Review by Natalie Zed, Concert Photos by Adam Wills
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: http://www.invisibleoranges.com/2010/04/ludicra-need-your-help/ )
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.
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