Live review by Natalie Zed; Photos by Albert Mansour
I’d like to start this live review off with a little PSA: everyone at a metal show wants to enjoy themselves and have fun. For many, this means getting wild in the pit, and this is awesome. However, if there is no pit and only you and one other dude want there to be one, roaming around and slamming into people at random doesn’t make you some kind of sick warrior; it makes you an asshole. Also: stalking back and forth in front of the stage, flicking girls’ ears, grabbing photographers’ asses as they’re trying to take pictures and shoving people for good measure doesn’t make you a merry imp of chaos shaking things up and adding to the delight of the audience; it makes you a super-, ultra-, mega-asshole. Finally, if you grab my arm and try to drag me into the pit against my will, after I wave you off and say, “no” very clearly, I will punch you as hard as I can in the solar plexus.
Now, on to music!
standing next to Laina Dawes, fellow Hellbounder and Exclaim-er, both of us nodding along, we enjoyed what we were seeing from Strong Intention. They play short blasts of grindcore-ish thrash filtered through a filthy punk screen. The band have been around in some incarnation since 1994, have gone through many lineup changes, with vocalist/guitarist Zac the only original member. Over the years, they’ve moved steadily towards a metal/hardcore sensibility, but the punk aesthetic remains intact, as does their apocalyptic worldview. Strong Intention have a great sense of humour and are very comfortable on stage after touring the U.S. and Canada a bazillion times over their career. Frontman Zac serves as a jolly master of ceremonies, chatty and good-natured between the short, machine-gun-aggressive blasts that serve as songs. At one point, when he announced they had only four (very short) songs before Goatwhore took the stage, someone at the back cheered. Zac responded, “Fuck you, buddy!” in a completely friendly, fun way that made everyone giggle.
There’s no question that the majority of the audience was there to see Goatwhore. Prior to the event, anyone I discussed this concert with would ask, “are you going to the Goatwhore show?” The attendance swelled visibly immediately before their set and dropped off dramatically afterwards. Their set was excellent and the band were in tip-top shape, with their latest album, Blood for the Master, released this past Valentine’s Day. It’s a fantastic record, a fitting follow-up to 2009’s spectacular Carving Out the Eyes of God. Naturally, their set drew heavily from this latest album, with some old numbers offered up as well, like “Invert the Virgin.” Ben Falgoust is a charismatic and hypnotic frontman, punching his fist into the crowd, roaming around the stage, screaming and singing while tendrils of his long hair slithered around his intense face. I was also particularly aware of, and impressed by, the drums during this performance, Zack Simmons hammering away with infernal glee. Goatwhore’s set was as satisfying as a flagon full of blood on the lips of a thirsty demon.
Lock Up are a bit of an anomaly. They are a grindcore side-project and a supergroup, originally formed in 1998. The project is very much a labour of love and something that the band members do for fun. Until 2011’s Necropolis Transparent, the group hadn’t released a recording since 2002 and performed live rarely. When original guitarist Jesse Pintado (Napalm Death) passed away in 2006, it looked unlikely that the act would even continue. However, a new lineup came together and the current incarnation are again active. Lock Up are currently composed of founding members Shane Embury (Napalm Death) on bass and Nicholas Barker (ex-Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir) on drums , with Tomas Lindberg (At The Gates) performing vocals and Anton Reisenegger (Pentagram) on lead guitar. [Embury missed this tour due to visa problems, but was replaced by his good pal Danny Lilker of Brutal Truth – Tha Ed] All of the band members are incredible musicians and consummate performers, comfortable on stage, with an easy camaraderie, able to form a connection with the crowd naturally. There’s no sense of risk when Lock Up perform — they are not trying to win anyone over — so there’s no urgency to the performance. This leads to a surprisingly laid-back atmosphere that clashes, not unpleasantly, with the vicious grind they deliver. It was a set well suited to a Sunday night in Toronto, fun and somehow easy.