[Teutonic thrash titans Destruction thundered into Toronto on their 30th Anniversary tour last Saturday. What better reason to wrest fearless RM metal correspondents Aaron Von Lupton and The Gore-met from their stomping ground in the northern hinterlands of Toronto’s subway system to the very western fringe than a legendary metal act and (hopefully) cold beer? Besides, they had yet to hoist flagons and bang heads together this year...]
DESTRUCTION – 30th Anniversary Tour
with Vital Remains, Warbringer, NitemarE, FaF, My Hollow
The Rockpile – Toronto
May 19, 2012
GM: Metal shows are usually in the downtown core, so the thought of trekking way out to the suburb of Etobicoke wasn’t very appealing to me until I realized I was being the sort of lazy and spoiled Torontonian I generally despise. Given the small but rabid crowd who came out, there are lots. I dug the club – it’s in a strip of strip malls and industrial parks so there isn’t the noise curfew you get downtown, it has a spacious patio, and they sell 32 oz. mini-pitchers for $9.50, which means less trips to the bar. Even better, it’s an intimate venue well-laid out that has a great sound system.
AVL: 32 oz. mini-pitchers might mean “less trips to the bar” to the Gore-met, but what they mean for me is “much drunker trips to the bar” as you will soon find out from reading this review. Drinking a pitcher in the same space that you would drink a tall can is a problem when you are literally 1/3 the size of the other guy.
GM: If you’ve read our past adventures here, you know I don’t like to miss opening bands. They’re the ones that have the most to prove and consequently work the hardest. I respect that and have seen some cool bands as a result. Due to individual familial obligations, we couldn’t be there right when the place opened. Aaron e-mailed and said he wanted to skip NitemarE because they sucked and to meet there at 8 p.m. before Warbringer’s set. Just above his e-mail was a Facebook notification with revised set times that had NitemarE on at 8:15 instead of 7:30. After checking out some samples on NitemarE’s website and wondering what Aaron was talking about, I giggled and replied “Sounds good!”
AVL: For a guy who’s pushing 50, the Gore-met does a pretty good job of impersonating a seventeen-year-old girl (i.e. wants to show up at the venue by 7 p.m.) Whatever. Even though Toronto’s never-reliable subway service was once again unreliable, I still made it in time to catch the last half of NitemarE’s set.
GM: NitemarE played their asses off. Their thrash has speed and New Wave of British Heavy Metal influences. I laughed my ass off when guitarist Animal’s iPhone went off onstage and the crowd shouted at him to take the call! But I liked their set and when I told Animal so afterwards, he gave me a copy of their self-released album, Toronto Undead, which I need to review in a future post.
AVL: Okay, so when I said NitemarE sucked, I was probably listening to the wrong NitemarE. Chances are, there is more than one band around with that name, hence the capital E. The one I was hearing online sounded like really bad, DIY goth metal. The one we saw sounded like really solid heavy thrash, with slight touches of metalcore, not that the Gore-met would ever admit that, since it would mean he just liked a metalcore band. Again, whatever. For being the fourth band from the headliner, these guys were good.
GM: Metalcore is known to cause testicle shrinkage at low levels of exposure. It’s a fact.
AVL: I was intrigued about the next band: Warbringer. They’re one of those names that are seemingly on every bill but that I’ve never actually had the chance to see or hear. As it turns out, they were almost the highlight of the entire show. Young dudes from California, Warbringer fits somewhere in the ever-growing horde of neo-thrash outfits such as Havok and Municipal Waste, though far heavier and death-influenced than either of those acts. Vocalist John Kevill (pictured left) makes an excellent frontman, encouraging circle pits to reckless numbers such as “Wake Up… Destroy” and “Combat Shock.” After their set, Kevill and other bands members joined us outside on the patio for more beer and to shoot the shit about metal scenes around the world, our favourite bands, and what it’s like to live on the road. Being the vinyl-obsessed nerd that I am, I picked up the band’s last two records – Waking Into Nightmares (on clear vinyl) and Worlds Torn Asunder (on clear vinyl with green and yellow splatter) – and of course got ‘em both signed.
GM: Even though I worked my way into black and death metal by listening to Metallica, Megadeth, Testament, Slayer and the like, I’m not particularly a thrash purist. That said, I’m not sold on the thrash revival of the last few years either. But since I both genuinely love this form of metal and appreciate how stylistically limited it is, I won’t deny a band that pulls off a first-rate job of it. Just like Havok did last November when we saw them before Exhumed, Warbringer brought the party! They played an energetic and enthusiastic set that couldn’t help but make me grin. I bought the same CDs from their merch table as a result. When we were on the patio gabbing about thrash with guitarist Andrew Bennett, I casually dropped Toronto thrash legends Sacrifice into the conversation. He immediately started praising their awesome 1991 release Soldiers of Misfortune. I was thrashing to that while this 21-year-old punk was busy being squeezed out, so it was a poser test from a rivethead old enough to be his dad that he easily passed. We also finally saw Vital Remains! We caught two-thirds of the band at Summer Slaughter in 2010 and they dropped off the bill completely for the Hate Eternal show last August because some of the members had issues getting into Canada, so I wasn’t optimistic we’d see them this time. Forever Underground and Dechristianize regularly pollute the atmosphere at Casa del Gore-met so I’ve obviously wanted to see them.
AVL: Just before Vital Remains hit the stage, we were treated to Jäger shots by Mortuary regular and all around great guy, Pat Lighthelp. Not necessarily a good idea, but Vital Remains’ sound erupted in a sea of death metal cacophony that tore right through our self-inflicted alcoholic haze. Like ol’ GM says, we were blown away by the simple fact that the band made it across the border, everything after that was icing. To be honest, it was a weird transition, going from hardcore-influnced thrash to the epically long death metal of Vital Remains – not that it bothered the crowd any, who moshed around in hell-spawned fury to a short set of tracks off 2007’s Icons of Evil and the aforementioned Dechristianize.
GM: You had to admire the dedication and subsequent middle-finger salute they gave to Canada Border Services Agency before they ripped into “Saviour to None… Failure for All”! After the show, I spoke with Vital Remains guitarist Tony Lazaro, and he said that they hope to come back and headline a show sometime this summer after the current lineup learn some of the older material. I want to hear some tracks from Dawn of the Apocalypse, and particularly Forever Underground. “Forever true, forever black…”
AVL: After Vital Remains we grabbed more refreshments, including another round of Jägermeisters, before the main event. Neither of us had seen the German thrash legends before, though the co-rulers of the Teutonic thrash metal scene Kreator have appeared in these parts regularly. After existing for nearly three decades, it must have been odd to play in such a small venue to such a small crowd, though likely it was not their first time. Despite their vintage, Destruction played with as much spunk as their younger compatriots in Warbringer, and commanded a much livelier and violent pit. Yours truly even got involved in the action, though I quickly learned that circle-pitting is difficult on a floor layered in beer. I ended up in various forms of a human pretzel on more than one occasion. Since this was their 30th anniversary tour, the band stuck mostly to classics from their mid-’80s albums Sentence of Death, Infernal Overkill and Eternal Devastation. This is a good thing.
GM: Destruction is one of those bands that I probably haven’t devoted enough attention to, given their stature within the thrash genre and their influence on early black metal. Out of the eighteen(!) records they’ve released over their career, I only have the reissue split with their first EP, Sentence of Death (1984), and full-length, Infernal Overkill (1985), as well as their 2000 comeback album, All Hell Breaks Loose. Thankfully, half of their show was comprised of selections from those records! But what is it with truly legendary and influential metal bands playing here on major holiday weekends? This was the Saturday night of the Victoria Day long weekend, the unofficial start of summer. Attendance was even worse than at the Grave show last Labour Day long weekend! Nevertheless, Destruction played like it was Wacken. Vocalist/bassist Schmier (left) is a great frontman who gave equal time to the three mics on stage, while guitarist Mike Sifringer roamed around behind him. They were heavy, tight, and I loved that they left the stage for Vaaver ‘s old-school drum solo.
AVL: After the set, we got mug shots with Schmier in what will go down as the fugliest Rue Morgue photo of the year (below, from L to R, Schmier, Von Lupton and Gore-met) and then stumbled into the darkness of the Etobicoke night, where we miraculously made the last train back to our homes above the Toronto treeline.
GM: Fugly?! Metal isn’t pretty. We’re going to be hard-pressed to be in a photo as purely metal as that ever again! This is what I genuinely love about going to these metal shows – that bands come out after they play and mingle with their fans, be it at their merch table or the bar. How many artists in other musical genres are as accessible or as appreciative of their fans? Metal is a brotherhood. There is little distance between bands and fans. We keep seeing some of the same faces in the crowds at these shows for good reason. And with tickets only $27.50 for nearly seven hours of metal, the value is unbeatable.
AVL: We weren’t going to escape this night that easily. I woke up under a blanket of Doritos on my couch, with a sprained left wrist and bruised ribs as evidence of my ill-fated moshing. The Gore-met awoke face down in a bowl of cold KD. Hey, no one said the life of a fake metal journalist was going to be easy.
GM: There is nothing fake about me, and I was sitting up.