Acherontas @ 211 Augusta, Toronto, 27 October 2017

Recently, a couple of Greek black metal acts surprise the underground by being fortunate enough to cross the Atlantic and subsequently performing in Toronto, namely Varathon and Kawir. Now it’s time for the mystical horde Acherontas to take over the city for the first time ever. This Hellenic force has been rising rapidly in the underbelly of the underground with sincere authenticity behind their art. Originally scheduled for Stop, Drop and Roll, this concert moved to the informal venue 211 Augusta fairly last minute.

Acherontas formed in 2007 as a continuation of prior bands Worship, who formed in 1996, and Stutthof. This year saw the release of sixth album ‘Amarta … (Formulas of Reptilian Unification Part II)‘, a potent concoction of black metal that fuses blasting aggression, meandering guitar melodies and technical excellence and results in a release that truly stands apart from other contemporary black metal efforts.

The 211 Augusta is an underground venue. Its white-washed walls confine a very small space and there is no stage or air conditioning. Even though there are only around 50 attendees, the room looks packed and the temperatures are unbearable. Acherontas deserve extra credit for storming through their set, their faces half obscured with bandanas. A venue like this will never harbour the best sound but the Greeks’ metal still resonates brightly and the performance is thoroughly enjoyable despite their ceremonial set pieces being compromised by the lack of space. It’s obnoxiously fashionable to term these kinds of occult black metal concerts as ‘rituals’ these days but Acherontas’ set is actually similar to this descriptor and less lazy and cartoon-like than other occult-concerned black metallers with capes, candles and animal bones.

‘Conjuration of the Five Negatives’, ‘Legacy of Tiamat’ and ‘Blood Current Illumination’ are the highlights that scorch the not-so-cavernous venue. Musical variety promises to sustain a high engagement level throughout. Whether evoking trance-like double bass drumming, astral guitar tremolo guitar leads or frontman Acherontas V. Priest deftly alternating between growls and pagan metal-style commanding shouts, the band opens a spiritual portal to another plane of existence that is nothing short of compelling to watch. They are masters of their instruments, wielding a high level of musicianship while circumventing the showy or ostentatious. The crowd is compact but dedicated, proffering the Greek troupe lavish applause at the end of each track.

The concluding ode of the night harks back to the musicians’ past life in Stutthof with a cover of ‘Wampyric Metamorphosis’, a more caustic number that gets causes more violent headbanging outbreaks from enthused fans, a final surge of physicality to see out the night. This is one of those metal shows that lingers in the memory for a long time to come. Despite the adversity, Acherontas overcame effortlessly.