By Natalie Zed
This was my first time attending a show at the new location for the Hard Luck Bar. They’ve moved down the street and up a flight of stairs, into the room that was previously The Poor Alex Theatre. The new location is bigger than the old Hard Luck and more concert-friendly, with more room to move around. The stage is also a bit higher, though the bar is small and weirdly squashed. I’m excited to see what the space becomes as they renovate.
I arrived around 8:30, expecting to walk in just as Into Exile were to begin their set, and discovered that they would not be playing. There were rumours of car trouble, and in the end the band were a no-show. After waiting as long as they could, the next band scheduled, Legions from Burlington, ON, filled the opening slot. A friend standing next to me described them as “Dragon/Horse the Band,” and that summary was as apt as it is hilarious. They play power(ish) metal, with riffs and song structures that are more than inspired by (I would go so far as to say “lifted directly from”) Dragonforce. They certainly have some skills with their instruments, but their songwriting is not original. I still could have enjoyed Legions’ set, as they performed their songs well and did have good energy (at least in as much as they could get across on the very crowded stage), if it was not for their vocalist. A new addition to the band, the young man behind the mic seemed nervous and uncomfortable, and does not have the vocal range to pull off what is demanded of him by Legions’ music.
Happily, Hallows Die were next to play, and put on an excellent set. It has been a good year for this Toronto-based, multi-genre group. Hallows Die officially play melodic death metal, but their songs also incorporate elements of folk and even some blackened thrash. This performance was their first in their home town after many months on the road, on a tour that took them from Ontario to British Columbia and back. The band were still in tour shape; they performed a high-energy set, had a great deal of fun on stage, all while playing with skill and focus. Their set drew heavily from last year’s album, World of Ruin, and it it clear they have developed a solid, positive relationship with those songs. It’s been a while since I had the pleasure of seeing Hallows Die play in Toronto, and it was great to have them back.
I’ve been looking forward to enjoying another love set by UnexpecT since I saw them play at Sneaky Dee’s last year, and they delivered on all of my very high expectations. The experimental French Canadian band are the very embodiment of an avant-garde aesthetic combined with a dauntless independent spirit. UnexpecT released another excellent self-recorded album, Fables of the Sleepless Empire, earlier this year, and have attracted a great deal of well-deserved critical success. Their set drew heavily from this album and from 2006’s In a Flesh Aquarium, with a few older numbers mixed in as well. Their set was as delightfully schizophrenic as everything I have come to expect from UnexpecT. Leïlindel seems to convulse as she sings, and there is something about the unnatural way that several members of the band headbang that reminds me more of puppets on strings than human beings, which only increases the success of their twisted cabaret performance style. Their set was cacophonous and demented, an extreme metal dreamscape. There is something absolutely escapist in the spastic way they perform their difficult, layered music, so that each performance is a perfectly immersive experience. I will never get tired of seeing this band play live; there is nothing else quite like it.