Dark Tranquility/ Threat Signal/ Mutiny Within/ Hallows Die @ The Opera House, May 20 2010

Here is my review (originally for Metallus Maximus) of the Dark Tranquility/ Threat Signal/ Mutiny Within/ Hallows Die show that took place at The Opera House on May 20, 2010. You can read the original here.

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My relationship to metal is most definitely still in the honeymoon phase. Every single time I am on my way to a venue, no matter how many people I am going with, a small vampire bat of anticipation flutters in my stomach. When I first started going to shows regularly, I guessed that this feeling came from nerves, the natural anxiety that comes from doing something new and unfamiliar. I assumed that the more shows I attended, the better acquainted I became with my fellow audience members, the calmer I would become, and eventually the vampire bat would leave my belly. However, months have passed now and still, every time I am on my way to The Opera House, or begin to climb the stairs to The Wreckroom, that stubborn little vampire bat flaps its wings, making me nervous.

It’s a perfectly pleasant kind of nervousness, mind you, and it fades quickly after I walk through the doors; by the time I’ve drained a beer I feel completely at ease again. But it does remind me, every time I go to a concert, that I am still new at this; that I am still learning, still absorbing this music and the community that surrounds it. While this feeling comes over me even if I am familiar with every single band performing at a show, it is particularly strong on a night like May 20th, when (with the exception of Dark Tranquility), I’ve never been exposed to any of the bands before. While I rather enjoy being prepared and pre-informed (as any nerd would), there is something lovely about being able to walk into a venue and experience a show completely fresh.

The first band I was introduced to that evening was Mississauga-based Hallows Die, whose set I thoroughly enjoyed. They nobly occupied their position of first opening band of the night and gave every appearance of having a great time onstage. A great deal of their appeal for me came from guitarist/vocalist Ryan Bovaird’s interaction with the crowd. Generous and charismatic, he charmingly overcame some initial sound issues (a dead mic), made cracks about his home town’s position as “Toronto’s parking lot,” and cheerfully remarked that it was “hot as TITS” up on stage. He also effusively thanked the audience for their support, and gushed about all the other bands Hallows Die shared the stage with that night. Their music was fun and straightforward; I particularly dug “Dreamcatcher,” and my inner nerd squee’d at “Do Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?” Playing a short set, all the band members dumped a ton of energy into each of their songs, and it really showed. Their presence definitely added to the evening, and I would happily see them again.

Next up were Mutiny Within. Their performance was also characterized by a great expenditure of energy, though in a very different and more high choreographed way. They set up several low platforms on the stage, so that their guitarists, bassist and vocalist could frequently jump up and grab the audience’s attention. Something about this set-up felt over-planned to me, and made the band members’ movements on stage seem almost mechanical. This was particularly true for vocalist Chris Clancy, who ran manically back and forth from one platform to the next, giving the impression of a skateboarder riding on a half-pipe. Their sound reached for a balance point between aggressive and melodic, and struck that balance most successfully during this performance with the songs “Forsaken” and “Awake.” Overall, their performance was tightly controlled, carefully managed and manicured – which made it feel, for me, somewhat disingenuous. Their sound, and their image, would benefit from being a little more raw.

Threat Signal then took the stage. The Hamilton-based band delivered their particular brand of industrial-tinged melodic death to an appreciative audience. The crowd really dug the performance, and displayed their approval by throwing off a great deal of cheerfully aggressive energy. In contrast, Threat Signal‘s energy level on stage ebbed and flowed as they played. When they broke out newer material, such as “This Is The Beginning of the End” off last year’s Vigilance, their performance was notably more vibrant and energized; when they performed older songs, they immediately grew more subdued. Whether or not the band was completely enamored with their own material, the metalheads at the Opera House certainly enjoyed it, and bloodthirstily roared their approval for every song.

The feeling in the room changed profoundly as the audience waited for Dark Tranquility to take the stage. Whereas the Opera House had been filled with scrappy, almost pleasantly thuggish energy for the first three bands, now the tension took on a hushed, taut, tightly-wound quality. A projector flickered above the audience, casting an eerie, uneven white light over the crowd. When Dark Tranquility finally walked on stage, the room released that tension in a rush that was at once hysterical and incredibly receptive.

Dark Tranquility‘s set drew heavily from their latest album, We Are The Void, as they are currently on tour to support it. However, to the crowd’s delight, they also played a wide selection of older material, including “The Gallery.” I was also thrilled to hear them perform “Focus Shift” and “Final Resistance.” About two-thirds of the way through the set, Mikael Stanne announced that they would not be coming on for an encore, but that instead “we’re just going to play until we are done.” They performed for nearly a full two hours, and played their hearts out the whole time. A friend remarked that Mikael Stanne (who paced and grinned and dove across the stage all night) looked like there was no where else in the world he would rather be than on that particular stage on that particular night, and I couldn’t agree more. They ended the evening by playing “Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive);” by the time the song finally ended and the initially rapturous applause died down, I am not sure I could have begged for an encore if pressed – not because I had not enjoyed myself, but simply because in giving so much to the performance, Dark Tranquility demanded a great deal in return. Their performance exhausted me, and I was profoundly grateful for it.


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