DAY OF THE EQUINOX II
SACRIFICE / MELECHESH / MISERY INDEX / NEURAXIS / RAMMER
09/23/06, The Opera House, Toronto, Canada
Review and pics by by Blake 'Metal' Wolfe
Now this is something that doesn't happen everyday.
Just when I thought that live metal shows were becoming too routine and boring for my liking, a legend from the past rose out of its grave to kick me square in the ass and renew my hope for extreme music.
I'm talking about the legendary Sacrifice, the Canadian thrashers who recently reunited for Toronto's second annual Day of the Equinox (DOTE) festival, headlining a diverse bill which served as a focal point for metalheads of all shapes, sizes and hair lengths to meet, mingle, drink ridiculously, and spend some cash at the various merch tables lining the lobby of the Opera House.
Although it's no Wacken (yet? maybe one day), DOTE has so far proved to be a successful outing, often featuring several bands on one stage that don't normally tour as much as they should - last year's line-up featured Deceased and Agalloch among others. If it keeps getting the support that it has so far, it can only get better, and maybe even bigger.
For it's 2006 incarnation, the 'fest featured, in addition to Sacrifice, Israeli black / death / whatever metalheads Melechesh; political grinders Misery Index; French-Canadian melodic tech death metal act Neuraxis; and local thrash fiends Rammer, who've been making a name for themselves in the area over the last few years.
The line-up originally featured Chicago old-schoolers Usurper, who were replaced a month ago with Misery Index and Neuraxis (both bands are touring together in Ontario as of this writing). Although it would've been fun to see Usurper again, it wouldn't surprise me if they rear their collectively ugly head in Toronto in the near future.
Without further hyperbole, here's a band-by-band breakdown of the evening:
Got to the venue as early as possible (Toronto is not an easy town to cross on a Saturday night!), with plenty of time to get settled in with an overpriced ($6!) Coors Light. In hindsight, I would've been happier with water, but I stand by my decision. Rammer took the stage shortly after, playing to a small, (and compared to later in the evening) somewhat subdued crowd of mostly-local thrashers. However, that's not to say that the band sucks ass - their classic-yet-updated take on pissed-off, raspy-voiced, veering-on-black-metal thrash went over well with the hometown crowd, and the new material caught my ears this time around (I left early at their 'Cancer' CD release party in February) as something worth checking out for fans of the old and new schools of metal alike. "We're fucking Rammer and we're just getting started!" vocalist Dave Kristiansen was heard remarking at the end of their set, foreshadowing the onslaught still yet to come.
The Quebec tech death metal crew known as Neuraxis were up next, ready for their latest attack on a Toronto audience hungry for death metal. It seems you can't go a week lately in this town without some fairly well-known death metal act coming through one of the city's metal venues (which seems to be mostly the Opera House these days...). Anyway, Neuraxis unleashed a melodic metal assault typical of their Quebecois metal heritage - a heavier take on late-period Obliveon, leaning towards Swedish death melodies at times (though not as fruity). As expected, the crowd lapped it up, and the band returned the favour with an enthusiastic performance which refused to let up until the end of their set. Drawing from their four-album catalogue, the tunes from 2005's Trilateral Progression sounding the best, in this reviewer's humble opinion. Neuraxis certainly did not disappoint either myself or the congregation of death metallers gathered down front for these guys.
Ah, Misery Index - a band that I feel get a lot of flack from the metal scene. While the die-hard metalheads would dispute Misery Index's 'metalness' and write them off as 'just some grind band with the guys from Dying Fetus', their heaviness can't be denied, with the band treading the same territory as Napalm Death and Nasum - punk in attitude and style maybe, but taking that crustiness to a new level of amps-to-11 intensity without being labeled metalcore. That said, I have to admit that I found myself eager for their set to end, despite my (casual) enjoyment of their music. Why? It might have something to do with the Opera House's acoustics. Although a visually-pleasing venue (an old theatre, complete with chandelier and balcony, hence the name), the sound is never as good as other clubs in the city, sounding especially muddy for Misery Index's bass-heavy style. With each song beginning to sound alike and the vocals not even registering at times, it became trying even for those who actually cared the band was on stage, as it did on this night. My other beef with the band is just the sheer number of times I've either witnessed them live or heard of a tour coming to town with them on the bill. I have to give credit where credit is due, and it's awesome that these guys have the drive to go out on the road so much, but when I see a flyer for Misery Index playing somewhere in southern Ontario every few months (or so it seems), I begin to lose interest. Not a horrible band, just a tad overexposed, and an energetic set was delivered by Misery Index that night, regardless of the above criticisms.
Finally, one of the moments of DOTE II that I was really anticipating came. Although Melechesh had played Toronto a few years back as part of the Northern Lights 2004 line-up (a black/death metal festival co-organized by the Unrestrained! Magazine staff, also responsible for DOTE), I had not been to that show and was eager to hear something much different from what the city's metal scene normally has to offer. These Israeli fiends came out of the shadows and played an awesome set of evil Sumerian, Morbid Angel-meets-Enslaved material. Frontman Melechesh Ashmedi took the award for Best Evil Grimace of the night, complete with the accompanying hand gestures, as if summoning some cosmic monstrosity out of the heart of the Necronomicon itself. However unintentionally funny that may have been, it didn't diminish the distinctly Middle Eastern flavour of evil these guys excelled at creating (if only George Bush knew....), and made Melechesh one of the high points of the evening, winning myself and probably many other neophytes over that night. As awesome as they may have been though, it couldn't compare to what came next.
Holy shit, was anticipation high for this... you could've cut a big slice of anxiety from the air in the room and made a tasty snack to pass the sound check. Bassist Scott Watts teased the crowd by running across the stage filming the audience with a video camera, probably fueling dreams of a future DVD in the heads of many in attendance. Local promoter Noel, of Inertia Entertainment (responsible for bringing most well-known metal acts to the city), then took the stage to regale the crowd with a story about "his first time seeing Sacrifice, opening for Slayer in 1986"- he sounded like a metalhead grandfather, but whatever. I wonder if he had to walk uphill both ways in a blizzard to see that show? By the time Sacrifice took the stage, the moshing hordes were already geared up for what promised to be a show for the ages. The band didn't fail to deliver on that - 17 songs, with equal attention paid to the classic first three albums (leaving Apocalypse Inside untouched - although it would stand to reason that since it wasn't recorded with the original line-up, it wouldn't be played, which suited everyone just fine), and a chaotic show that you wouldn't think would come from a band who hasn't played together in 16 years. Bodies and beers flew with equal abandon, and several injuries were visited upon the moshers. The unconscious and intoxicated patrons lining the bar area only added to the atmosphere of total fucking chaos and all-out thrashing war. The band was in fine form that night - hitting every note and rhythm perfectly, with Rob Urbinati's undead screams and wails sounding just as eerie as they did way back when. It's hard to pick just one song that stood head and shoulders above the rest, but it was probably the thrash classic Re-Animation that got the best response, closing the evening as part of a 2-song encore (also including Soldiers of Misfortune). Mr. Urbinati gave the crowd something to think about by introducing the final song with this quote (or something similar) - "People are wondering if this reunion is permanent. We don't know if this is only for one night, or if this truly is a RE-ANIMATION!" Let's hope so!
Definitely a night that will be remembered by all in attendance...
Forward to Termination
Turn In Your Grave
Flames Of Armageddon
Burned At The Stake
Lost Through Time
A Storm In The Silence
As The World Burns
Soldiers Of Misfortune