PRE-NOTE: Due to circumstances beyond my control (Montreal public transit) I missed Interloper and a chunk of The Last Ten Seconds Of Life.
On December 13th 2018, I entered L’Astral only to see a violent moshpit about to subside at the end of a song. It was The Last Ten Seconds Of Life who was playing, and the vocalist John Robert C., pointing to his cannabis leaf logo on his shirt with the word “KUSH,” proclaimed to meet them in the back if anyone had any (this is a key element later on). Guitarist Wyatt Mclaughlin was using a Peavy setup which meant a booming, heavy, gritty tone, perfect for deathcore. Bassist Mike Menocker was as heavy as a ton of bricks with the 808 bass drop effect happening throughout their set. Drummer David Boughter was topless, tattooed and skinny, but looks can be deceiving, this man was a powerhouse, hitting the drums at high velocities. The part of their set that I witness had old school Slipknot-esque interludes using robotic, industrial effects during their breakdowns. Every song was a moshpit frenzy and when the vocalist commanded the pit, the pit obeyed. On the last song, John made the crowd growl “TURN THIS WORLD UPSIDE DOWN” with him before heading into an ultra guttural slam-fest with stomp moshing. John’s vocals were beast-like, I loved it! If the fans had hammers, they’d have been able to renovate a house in thirty minutes. I’m looking forward to seeing them again!
I went outside for a quick smoke and coming back in, Vale of Pnath was already starting with an ominous introduction featuring classical piano in the background. The venue went dark and the vocalist Reece Deeter, guitarists Vance Valenzuela and Harrison Patuto, and bassist Andy Torres all had their back turned to the audience, facing their drummer, Michael Blume. I know it has become a trope at this point, but I love it when bands do that! They all turned around with horns in the air, and what followed confused and excited me at the same time: they started playing straightforward black metal, with high-pitched shrieks, insane blast beats, and tremolo-picked minor chords that were on the sinister side of melody. Then, out of nowhere, a complete paradigm shift happened and it hit melodic tech-death territory. My mind was trying to process what just happened: legitimate evil black metal…turning into melodic tech-death. I found their older material a bit cookie cutter, but every time Reece mentioned it was a song off the new album, I went into pure bliss every time. Their new sound is a symbiotic combination of black metal, melodic tech-death metal, and progressive metal done in mature well thought out manner. The amps were also Peavy, with a crisp, yet heavy sound. The lead guitarist did a majestic solo at one point that gave me goosebumps. The bassist had my favourite of bass tones, which is clanky. Reece never mentioned any song titles other than the last, “Klendathu”, which featured mid-ranged growls to high-pitched shrieks. The drummer was also very interesting. I noticed he was using a french grip, which is pretty rare to find in extreme metal drummers; the only other one I know of who goes complete french is Inferno. He nailed every blast beat with that french grip; it was just amazing to watch if you knew the various techniques drummers tend to use. I became an instant fan and bought a shirt from Reece later on.
After another quick smoke, it was Rings Of Saturn’s turn to dominate the stage. Before I get into their set, I have to talk specifics, because everyone was confused.
Lucas Mann (the leader/composer/guitarist) was not present, and Joel Omens was on guitar from the Lugal Ki En era, but I saw Miles Baker (now ex-guitarist of RoS and guitarist of Interloper). So the line up was live drummer Mike Caputo (with his signature red fan to cool him off), vocalist Ian Bearer, and Joel Omens on guitars. They basically played all the singles from their albums, such as”Inadequate” (intro) “Senseless Massacre” and “Seized and Devoured”, where the vocalist from The Last Ten Seconds Of Life came to duet for “KNEEL BEFORE, MY MINIONS” with everyone going batshit crazy. I will not talk about each member’s performance because I know how RoS works, I’ve done research before out of my own curiosity. Everything is digital, even the drumkit is triggered to oblivion. There are no amps but a laptop sitting on an amp simulator, and they all have in-ear monitors. There are no effects pedals in front of them. I call their approach “the hive mind,” because the laptop is doing everything from the tone to the effect switching. They set up their setlist to the laptop and all the multitude of effects are played as they are playing, which means that you have to be ultra tight or the wrong effect will end up on the wrong riff and a will sound like garbage. They didn’t miss one damn note. Ian Bearer was wearing a Dragon Ball Z shirt and he sure as hell unleashed his inner Goku. The man was a Saiyan on stage, I tell you. Out of the whole line-up, they created the biggest pit, hands down. Amazing! Sidenote: In the middle of their set, Santa came on stage and announced the raffle ticket winners to various Evenko shows before hailing a goodbye “Fuck You!” at the crowd.
After my final cigarette and with exhausted eardrums, I went in to see that The Faceless was also all digital. The line up was frontman, guitarist, and clean vocalist Michael Keene with his live musicians: vocalist Julian Kersey, bassist Jacob Umansky, drummer Aaron Stechauner, and guitarist Andrew Virruetta. They were to play Planetary Duality in its entirety, and they did. What can I say other than it sounds better than the album and I’d rather see that album performed live every time than listen to it on headphones? I mean that in a good way, because you know you are beyond pro level when you sound better live than your album that went through polishing. Metaphorically, everyone was as tight as a clam’s ass during high tide. Keene’s clean vocals were on point; he definitely practices to keep his timbre on point.
At the end of the night I ended up backstage with a mix of members from every group. I found out why Lucas wasn’t there. He has been traveling to Japan back and forth a lot and is having Visa issues getting into Canada (timing). I was told by David (drummer for TLTSOL) that it was his first tour in Canada and how the people here were so different and nice. We hope to cross paths again next tour!
What a way to start the holidays!
Written By Peter Lountzis
Photography by Mihaela Petrescu
*edited by Kate Erickson