Annihilator + Entropy + Mason + Mutank @ The Opera House, Toronto, June 24, 2017

One of the most successful Canadian ‘80s metal icons strikes down in Toronto following their first show here in 23 years just last year. Jeff Waters and his merry band of men are probably Canada’s most famous thrash metal squad so seeing them play Europe more than their home province is disheartening. At least two shows within twelve months is an encouraging sign of changing times.

Presiding over the concert’s start is Montreal’s Mutank, crossover thrash metallers with one album and EP. Their rough and ready metal pays dues to the likes of Megadeth, Exodus and Suicidal Tendencies, seamlessly working their way through an abundance of varying tempos and headbanging riffs. The guitar tone is heavy for modern thrash with attention seizing solos. The vocals harbour a sliver of death metal growls, betraying any pretence of being carbon copy revivalists. Audience attendance may be sparse but a mosh pit commendably still breaks out. Any mere dabbler in classic thrash would have heard all this four-piece has to offer yet as a primer for an all thrash line up like tonight, it scratches an itch.

Mason may sound like a particularly un-metal band moniker but these Australians are deploying nothing but distilled thrash metal and have toured with the headliners before. This year saw the Aussies releasing their sophomore full-length Impervious, a competent showcase of hostile thrash with melodic guitar leads frequently occurring in the genre since its mid-2000s revival. Like Mutank, this four-piece repurposes Exodus influence and surgically attaches it the likes of later era Kreator. The audience appreciates this too as plenty of headbangers and moshers takeover the floor. However aside from creative solos, there is little memorable about the songs and nothing that marks Mason apart from other youthful acts.

It’s time to rewind the clock with Entropy, a little known Canadian thrash battalion. Formed in 1990’s Brampton, they were slightly tardy to the thrash metal party. Their debut album Ashen Existence turns 25 years old this year and features dirty death metal-inflected thrash, akin to an unholy alliance between Slaughter and Forbidden. Blastbeats, Overkill-style shrieks and psychotic solos supply an abundance of action. Later in their career, they conformed to the pedestrian groove thrash that was mass produced in the mid ‘90s, resulting in a quality relegation. Tonight, these groove-laden numbers unsurprisingly fail to match the more enthused reactions of the lengthy songs off Ashen Existence, commanding impressive technical prowess and a sight increasingly rarer at contemporary metal shows. Untouched by age, the band storms through their set with unbridled gusto, beholden to so many old school devotees interested in gluing their eyes to them after a quarter of a century.

Headliners Annihilator waste no time firing out the title track of Suicide Society, their most recent album, unloading modern groove, rhythms that stab and miserable state-of-the-world commentary. This is chased down by the frolicking “King of the Kill” and its stalking palm-muted directness. Guitar maestro Jeff Waters illustrates his craft as if it were as natural as breathing. He supplies staple choices such as “W.T.Y.D.”, “Set the World on Fire”, “Alice in Hell” and “Never, Neverland” where he was not the recorded vocalist with flexible and applaudable labours. These tracks from the band’s nascent development that launched Annihilator into the international thrash pantheon incorporate the speedy, haunting and tireless. Riffs are tortuous with leads that dip into the sinister and fragile while the drums hit like hammers and fists to forge some of the finest thrash anthems from the nation.

Lesser explored sections of the discography are brought along for the headbanging ride too; “No Way Out”, “Creepin’ Again (Parasomnia)” and “Syn. Kill 1” attain comparatively muted responses but democratically serve up a treat for the die hard fans in attendance. Waters is very vocal with his stage banter, detailing his experiences of his time with one of Canada’s most famous metal bands. The venue is busy but nowhere near stuffed yet the audience are fully behind Annihilator, pledging their support through consistent moshing, headbanging and cheering through the show. The beloved “Human Insecticide” concludes the night and the headliners appear equally appreciative of the fans as they do to Annihilator. Hopefully this equals more Toronto shows in Annihilator’s near future.