Metal Alliance Tour: Behemoth & more, Toronto, April 23, 2014

At The Opera House, Toronto, April 23rd, 2014

Recap and photos by Danielle Griscti

An ambitious tour like this inevitably means early set times; so though I didn’t make it for Black Crown Initiate,  I was still endlessly pleased to see the size of the crowd gathering as INQUISITION set up. These guys are a force of nature and it seems they are growing their infernal cult with every live appearance. Deep, droning chants and ritualistic drumming set the tone as gusts of smoke plumed forth from the stage. Though it was far from my first time seeing this two-piece act, somehow I still found myself in awe once again (“But… there’s only… but… the sound is so HUGE”).Yeah. The Opera House resonating thoroughly for the flawless and tragically short set, the crowd was enraptured by raw from-the-bowels-of-hell black metal, croaking visceral vocals and insanely fast, clean and crisp drumming coming together in defiance of all reason to create an atmosphere of cosmic wonder and beauty.

Listen: Inquisition, “Darkness Flows Towards Unseen Horizons” (Season of Mist)

1349‘s signature Norwegian sound kept the energy going. The overall impression kind of fell apart visually as one band member inexplicably played in a cloak; something about having just one person sticking out like a sore thumb in a full head to toe getup just doesn’t work. That was a bit of a bummer, but luckily the sound quality itself continued to deliver and the crowd was fully enjoying the vocalist’s engaging, contagious energy. I have seen them on tour with such staple black metal acts as Dark Funeral and Watain in the past, and I’m sure I will see them billed again and again on the biggest tours in the near future.

Normally when a tour with a name like Metal Alliance rolls into town, my automatic eye-roll reflex kicks in (“Great… more fun party time black metal”). Well you know what, GOATWHORE may have been one of the first acts to take things in this direction and as a result they do it particularly well. If the energy was already high by this point in the night, it was whipped into an absolute frenzy by vocalist Ben Falgoust and his nonstop gesticulating and uh… well, I’ll leave it at that. While Goatwhore may not provide that corpse-painted, ultra-grim, limited-to-100-cassettes quality so many black metal fans find critical to their enjoyment, they sure don’t skimp on their live performance. Crowdsurfers were in full force and nobody can resist screaming along to “Who needs a god, when you’ve got Satan!!”, including yours truly.

Listen: Goatwhore, “Apocalyptic Havoc,” Carving Out the Eyes of God (Metal Blade)

Poland’s BEHEMOTH may initially invoke a mixed response, as their unforgiving approach to their sound over the years has both gained them a devoted following and led longtime fans into new and unexpected territory. Regardless of your stance… new listener, devoted collector, unimpressed elitist… one thing is certain. With Adam “Nergal” Darski at the helm, a live performance from Behemoth is nothing short of a feast for the senses. Having seen them back in 2007 at the Kool Haus (ah, nostalgia) I remember squinting in disbelief as I was stunned to see both Nergal and bassist Orion casually mingling with fans, enjoying a drink at the bar, and generally not acting like rock stars in the slightest. Then and now, they know how to maintain a powerful stage persona without alienating fans outside of the performance itself.

Their lack of pretentious snobbery offstage is such a pleasant surprise as it’s in direct contrast with the clearly larger-than-life intent of the show: custom stage costumes (by a local Toronto designer, no less), expertly coordinated lighting and, of course, flawless execution of even the fastest-paced tracks from their long and diverse catalogue.  Drummer Inferno’s careful discipline on tour is apparent, as the furious pace did not relent until the grand finale, “O Father O Satan O Sun”. Following interviews with Nergal through his illness and recovery has led me to believe he has a true passion for his art and isn’t just playing lip service to his fans.  Nothing could have been more clear as I looked through my camera and saw pure fire and flame in the eyes of a man who has known the fear of death, faced it, and now stands defiant.

Listen: Behemoth, “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel” The Satanist (Metal Blade)

Contributor of photos and plenty of rambling - also on Instagram & Youtube @riffsdontlie