Toxic live in Toronto, August 2018

Toxik / Droid @ Coalition, Toronto on 25th August 2018

Back in March, technical thrash titans Toxik were expected to hit the Coalition. Unfortunately, they never made it. After being held up for over two hours at the Canadian border, their vocalist was not allowed in, causing them to cancel their Canadian mini tour. However, the rescheduled date promises to be even better as original singer Mike Sanders will be providing his vocals to the band for possibly the last time ever.

Before the headliners hit the stage, Brampton/Mississauga’s Droid treat Toronto to warped sci-fi thrash. Last year, they released their debut Terrestrial Mutations to lofty acclaim and for good reason. This trio execute progressive thrash influenced by fellow countrymen Voivod, stuffed with dizzying riffs, schizophrenic time signatures and atmospheric disruptions. They are less quirky than Voivod and infuse their key influence with external ideas. Some of their spacious and atmospheric moments are underpinned by a strong jazz inspiration and their tracks plough forward at a less rushed tempo. Vocalist Jacob Montgomery employs gruff shouts, on the fringes of growling, all while simultaneously providing calculated guitar work. Most of the songs played come from the album but even older material is shot out for the long term supporters.

This generation of thrash appears to be receiving more exposure since Vektor gained popularity and is a welcome respite from the usual retro thrash fare that has been flooding this subgenre. The crowd watching them is not vast but is very vocal in appreciation. This youthful act really do deserve a larger following but it’s still early days; in such an ultra-connected era, talent like this will not go unnoticed for long.

US ‘80s thrashers Toxik can’t hit the stage soon enough! “Spontaneous” from second album Think This is fired into the heart of the Coalition first. Its heavy and speedy introduction prompts emphatic headbanging before making way for unorthodox guitar structures. Vocalist Mike Sanders did not partake on Think This but his performance tonight is every bit as fluid, his high register remaining impressive after more than 30 years. Guitarist Josh Christian weaves a gorgeous solo when he’s not supporting Sanders’ vocals with bludgeoning thrash and melodic tech tinkering.

The next song is the beloved “Heart Attack” from the World Circus debut. The debut is more direct than the second album, favouring the straight-forward in-your-face thrash rather than the virtuoso styling on their sophomore album. This frenetic number is certainly one of the night’s highlights.

The Coalition’s sound is not fantastic, blurring some of the band’s intricacies, but the show is still incredibly enjoyable. Toxik’s energy is infectious and transmits to the compact mosh pit before them. Almost all of World Circus is performed, with favourites “Voices”, “Victims” and the title track drawing fervent reactions from the crowd. Christian’s solos are mind-melting to bear witness to live and absolutely no thrasher could tire of them.

There is a solid amount of variety across Toxik’s work, sometimes emotive, sometimes feral with subtle tints of heavy and power metal. A cover of Anthrax’s “Metal Thrashing Mad” is a welcome surprise and Sanders’ rendition of Neil Turbin is fantastic. The last song of the night is the title track off World Circus, a truly phenomenal conclusion to the night.

Sanders’ performance was the centre-piece tonight. Here’s hoping that this truly isn’t one of his final performances with Toxik.