Words: Brady Irwin

Photos: Nicole Smith-Walker

Walking into the crisp surrounds of the downstairs of 170 Russell, it was almost disconcertingly quiet, what with a thin crowd and half the venue sectioned off. This trepidation was immediately eased, however, with the raucous reaction to high-octane melodic death metal local institution Eye Of The Enemy. Unfazed one bit and with a loyal front-row section of headbangers, the local troupe passionately ripped through their firebrand mix of death, thrash and groove. The last time this writer had seen them was 2009 supporting Amon Amarth, and the growth in musicianship, showmanship and presence definitely showed. Heads slung low in headbanging motion, the slick rhythmic force of the band met the mic-stand-swinging, guttural and stage-stomping frontman, the band kicking and twirling around one another in a controlled display of speedy melodic death fervour. Proclaiming to us that, “You guys don’t know what the fuck you’re in for tonight,” the ever-thankful vocalist gave plenty of thanks to early punters and the scene in between blasts and breakdowns, and an eagerly warmed up crowd responded in kind, sending them out with whooping cheers of recognition.

Speaking of blasts and breakdowns – having finally graced our shores again for the first time in six years, Canadian death metal juggernaut Kataklysm were as much about their branded ‘Northern Hyperblast’ as they were a sense of melody, groove and whipping the crowd into a froth. The excitable everyman-metalhead frontman Maurizio Icano, doing all number of chirps, burps and Star Wars impressions during soundcheck, was all solidarity and metal reverence once the band kicked into gear. With multiple speeches about metal shows being ‘our escape from the world outside’ (such as during slamming new track Outsiders), metal as religion and preaching for unity, the fist-pumping, horns-throwing growler had the audience fully engaged, moshing and throwing themselves in the air.

The incomparably furious attack of Oli Beaudoin was a sight to behold; climactic moments of impossibly fast snare action supplemented by a relentless barrage of typewriter-clacking double kicks which kept a ripping tempo even during slow-burners (comparatively, anyway) such as the classic As I Slither. Bathed in laser-like dancing lights, the gesticulating band members whirled and swayed under the neck-breaking drums, bassist Stephane Barb and Jean-François Dagenais meandering effortlessly between crushing, crowd-lifting breakdowns and focused tremolo speed attacks, weaving in and out of Icano’s effortless growl/shriek combo as though at least two more members were onstage. Kicking out a career-spanning mix from Ten Seconds From The End, Resurrected and The Road to Devastation, the rocking outro to thunderous applause of a much thicker crowd gave a fitting farewell to a devastating set.

Barely time to recover the old neck and feet, however. After a brief intermission, the stage went awash with blue light, a warbling sci-fi influenced synth befitting the general theme of our extradimensional headliner overlords Hypocrisy. Walking out with horns aloft, the band wasted no time bringing The Riff with Fractured Millenium, vocalist/guitarist extraordinaire Peter Tagtren giving pause from his endless windmilling to snarl and shriek in his octave-spanning trademark register. Warbling the leads between crushing breakdowns, we were given nary a pause for reflection before being kicked in the jaw with Valley Of The Damned, a showcase of the frontmans’ darker growls atop Horgh’s consistent drum-battery, the clever rhythmic and harmonic bridging of bassist Mikael Hedlund, and the shred-and-lead-drenched fretwork of fellow guitarist Tomas Elofsson.

“Thank you for coming and having a good time,” the eagerly excited, neck-swivelling frontman cheered, asking us repeatedly how we’re doing, are okay, and generally seeming like a gentle parental figure as much as a menacing death metal fixture. “It only took us 28 years to get here,” he remarked at one stage, “So let’s see some shit!” And see that we did, with an endless parade of fist-pumping, swirling moshes, chants and roars of applause from an audience teased for too long with the prospect of tonight. Balancing melodic later fare such as Eraser and the blistering Warpath with old-school frenetic treats of Pleasure of Molestation/Osculum Obscenum/Penetralia, Killing Art and Buried, there seemed no end in sight to the monstrous wall of thrash-tempo quickened riffs, grooving breakdowns and soaring leads and solos. Giving only just enough pause with the more sombre The Final Chapter, the band closed out with an enormous rendition of Roswell 47 that sent everyone into one last frenzied maelstrom, closing out the night with one last chance at chaos. Staying back post-encore to give extra thanks and cheers, the mutual cherishment of this rare opportunity was one the band promised would not be our last. Thank the aliens above for that!