Review by Natalie Zed
As soon as Lily the Pirate and I settled in by the bar, criminally-overpriced beers in hand, we immediately noticed that the crowd gathered at The Mod Club did not have the same character or consistency as most audiences we are accustomed to. Rather than looking out over a forest of long hair and illegible black t-shirts, we found ourselves in the midst of a sea of ball caps, plaid flannel, and the odd Affliction t-shirt. One guy walked past us wearing a baby-blue shirt with the sleeves torn off that read: “It’s All Muscle.” For whatever reason, this show became a bro-down, complete with hardcore dancing and a great deal of flexing. Happily, the bro-dudes were in a friendly mood this particular evening, and whether slam-dancing or head-banging, a good time was had by all.
We arrived just just in time to hear Revocation play their last song of the night. The little I did hear made me wish I could have been there for more. They struck me as intense and technical without any hint of pretension, dexterous without being gentle. I’ll definitely keep an eye and ear out for them the next time they pass through Toronto.
After a long tear-down and set up (something that was an issue throughout the show), Periphery took the stage. Throughout their set, I found my attention drawn, oddly enough, to their rhythm guitar and bass. Their sound was characterized by a deep, resonant undertone, and so the predominance of the deeper instruments in the mix was definitely as asset to the overall sound. Their new vocalist, Spencer Sotelo, is an incredibly earnest performer, and his heartfelt, occasionally wailing singing style made me wince a bit at the intensity he attempted to wring out of each lyric. Their set, capped with their new single “Icarus Lives!” (also the title of an EP they have forthcoming in 2011), was solid. I think once their new vocalist gets the hang of their aesthetic and syncs of with the rest of the band, their future live performances will be stronger.
Veil of Maya were next up. They played a short set, but made the most of all of their limited performance time. While anything deathcore is not usually my cup of tea, I found myself digging their aesthetic despite myself, particularly the songs ‘Unbreakable” and “Pillars.” I also really enjoyed the urgent, almost military quality that characterized their drumming. Vocalist Brandon Butler exudes a tremendous amount of energy, pushing himself hard on stage. I did wish that they were a little bit weirder, though. Their aesthetic would suit an addition push toward the dark and strange. I’d like to see these guys make monsters of themselves.
Headliners Darkest Hour played a long, varied set that covered material from across their 15-year career. They repeatedly mentioned celebrating their anniversary during this particular tour, and thanked the crowd effusively for their years of support. As vocalist John Henry pointed out: “Some of you have been supporting us all along, and some of you here tonight weren’t even born when we started out! That’s crazy!” While they definitely seemed more interested in hosting a celebration (with as many circle pits as possible) than performing a perfectly programmed and orchestrated set, their performance was definitely entertaining and their musicianship tight.
A couple of moments made me double over laughing, including when two acoustic guitars were pushed on stage during “Veritas,” c-clamped to mic stands, to enable the guitarists to switch between electric and acoustic without disarming. At one point, there were six guitars on stage and only four men playing them. Also hilarious and distracting was the face that John Henry managed to rip a huge hole in the crotch of his brilliantly white pants early on in the set. Despite these foibles and shenanigans, I managed to finally immerse myself in their set by the end, and immensely enjoyed “Deliver Us” from the album Demons and “Into The Grey” from The Eternal Return. While I ultimately find short, controlled bursts of Darkest Hour the best way to digest and enjoy their aesthetic, this show was definitely a great reward for any hardcore fan on the band.