Vreid / Kampfar / Necronomicon @ Annex Wreckroom, Toronto ON, August 25, 2011

Live review and Photos By Natalie Zed

While we’re still deep in the embrace of late summer, there’s a chill in the air at night now, a whispering coolness that promises fall is around the corner. It seemed so fitting that the first evening I could taste just a bit of fall in the back of my throat was a night filled with black metal.

Three bands with slightly longer sets is the perfect structure for a weeknight metal show and was definitely the right dosage for this particular event. I walked in just as Montreal-based blackened death metallers Necronimicon began their set. These corpse-painted francophones refer to themselves as experimental death metal, but they struck me as straightforward, folk-influenced black metal. I appreciated their particularly Canadian take on the genre, incorporating influences from aboriginal culture, such as recorded chants in their songs and folklore in their lyrics, like in “The Sacred Medicines.” They’d clearly rehearsed their performance carefully, and their perfectly coordinated gestures synchronized to the sound of thunder were precise enough to pull the moment off. Their live set was entertaining, if not spectacular, and with a little more confidence on stage (there were moments when vocalist Rob “the Witch” seemed downright shy), they could be quite good indeed.

Norwegian pagan/folk black metal band Kampfar were next, performing their very first set ever on North American soil. I found them incredibly amusing, though maybe not for all the right reasons. Singer Dolk initially greeted Montreal, instead of Toronto, before hastily correcting himself. With his flaxen blond hair, heavily accented English and case of foot-in-mouth disease (he also repeatedly referred to being happy to be playing “in America”), he reminded me vividly of Skwisgaar Skwigelf from Metalocalypse. Their set was loud, abrasive and fun, more about performance that substance. The bass was also turned up incredibly high during their set, vibrating in my chest almost painfully, making it nearly impossible to hear anything but the drums and loudest vocals. This made it difficult to focus on the songs, which all ran together, and I found my attention drawn more to Dolk’s abs and very tight, very cut-up black pants than the music.

Also hailing from Norway, black metal unit Vreid filled the headlining position and performed what was unquestionably the strongest set of the night. In contrast to the theatricality of the other bands’ appearances, Vreid adopted a simple, almost military look for their style and dress. They performed with much more energy than the other acts and were very much in control of the stage and the audience from the moment they stepped out. Singer Sture Dingsøyr’s reptilian stillness as he plays is captivating. The bass was still turned up too high, but was less of an issue, and the power of “Raped by Light” and “Fire on the Mountain” came through. “Blücher” was unquestionably my favourite song, the driving rhythm and military drums making for a great live piece. They filled the venue with sound and energy, and were the driving force behind the success of this concert.

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.