Hypocrisy/ Scar Symmetry/ Blackguard @ The Wreckroom, May 29 2010

Here is my review of the Hypocrisy/ Scar Symmetry/ Blackguard show (originally for Hellbound.ca) that took place at The Annex Wreckroom on May 29, 2010. You can read the original here, and check out some wicked pictures by Adam Wills.

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There was a lot about this show that was strange; many circumstances that conspired to make things difficult. First of all Swashbuckle did not perform; their vehicle ran afoul of a dear sometime in the middle of the night, and so they had to abandon the Toronto show in order to deal with the damage. Looking around the room, I noticed a lot of people in pirate hats who were clearly disappointed. And more disappointment soon came: Hate‘s merch table was conspicuously empty, and very quickly it became apparent that they would not be performing either. They had been held up at the border, and in the end were unable to enter the country. Hearing this news the moment I walked in the door did not make for an auspicious beginning to the evening.

Or, should I say, afternoon. The doors opened at 5pm, and Blackguard began to play well before 5:30. Since the Wreckroom is a popular nightclub/dance spot, the show had to be over and done with by 10pm. Despite heavy drapes, it was still a strange experience to see full, bright sunlight shining in around the edges of all the windows during this show. While not a deal-breaker, it was certainly an odd, intellectually-dischordant feeling to watch a show in the middle of the day.

I also think it’s important to talk about the venue, in this case. The Wreckroom is composed of a single large, rectangular room, with the stage set at one end. This is a pretty standard set up, except for the fact that the room is dominated by a huge, oblong bar smack-dab in the centre of the space. This works really well when the room is being used as a dance club, allowing patrons to approach the bar from all sides, and provides lots of space to hang out. For live music, however, it creates a bottleneck in front of the stage. This issue was further compounded by the fact that this was an all ages show. In the Wreckroom, this meant that one entire side of the bar was barricaded off, and was the only place that you could purchase/consume alcohol, further contributing to the weird, broken-up, blocky feel of the venue.

Finally, this was the weekend of the Maryland Death Fest. A large contingent of the Toronto metal community was down in Baltimore, happily developing new fissures in their eardrums. All of these various factors could have come together to drag this show down. The turnout could have been dismal. Negativity might have overtaken the day.

All this being said, I think the audience of this show deserves it’s own part of the review. While there were so many excuses to be grumpy or ill-behaved, everyone was fantastic. Aside from brief murmurs of dismay when the cancellations were announced, no one allowed unkind fortune or circumstances to ruin their good time. The crowd was boisterous and energetic, while still being incredibly friendly and respectful. Just before Hypocrisy began, no fewer than three metalheads offered to let me stand in front of them so I wouldn’t get crushed if things got too rowdy, including a lovely gentleman who let me stand right at the the stage. It was a joy to be in a room filled with happy people, all ready to rock out, afternoon/cancellations/venue issues be damned.

Blackguard started the show off on the right foot. Paul Ablaze is a hell of a showman: manic, gregarious, and fantastically gracious and positive to his audience. Tasked with breaking the news of the distinct lack of both Hate and Swashbuckle, he managed to keep the audience happy despite that disappointment. All the members of Blackguard are very physical performers, using every inch of whatever stage they are on and filling every corner of the venue with both the sound and feeling of their raucous, bawdy black metal. They positively shine as a live act. Every band member is a unique and memorable personality, and they take their job of entertaining their audience very seriously—and also give every impression of enjoying the hell out of what they do. Every member of Blackguard really has fun on stage. As an audience member, it is hard not to get caught up in the moment when Paul Ablaze screams right into your face and then rubs his armpit on your head.

After a significant break and sound check (with two bands down, the remaining performers had all the time they wanted to set up), Scar Symmetry swept onto the stage. The Swedish melodic death metallers are an entirely different kind of intense. With two band members devoted entirely to vocals (Roberth Karlsson focusing on growls and Lars Palmqvist primarily providing clean vocals), I assumed that this would be the focal point of their set. Their vocal performance was certainly deep, rich and varied, especially with additional backing vocals and harmonies being provided by both the guitarists as well as the bassist. However, I found my eye and my ear were consistently drawn to Per Nilsson on lead guitar. His stage presence and musicianship impressed me deeply; while I enjoyed Scar Symmetry‘s performance as a whole, I could not stop watching him.

It was shortly after 8:00 pm when Hypocrisy made their significant entrance; the excitement in the room was palpable when they strode onto the stage, lit vaguely by dim blue light and partially obscured by theatrical smoke. I can only describe their set as an all-out assault. While the sun might have still been impudently shining outside of the Wreckroom, inside the audience was completely consumed by Hypocrisy‘s blistering intensity. Peter Tägtgren isn’t a chatty frontman, but he is captivating. Every gesture and vocalization is meaningful, calculated for maximum impact, which makes his uniquely minimalist style of interaction completely engrossing. The greatest thrill of this show for me, however, was definitely being able to watch Horgh up close. The man positively punishes his drum kit; and yet somehow the violence he unleashes is thoughtful, almost neat in its execution. By the end of Hypocrisy’s set, I felt battered and overwhelmed—and perfectly happy to be in that state.


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