Augury / Unbeing / Centuries of Decay @ Hard Luck Bar, Toronto on Saturday April 29th 2018
It’s almost been a decade since progressive death metal horde Augury spawned a new album. The Montreal natives’ third album Illusive Golden Age just came out last month and was awarded fantastic reviews in the subterranean metal community. They embark on a Canadian tour that naturally hits Toronto for a much appreciated stop on an unseasonably frigid Saturday night at the Hard Luck Bar with other technically-occupied musicians in tow.
Local boys Centuries of Decay have the honour of opening the show. Formed in 2014, the quartet issued their debut eponymous album last year. They fire out their meticulous progressive deathcore with youthful exuberance. Atonal, disjointed and thrash-tinged guitar riffs sandwich fragile melodic prog passages. The prog genes in the music are excellent, subtly echoing the likes of Opeth, Meshuggah and Gojira. However, the deathcore protein sequence dumbs the music down with pedestrian arrangements and the frankly annoying and whiny clean vocals that the subgenre frequently harbours. Some of the lethargic songs end rather abruptly, which feels lazy and jarring. The band’s energy is more buoyant than their songs as they rollick through their set with a tsunami of headbanging. They announce that they are competing in the Canadian Wacken Metal Battle, although their style is not what Wacken traditionally caters too and they may have a hard time dealing with the competition. Centuries of Decay definitely have talent but it needs to be harnessed in a more interesting and cohesive manner for them to forge a musically impressive journey.
Next up is straight-up progressive metallers Unbeing from Montreal. While Augury’s fanbase undoubtedly appreciates the prog-side of the genre, it’s fair to say it’s the death metal elements that appeal most to them. With this in mind, it’s brave that Unbeing are on this tour, not because they play unadulterated melodic prog deficient in extreme sounds but because they are an instrumental act at a death metal concert. Fortunately for this five-piece, they’re absolutely captivating. The music is very dramatic – almost orchestral – in feel and sophistication but finds its home faithfully within the realm of the progressive.
The listening experience is like a relaxing zero-gravity drift through the cosmos. Their metal can actually paradoxically be described as beautiful, positioning atmospheric keyboards and ethereal leads up front and casting rhythmic heavier guitar pounding in a supporting role. The band is technical but not with wank-y solos, weird applications for the sake of appearing quirky and chaotically bipolar. The Hard Luck Bar’s sound is not crystal clear for these astral sailors but it is more generous than usual. They have formulated a sound all of their own and it’s difficult to draw comparisons (except the obligatory Dream Theater one, of course, but that’s unavoidable). Given Canada’s penchant for producing advanced metal (Gorguts, Voivod, Martyr, Quo Vadis and even the headliners etc.), Unbeing should be far better known. Fortunately, they have no problems securing a robust and well-earned response from the intrigued death metal crowd tonight.
Finally Montreal’s Augury are on stage. They waste scant time deluging the Hard Luck Bar with labyrinthine guitar and bass that flitter between rampant energy and soaring melody. This tour is promoting new album Illusive Golden Age and the prog death headliners effortlessly serve up the likes of the title track, “Mater Dolorosa” and “The Living Vault”. The flexibility of guitarists Mathieu Marcotte and Patrick Loisel is immediately pertinent as they rock through a bevy of time signatures, tempos, aggressive states and levels of intricacies. Live bassist to both Gorguts and Nader Sadek, Dominic Lapointe’s bass lines are absolutely entrancing, weaving amongst the guitars to develop an independent and arresting aural narrative. Marcotte’s lead vocals alternate between a cudgel-striking growl and an more atypical gruff cleaner voice that honestly sounds like a pirate.
Marcotte’s stage banter is friendly and humorous, diluting the stereotypical image of prog death metalheads being pretentious and hyper serious nerds. With three impressive full-lengths with their name, Augury have a healthy back catalogue to assemble their setlist from. The angular “Simian Cattle”, the blistering “Sovereigns Unknown” and fan favourite “Skyless” are particular highlights from their older material that the crowd feast upon. The music is more memorable than the run-of-the-mill death metal acts, the result of concentrating on writing effective and dexterous compositions rather than attempting to play a billion notes per second. The music demands excessive repeated listens to capture every nuance but the audience thoroughly appreciate it live. The turnout is a good one for a death metal act of Augury’s stature and their performance flies by. High quality progressive death metal is rare to come by and as if to prove a point, this tour cycle celebrates the first album in nine years that Augury have released. If they ever frequent your area and you’re a fan of creative and skilful extreme metal, you must see them live.
Review by Elena Francis. Photos by Adam Wills.