By Natalie Zed
September marks the beginning of an extraordinary concert season in Toronto. Throughout the fall and winter, this city is being treated to an incredible run of shows, when we’re already spoiled for choice during the leanest time. In many ways, this particular show, featuring the spectacular lineup of Kreator, Accept and Swallow the Sun, felt like the kickoff show to a stellar heavy metal concert season.
I walked into the Phoenix about halfway through Swallow the Sun’s brief set, much to my disappointment – I’d been warned that they would go on early, but didn’t appreciate just how close to doors their set would begin. Swallow the Sun are currently touring to support their latest album, Emerald Forest and the Blackbird, possibly their finest recorded effort to date. Their manner onstage is restrained, almost stately, as befits he grave character of their music, but beneath that control was a carefully managed power. “Cathedral” had a tightly curbed and leashed ominousness to it, and “Swallow (Horror Pt 1)” had a swirling kind of energy that crept over the audience like a chilling fog. While no one can ever say they are a party band, Swallow the Sun have presence in spades, and seeing them perform is always a great pleasure.
German warriors Accept absolutely stole the show. After putting out two albums with the band (2010’s Blood of the Nations and this year’s stellar Stalingrad), frontman Mark Tornillo has cemented his identity as Accept’s vocalist and is a much a crucial part of their current sound as Udo Dirkschneider ever was. There set was positively electrifying it its intensity, never flagging for a moment, as the band treated the rabid Phoenix audience to a set that drew from their extensive back catalogue as well as their newer material. Taken together, it is clear that their song structures all conform to a fairly basic anthemic structure, driven my strong choruses and fist-pumping bridges; however, they execute their formula so perfectly every time it is beyond reproach. “Restless and Wild” has the crowd screaming aloud, and “Metal Heart” became a rallying cry. Accept play with pure joy, displaying muscle and guts and enthusiasm that simply cannot be faked; seeing them live is revelatory.
Any opportunity to see Kreator live is a pleasure. The teutonic thrash legends are currently in the midst on an incredibly rigorous touring schedule to support their most recent release, the excellent Phantom Antichrist, and their performance came across as perhaps the slightest bit restrained or tired. Of course, I could also have this impression because they had to take on the impossible task of following Accept, which even veterans like Kreator must find daunting. Still, their show was sweat-soaked and delightfully violent, and certainly they inspired the largest and most active pit of the evening. The thunderous maelstrom of “Death To The World” was a set highlight, and their snarling rendition of “Pleasure To Kill” was likewise excellent.
From start to finish, these three European bands treated the Toronto audience to an exceptional show.