me, who enjoy being dorkily early to things, when shows start at 6-freaking-pm.

After the requisite coat-check, acquire-beer, locate-roommate dance, I expected to settle in and watch EVILE’s set from the comfort of the bar. After about a song and a half, I abandoned my passive position and found myself right up front, snapping pictures and headbanging away. EVILE brought a great deal of positive, infectious energy to their performance. They were also gracious performers, generously praising their tour-mates and effusively thanking the crowd. “We Who Are About To Die” and “Enter The Grave” went over particularly well, especially with the younger contingent of the audience. This band was just plain fun to watch, and I’m looking forward to their return to Toronto with OVERKILL and VADER next month.

NACHTMYSTIUM’S set was short, tight, and almost impossibly refined. This is a band that knows exactly who they are and what they’re on about. A great deal of time an energy has clearly gone into carefully crafting and refining their performance, and it shows. They command a remarkably strong stage presence and project complete control over their performance. I caught myself wondering, though, whether such refinement, such precision, might have strayed over the line and become mechanical. In the end, even a sense of industrial coldness works for them and adds to their caché rather than detracting. NACHTMYSTIUM might have gunmetal at its heart.

Something mysterious happened just before VOIVOD came on stage: in the span of time it took me to buy a drink, the crowd managed to double in size, as though a silent VOIVOD-alarm suddenly went off in every metalhead’s mind. Lily the Pirate (my kickass roommate) and I got as close to the stage as we dared, expecting to be crushed. The crowd really surprised us, however: despite the excitement vibrating through The Opera House, everyone was incredibly well-mannered and polite. It seemed contextually perfect that VOIVOD’s performance was greeting with such quintessential Canadian courtesy.

VOIVOD gave all that they had to give and did not disappoint. Snake is a hell of a showman, owning the entire stage, smiling like a crocodile and dancing like a zombie. The setlist skewed towards older material, which the crowd devoured. The selection of material from Infini that they played, including “Global Warning,” was greeted with a slight reserve that morphed into full-on reverence once Snake raised a lighter to the ceiling and dedicated their performance to Piggy. It’s been a strange, death-filled year already for the music world, which made that moment of tribute even more poignant. The encore mercifully allowed the crowd the opportunity to purge any softer feelings that might have been generated. VOIVOD conserved their energy and played their hardest right at the very end of their set, going out in a blaze of fists and sweat.

Guilty admission time: I was not expecting to love KREATOR. A bit of this expectation comes from experience, as I tend to be far more impressed with supporting acts that headliners (for example: I adored DEVIN TOWNSEND’s performance back in January, but was very lukewarm about BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME). The majority of this assumption, though, was me being hetero-normative. When I think of German thrash, it fits firmly in the “metal that’s mostly for dudes” category in my brain. Silly and sexist, of course, but however unconscious it does make me a little reserved.

KREATOR, of course, positively destroyed The Opera House. “Hordes of Chaos” raised the energy level in the room to near-riot level early on, and “Enemy of God” and “Extreme Aggression” kept it there. Whatever chilliness I’d initially felt evaporated almost immediately, and there was rarely a moment when my fist wasn’t in the air and my neck muscles weren’t burning. Mille’s take on crowd control bordered on cheesy, but the cliché only served to create a call-and response environment that made the experience all the better. The band and the audience knew exactly what they wanted from each other, and each delivered. It was loud and fun and deeply satisfying.

I left this show feeling even more cheerful than I usually do–which is saying something. Metal puts me in a spectacular mood, but there was something especially good-natured about this show that added and extra shine to the evening. The combination of solid performances, helping a dude find his glasses by the light of my phone (a service that has been done for me in the past and oh how grateful I am for the courtesy), and the incredibly positive attitude of everyone at the venue warmed my black little heart. It’s not just the bands that are responsible for a good show; it’s also the audience.

A Love Story

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 19, 2010 by Natalie Zed

My first blog entry for Metallus Maximus, an account of how I first met heavy metal. You can read the original here.

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Like any significant meeting, my introduction to metal was not planned. In the beginning, it all came about because I am not very good at being sad. I’d just moved back to Toronto after several years away, recovering after a series of Disasters. I was just beginning to cast around socially again, looking to meet people, start projects, emerge from my cocoon. So when BK, good friend and anchor of positivity in my life, mentioned that he and Dani C were going to a metal show, I invited myself along. It seemed like a diversion, something completely different to distract me; it also seemed like an excellent chance to get to know my friends better. I didn’t even know which bands were playing that night.

We got completely lost getting to the venue. None of us had ever been to the DC Music Theatre before, and the directions we got read something like: “With a prayer to the pagan gods, leave the path. Walk beneath the bridge; answer the Troll’s riddle successfully or appease him with a joint of fine mutton. Walk through the tall grass, taking care not to be led astray by pixies. When you reach the road again, go down the scariest alley you can find. Past this point, no maps can guide you. Follow the sound of blastbeats to the door.” We eventually arrived, slightly frostbitten, and had just enough time to stow our coats at the “coat check” (an ancient red velvet couch), grab some beer, and watch no fewer than six men hoist Wolven Ancestry’s drum kit onto the stage.

At first, I retained a little bit of psychological distance. I was able to consider things academically, be aware of my own enjoyment and analyze it. I was both amused and impressed by the theatricality of the experience, complete with furs and corpsepaint; I loved the high energy level, the positivity being thrown off both by the performers and by the crowd; I enjoyed the good-natured, friendly violence. The academic in me was still in charge of my brain, still studiously taking notes, allowing me to hold the experience at arms’ length.

By the time Woods of Ypres came on stage, something changed. I began to listen differently. The shift was as profound as any alchemical transformation. It started in my chest, felt as though a fist had plunged through my ribcage and seized ahold of my spinal column. Instead of listening with my brain, I began to listen with my body. I remember, dimly, recalling the Walk Whitman line, “I sing the body electric,” and thinking for the first time I might have a real inkling of what it was about. Then I simply gave myself over to the experience, let my body move and heave exactly the way it wanted. I should have been terrified by the loss of control I felt. Instead, I was overjoyed. I found myself reconnected with the strange, sorrowful chunk of meat that was my heart.

I couldn’t know, of course, that anything significant had been set in motion. It would be several months until I was attending concerts regularly; many more months would elapse before circumstances cosmically aligned and I began to write about what I was hearing. Like any love story, there has been a gradual unfolding helped along by a great deal of luck.

So here I am, beginning of my second quarter-century of life on this planet with a completely new soundtrack. I think I’m in love.

Ludicra/Krallice/Empyrean Plague at Rancho Relaxo, April 14 2010

Posted in Concert Reviews with tags , on May 19, 2010 by Natalie Zed

Here is my review (originally for Hellbound.ca) of the Ludicra/Krallice/Empyrean Plague show that took place at Rancho Relaxo on April 14, 2010. You can read the original here, complete with scrumptious photos by the incomparable Adam Wills.

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Sometimes, atmosphere is everything. Sometimes, positive energy converges in exactly the right place. On April 14th, all the positivity in Toronto seemed to coalesce upstairs at Rancho Relaxo, and it was a lovely thing to be a part of.

I had been looking forward to this particular show for a very long time. From the very first excited “squee!” at the moment that Mayhem announced that they were touring with support from Ludicra and Krallice, I’d been keeping an eye on the (shifting) date for this performance. This is a slightly strange review, in that is it feels impossible to separate the bands’ performances from the context of their recent string of disasters. First, unable to procure visas, Mayhem cancelled their tour. This seemed like the end for Krallice and Ludicra; instead, they rebooked the entire goddamn tour themselves, renaming it The Decancellation Tour. Then, still more difficulties arose: just as the tour began, John Cobbett’s appendix burst. When words like “emergency surgery” are being tossed around, most people would have thrown in the towel. Once again, the Ludicra (and Krallice) rallied in the face of a seemingly impossible situation. With one guitarist down, they cancelled a few dates, regrouped, and continued the tour.

John is, by all reports, making a nearly miraculous recovery. He has met up with his band- and tour-mates, and Ludicra will be playing the rest of their tour whole (well, sans one appendix). That, my friends, is the definition of tenacity.

(Ludicra could still use some help. Find out what you can do here.)

The night began with a performance by Empyrean Plague. I’ve seen these North-Bay-based perennial openers multiple times now, and always enjoy the experience. They seemed a bit on the low-energy side Wednesday night, which them commented on, blaming the long drive from North Bay, and teasing themselves for being out of shape (“Too much beer”). Still, they’re an entertaining bunch. I found I particularly enjoyed their newer material, but hearing it reinforced something I’ve been thinking about them lately: they need to incorporate some clean vocals into their performances. Both lead and backup vocalists are growlers/screamers, which their music does not always suit. Sure, they have lots of material that needs some ugly voice-work, but more and more, they’re incorporating slower, softer moments. Their songs ebb and flow in terms of the instrumentation – it would be neat to see them match the vocals to that rhythm.

I was definitely least familiar with Krallice‘s material walking into this show. I was actually a little lukewarm about their performance immediately afterwards, but I find the longer I have to reflect on the night, the more I am impressed by what I heard and saw. Their performance did not shock or jar me the way I was perhaps expecting; instead, I sank into it, let it move through me. I’ve never experienced a black metal band that was able to produce a sonic experience like this before, something that moved like a rainstorm, somehow both energetic and meditative. I’ll definitely be keeping an ear out for them in the future.

I don’t want to in any way cheapen Ludicra‘s performance here by saying that they performed “admirably under the circumstances.” They flat-out fucking rocked. They are tough, tenacious, and have a mind-blowing stage presence. Their vocalist, Laurie Sue Shanaman, filled the meagre space with her otherworldly voice. She moves her voice and body together in a way that is profoundly unsettling and thrilling all at the same time, rocking back and forth to an internal rhythm. However hard and ugly the road to Toronto was, it did not show in their performance, not one iota. They came to tear the fucking house down, and I felt wrung out afterwards. The members of Ludicra are classy folks as well; Aesop Dekker, working his own merch table, was friendly and gracious.

The feeling of goodwill in Rancho Relaxo was palpable on Wednesday night. Everyone there showed up not only expecting to see a great show, but also came to show their support for the bands. This was an audience that expected to give as well as receive. It was a fine crowd to be a part of. Empyrean Plague, Krallice, and Ludicra: I hope you felt the love.