Cryptopsy + Rivers of Nihil + The Zenith Passage @ Hard Luck Bar, Toronto, May 23, 2017

Quebec death metal icons Cryptopsy are infesting Toronto yet again but fans are in for a very special delight this time. This Devastation on the Nation North American trek sees the band unearth classic album None So Vile live in its entirety. Unfortunately, though tech death Americans Decrepit Birth were supposed to be accompanying them on this date, guitarist Matt Sotelo unbelievably forgot to renew his passport somehow so they have, depressingly, dropped off the Toronto show. But the show must go on…

Californian death metal mesmerizers The Zenith Passage released their debut album Solipsist last year on Unique Leader Records. Guitarist Justin McKinney also plays in The Faceless, whose mark is evident in The Zenith Passage’s tracks. These Los Angeles locals serve up a menu chock-full of meandering melodies that conjure progressive astral atmospheres, deathcore stop-start passages and brutal death heaviness. Their technical prowess is insistent in every song, weaving compositions that are extremely intricate, both bludgeoning and majestic. The interplay between technical melodies synthesizes dream-like qualities with an almost classical music approach. These four men are an ideal introduction to the detailed death metal evening that awaits.

Up next, Pennsylvania’s Rivers of Nihil present their take on tech death metal. These five Americans have been very successful building up a name in the subterranean death metal circuit and earned their stripes signing to Metal Blade Records before even releasing an album. They encourage the audience to batter each other through their technical savagery, steeped in foreboding and hot on intensity. Somehow, they manage to strike a balance between the unlikely styles of Job for a Cowboy and later Behemoth. Double bass drumming is almost non-stop, guitars shoulder a black metal nuance while taped keyboards present a sci-fi atmosphere. They are less technical than their genre’s contemporaries but substitute the difference with thunderous bludgeoning. Fans of modern tech death should take note – this is nothing like the riff salad that plagues the genre today.

The Hard Luck Bar is swelteringly scorching by the time tech death gods Cryptopsy take the stage in between banners depicting the album art of their sophomore effort. Their loyal fanbase is salivating at the prospect of hearing the band’s most highly acclaimed release played from start to finish. Before leaping straight into None So Vile, the Quebecers get the audience’s juices flowing with an airing of “Two-Pound Torch” from their most recent self-titled album. The performance is vicious with vocalist Matt McGachy commanding a particularly energetic presence. When the intro tape of “Crown of Horns” worms its way through the venue, heads bang and the mosh pit erupts as Cryptopsy work their way through one of the best tech death metal releases of all time.

Necks are aching while these early death metal influencers storm through a feast of such juicy beatings as “Slit Your Guts”, “Graves of the Fathers” and “Benedictine Convulsions”. For an album over twenty years old, it has aged exceptionally well and in a world where metal bands attempt to outdo each other on every level possible, None So Vile remains as hard hitting, original and nasty as ever. The amount of fresh effective ideas is insane for 2017, let alone 1996. Riffs are idiosyncratically dark and heavy, switching frenetically through tempos and the off-beat drumming of sole founding member Flo Mourier cannot be praised enough. The only flaw in the set is that McGachy’s vocals have an underlying squeak to them which is distracting. The remainder of the technical adherents collaborate to produce probably one of the best Cryptopsy shows in a long time.

Concert staple “Phobophile” still bites harder than a grizzly bear and unlike most gigs, it is not the last song of the night. The grimy “Orgiastic Disembowelment” has that pleasure, a tornado of torrid build up that results in a lengthy climax before a sudden death. The fans are overwhelmingly overjoyed by the obliteration they have just witnessed but the band’s sudden stage evacuation hints that there will be an encore. Sadly, there isn’t one but it’s hard to feel dejected after Cryptopsy exhumed None So Vile and delivered the nostalgic goods tonight. This album will forever remain one of extreme metal’s most extraordinary.

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