Review and Photos by Renee Trotier
A perfectly curated touring package is a rare and wonderful thing, but it’s not often we are treated to one as curious as the tour that rolled through the Opera House last Monday night. Any genre blending lineup of bands has the potential for disaster, but when it works, it works sumptuously well. Here, each band’s style complemented rather than emanated and the sets flowed smoothly from one to the next with nothing seeming out of place. It really was one of those occasions where the whole was much richer and momentous than the sum of its parts.
Kicking off the night was the stoner rock styling of Ohio’s Lo Pan, the warmth of their sound immediately helping to fend off the bitter chill from outside. The lesser known of the four bands on the bill, their particular brand of rock is based in the down-and-dirty South and then brushed with a subtle palate of bluesy goodness. Vocalist Jeff Martin is a massive figure; both in stature and vocal delivery, and his smooth yet powerful voice remained the clear focus of their set. Reminiscent of bands like Clutch or Kyuss, Lo Pan played a solid set of no-frills rock to a growing (and obviously impressed) crowd.
With Brutal Truth’s Kevin Sharp on vocals and Mastodon’s Bill Kelliher on guitar, you could say that Primate’s members are more famous than the music they create. What they create, by the way, is punk infused grindcore with a bit of a southern drawl. Playing mostly tracks off of their recently re-issued debut Draw Back A Stump (and a few Black Flag covers to boot), their easy going attitude and laid back attire (see: Kevin’s bare feet and floppy hat) had nothing to do with their ability to play. Executing particularly vicious renditions of “Get the Fuck off My Lawn” and “Global Division” they managed to coax more than a couple sweaty bodies out of the sidelines and into the pit.
Continuing into even heavier realms, New Orleans’ Goatwhore is no stranger to the Toronto stage. Having made their home on the road for a number of years, it’s become apparent by their consistently growing fan base that the fruits of their labour are finally ripening. Even as they took to the stage, bound in leather and armed with their signature blend of blackened thrash and death metal, the crowd surged with an influx of eager and blood thirsty onlookers. Ripping into the opening notes of “Collapse in Eternal Worth” with barely a moment of pause, the band continued with a blistering set focused heavily on this year’s acclaimed album Blood for the Master. Commanding the audience with his magnetic presence, vocalist Ben Falgoust always seems much larger when up on stage. He spits each line with a dark and venomous conviction, always reaching for the jugular vein. When they played their final song, the fan-favourite “Apocalyptic Havoc”, the crowd responded as much with cheer as cathartic violence.
In order to facilitate front-man Matt Pike’s alcohol rehabilitation, High On Fire were forced to cancel their appearance at this year’s Heavy T.O. festival. As a result, it’s been more than two years since the band last stepped foot on a Toronto stage. Luckily for them, absence really does make the heart grow fonder and after kicking things off with “Serums of Liao”, the opening track off their recently released album De Vermis Mysteriis, the audience was a writhing hub of sweat-soaked shirts and flailing limbs. Appearing healthier and more focused than ever, the band proceeded to deliver well over an hour of career spanning material including “10,000 Years” and “Last” from 2000’s The Art of Self Defense, and “Speedwolf” from 2002’s Surrounded by Thieves. With music so luxuriantly rich and thunderously loud, experiencing it live is a necessity. If you somehow missed this one, you truly and genuinely missed out.