By Jonathan Smith (Photo by Adam Wills)
With a Napalm Death concert happening nearby in Toronto on the same night, GTA concert goers were somewhat spoiled for choice on May 15th. Within that context, the crowd that came out to see Woods of Ypres‘ debut Hamilton performance on May 15th was relatively small but dedicated to the Canadian group’s unique brand of black- and folk- inflicted metal. As Club Absinthe’s wooden floors and soft-light candelabra set the mood, Burlington-based band Seras kicked off the night with their progressive death metal sound. They were the first band in an evening that was entirely a showcase of Ontario metal acts.
Switching things up next was Musk Ox, the performance name for Ottawa-based musician Nathaniel Larochette. Illuminated on stage while sitting on a single chair with his classical guitar in hand, right from the beginning of his set Larochette joked about feeling out of place at the show and in the metal scene in general. However, his lengthy and ambient folk songs were powerful in their emotional punch even with the minimalist melodies emerging from a single instrument. The only downside to be found during Larochette’s performance was the fact that less interested patrons created a great deal of background noise during his set, a definite irritant but something that can likely be expected at a show with as much variety in bands as the evening offered. Larochette ended with his set, as he had earlier promised to those who gave him their focus, with a cover of Opeth’s “Benighted.”
Shifting gears after Musk Ox, Toronto-based folk-metal band Will of the Ancients blasted their adoring audience with a set of mostly new (and in some cases rather raw) material. The group’s attitude was a laid-back one and the music reflected that. However, fan favorites “Lords of the Sea” and “The Stars Like Dust” were played with practiced precision, with the latter being played in honor of the release of the increasingly popular new Star Trek film. The front of the stage was packed for the band’s performance, and it was clear that they had attracted an impressive contingent of people primarily there to see them.
After Will of the Ancients cleared the stage, Hamilton-based act Elevator-22 stepped up to run through their last performance, an event that was greeted with bittersweet enthusiasm by the people who had come out to support them. Band and crowd seemed to feed off each other, and the energy was at one of the highest points of the evening. Frontman Bart Maslikowski was characteristically chatty, mixing vulgar humor with fan-inciting comments. Having made sure to thank the city’s scene for its long-term support, the band departed the stage on a high note.
Finally, main act Woods of Ypres took to the stage and began their set by blasting through their ever-popular anthem “Your Ontario Town Is A Burial Ground.” Dave Gold and company pulled some tracks from their first release before surprising the crowd with material from Pursuit of the Sun and Allure of the Earth. With songs from the sophomore album acting as the set’s main focus, songs like “Summer’s Envy” and the “Allure of the Earth” had their live debut, a treat for long-time fans of the band and an introduction to lesser known songs for newcomers. Though the crowd remaining for Woods was relatively small compared to other recent shows the band has played, it brought with it an intensity and focus that belied its size. Woods ended their set with what Gold described as “Canadian black metal” epic “Thrill of the Struggle.” The evening ended, the band left the stage, no doubt leaving behind the hope that their debut Hamilton performance would be far from their last in the city.
Here is a link to Adam Wills’ first review of this show, published on June 2nd: http://www.hellbound.ca/2009/06/woods-of-ypres-elevator-22-will-of-the-ancients-musk-ox-seras-club-absinthe-hamilton-on/