Review by Natalie Zed; Concert Photography by Adam Wills
On tonight’s episode of My Stupid Life: Metal Edition, I managed to give myself food poisoning, doubtlessly because of the sketchy ham that topped the iffiest piece of pizza I’ve eaten in years. The infamous Natalie Zed Stomach of Iron is not what it used to be, so I spent a good chunk of this show either putting on a brave face or hiding in the bathroom, praying for sweet oblivion to embrace me. Despite the grotesque physical discomfort I was in, this show was a blast. I salute all the bands for showing me a good time — this night stands out in my mind as a particularly excellent show in 2010, and that was despite my innards actively trying to kill me.
An increasing amount of metal shows are happening at the Mod Club and, generally speaking, I approve. The stage is great, the sound tends to be solid and the lighting is excellent — intrepid Hellbound photographer extraordinaire Adam Wills is always pleased when we’re covering a show at this particular venue, as the odds of his photos looking extra slick increase significantly. However, I have one major beef: seven dollars for a fucking beer!?! And by beer, I don’t mean something obscure and heavy like Maudite; I am talking a goddamn Steamwhistle. With any tip at all that’s eight dollars, friends — highway robbery. Making drinks prohibitively expensive for a room full of metalheads is completely backwards thinking.
This concludes the Complaints Department portion of the review. Now, onto the bands.
Toronto thrashers Black Elysium started the night with a set that felt distinctly like a warm-up for the rest of the bands. Like most ’80s-inspired thrash acts, they advertise the sizzling intensity of their sound. Live, however, the experience was a lot less like a dip in a cauldron of boiling oil and more like a soothing soak in a hot tub. Their tunes are straightforward and catchy, working within the aesthetic they’ve chosen well enough, but when on stage they don’t commit fully to their performance. Their energy level was surprisingly low, resulting in a chill, groovy experience for a thrash band. I’d like to see them throw everything they have into a show to see what they’re capable of.
The night truly began when Fatality took the stage. And I need to emphasize the word “took,” because it’s something that always strikes me about their performances: whatever stage they happen to be on, they own. I have a great deal of affection for Fatality; they are there to have a great time on stage and make sure the audience has an equal amount of fun — and also that they will get back from a crowd exactly what they put forth. So, they put in everything they can possibly give: all the spit, sweat, screams and shit-eating grins they can muster, and their audiences scream it right back. Fatality managed to get just about everyone in the Mod Club moving, stomping, throwing elbows and grinning ear to ear. Their stage presence is strong enough to stand out on any line-up, even with the likes of Holy Grail and Exodus.
I owe Bonded by Blood an apology, or rather, my stomach does. Their entire set, I was desperately trying to get air outside or whispering to a toilet affectionately. (“You’re my only friend, toilet; you understand.”) Next time, guys.
Speaking of affection, I also have a special, warm place in my cold, little ice pellet of a heart for Holy Grail. I last saw these L.A.-based shredders when they opened for Eluveitie and Amon Amarth back in April, another show that still glows in my mind as an unreasonable amount of fun. (Also, one day, Johan Hegg and I will be wed. Just saying.) Holy Grail certainly know how to have fun, a necessary characteristic for any band that work within the classic ’80s metal aesthetic. Unlike many of their comrades-in-thrash, however, Holy Grail invest a great deal of effort into their look. Both their sound and visual aesthetic are extremely posh and polished, giving them the stage presence of gleaming metal paladins. They played a selection of material from their debut EP, Improper Burial, as well as their upcoming full-length, Crisis In Utopia. Their cover of Accept’s “Fast As A Shark” (which appears on their EP) was particularly strong. I look forward to watching these old-school rockers thrash it up again the next time they inevitably come through Toronto.
Just as my energy level was reaching a crisis point, the audience’s had risen to a fever pitch, becoming positively explosive by the time Exodus took the stage. I made it about halfway through their 90-odd-minute set before throwing in the towel, but what I saw was absolutely spectacular. They are without a doubt a band not to miss, and I was glad for every moment I hung in to soak up some of the torrent they unleashed upon the crowd. In my weakened state, I could only passively absorb the show, but most of the crowd drank it in greedily in deep, thirsty gulps. Vocalist Rob Dukes baited the crowd relentlessly, demanding evermore energy and exultation. I was particularly amused when he taunted the audience, saying the fans at the show Exodus played in Montreal the night before had been much better and crazier, when they would not, in fact, play Montreal until the following day. The fib had the desired effect, however, and somehow the crowd managed to up their game and become even more aggressive. Their renditions of “Iconoclasm” and “Piranha” stuck with me, forcing me to bang my head even as I found myself sitting in a corner, reeling. When I finally crumbled, dragging myself out of the Mod Club and off to bed, it was with “The Toxic Waltz” vibrating in every sore, tortured muscle. It was a hell of a show; I regret only that I didn’t have more to give.