WORDS/ PHOTOGRAPHY BY: RAVEN BENWAIT
Blood, sweat, tears, mosh-pits, metal, more blood and more violence is what we saw in Toronto’s very own Phoenix Concert Theatre. On February 24, Cannibal Corpse, Behemoth, Aeon and Tribulation entered the Sherbourne stage on their 2015 Winter Tour.
Despite the -30 degrees Celsius temperature, hardcore fans were lined up outside the venue before doors even opened, some in their t-shirts! Once you entered, there were already thousands crowding inside the venue, drinking some great Canadian beer. The energy and enthusiasm running through the room was like none other. Everyone was definitely prepared for a deadly night to remember.
First up on the bill arrived Swedish Death Metal band Tribulation. Hailing from Arvica, the four-piece band played most of their songs from recent 2009 and 2013 albums, The Formulas of Death and The Horror. Listening to them, I noticed that most of their tunes were lyrically focused on horror, giving off a creepy vibe (for a show like this, that’s a good thing). The songs that stood out most to me were “When the Sky is Black with Devil’s” and “Beyond the Horror.” Rather than a cluster of riffs and insane blast beats, Tribulation paid more attention to the atmospheric build up of their music. When you listen to their music, they are more instrumentally focused, putting care into their chords in order to create clean music, which I found made them sound more old-school. Their live performance was not the strongest when it came to interacting with the crowd, but guitarist Jonathan Hultén had the dance moves as he was the most interesting thing on stage, rhythmically moving his body with the guitar.
What I noticed for most of Tribulation’s set was that the crowd wasn’t going too crazy, infact many of them didn’t know the band too well. From Century Media Records, Tribulation is looking to grow their fan-base. They say, “Now is the time for us to stretch our black wings further throughout the world,” and I think that’s what they will slowly accomplish after each city, as they were lucky to be touring with two very well known bands – Behemoth and Cannibal Corpse.
Next to hit the Phoenix Concert Theatre stage was Death Metal band Aeon. They opened with “Satanic Victory” from their 2005 album Bleeding in the False. Vocalist George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher started off with screaming, “Kill, how many do I have to kill to get rid of them? I see them telling lies, in every church they lie.” A good fit for the tour, no? Anyways, they continued on with songs from their 2010 album Path of Fire, as well as Aeons Black from 2012. Another entertaining piece had to be “Forgiveness Denied,” a bloody, brutal song. This song again, is very lyrically focused on the fiery gaze of Hell. I’ve got say, their music overall is hateful, brutal and extremely vicious, instrumentally and especially lyrically – not recommended for kids.
Reading other reviews of Aeon, prior to the show, reviewers say that they are a “generic band” – I disagree. Their lyrics are original and their music is original. Yes, their riffs are repetitive in some of their songs, but their guitar solos are top notch and Emil Wiksten is constantly beating the hell out of his drums with a variety of beats. In addition, they are topped with Tommy Dahlström’s powerful vocals which go well with the band. Listening to them live, it is difficult to follow their music, although the crowd follows the brutality, as there were massive windmills and headbanging, and ofcourse mosh-pits.
Now, at this point the venue was jam packed. I’d say there were about thousands of people, which is the most I have seen in the Phoenix Concert Theatre for a long time! The crowd was filled with metalheads wearing black t-shirts, many of them with inverted crosses and pentagrams, as well as a lot of hand-stitched Cannibal Corpse jackets.
The stage was set up with an artistic looking visceral symbol microphone stand. The lights were dimmed, except for a single, thick strand of light hitting the microphone. Finally, after all the anticipation, it was time for the third band to hit the Phoenix stage. There appeared to be a silhouette behind the microphone… who could that be? Well ofcourse, Behemoth’s very own Adam ‘Nergal’ Darski, with his hands in the air greeting the audience. Behemoth then opened with “Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer,” from their most recent 2014 album The Satanist. What an intro! The crowd was roaring for excitement, probably the most eager they had been all night. Next, Nergal played the three-riff intro of “Conquer All,” which is from one of their older 2004 albums Demigod. It was good to see fans knew the song just after hearing the first three guitar riffs. By song number three “Messe Noire,” the crowd finally began huge mosh-pit and crowd surfing – took long enough! Next was for the old school, die hard Behemoth fans, who knew each word of “Decade of Therion” from their 1999 album Santanica.
I’ve got to say, it was nice to hear a variety of songs, from different albums, even though they had a short 8-song set. “Ov Fire and the Void” from 2009’s Evangelion, “At the Left Hand Ov God” from 2007’s The Apostasy and last but not least, “Slaves Shall Serve” from their 2004 album Demigod. The crowd for these guys was extremely energetic and very impressive. Behemoth put on a crazy live show with creativity and crowd interaction. Many fans were singing along with Nergal and head-banging to the steady drum beat of Zbigniew Prominski. Lucky for fans, Behemoth was not done just yet. To my surprise, they came out with eye-catching dark capes and goat horns, with their faces covered – much unexpected. At this point, they closed with “O Father O Satan O Sun!”
Behemoth has been composing music since 1991. From Poland, these guys have played an enormous role in the Polish Metal underground scene, as well as the Death Metal scene in the entire world. Behemoth has composed a total of 15 albums. They have been classified as Death Metal, Blackened Death Metal, Thrash, Black Metal and so much more, but Nergal has mentioned that the band does not like to be labeled. With their ambition, Behemoth has created an enormous fan base and has sold thousands of records worldwide.
After such a kick-ass set, it was time to shine the light on headliners Cannibal Corpse. From New York, 1998 band Cannibal Corpse is considered to be the Godfather of extreme Death Metal, with their horrific descriptions of different forms of murder, and violence: shredded humans, rotting heads, meat hooks, collections of dead humans and zombies. The list could go on, but I’ll stop it right there. They write the most brutal music I can say my ears have ever heard which are filled with interesting riffs and chord progressions which are great to head-bang to.
Cannibal Corpse opened their 14-song set with “Scourge of Iron,” from their 2012 album Torture. This time the pit was more brutal than Behemoth, as vocalist Corpsegrinder began to windmill his hair fiercely. I remember the last time I saw Cannibal Corpse at Mayhem he asked, “Who could wind-mill better than me?” Not a single hand raised ‘cause this vocalist is a pro at it. I wonder if his neck ever hurts… Anyways, back to the music. Cannibal Corpse followed with “Demented Aggression” and “Evisceration Plague” from 2009. They obviously had to play some of their old school songs and picked “Stripped, Raped And Strangled,” from their 1994 album The Bleeding, which is known to be one of their best sold albums filled with violent, disturbing lyrics… but again, that’s most of their music. They played a song from each Vile, Hammer Smashed Face, Tomb of the Mutilated and Bloodthirst, all albums from the 1990’s.
Corpsegrinder took a small break, sharing his excitement with the crowd and thanking them. He also mentioned The Skeletal Domain, which was released in 2014. From this album, they played “Kill or Become,” “Sadistic Embodiment” and “Icepick Lobotomy.” My personal favourite was “Make them Suffer,” which many fans recognized and sang along to, with the groovy verses. For the closing song, “Devoured by Vermin,” Corpsegrinder asked for a full-crowd mosh-pit, and to my surprise, that’s what he got. I’ve got to admit, Cannibal Corpse fans are my favourite – they’re hardcore!
Overall, this was the biggest Death Metal show I believe has entered a Toronto venue this winter. The real enthusiasm and energy was like none other and it’s safe to say that Toronto fans walked out more satisfied than ever.