Five-thirty on a Sunday afternoon isn’t usually associated with technical death metal – unless, of course, you are standing in line awaiting a killer lineup put together by the German innovators of Obscura. Indeed, these guys not only brought their final instalment of a decade-long, 4 album journey of life and death to North America, but also found four other crushing bands to join them, including Canadians Beyond Creation and Archspire.
First off, let it be known that there is a drawback to having five bands in one night with a venue cut off time of eleven: due to a combination of work and an interview with Obscura’s Steffen Kummerer, I was unable to catch most of the first two sets. However, what I did see was chaos in the best way. The only outfit with live keyboards, Exist were the most progressive act of the night, while Nashville natives Inferi brought an intensity and heaviness that was hard to follow.
That is, until Archspire hit the stage. This is a band that leaves a lasting impression upon an audience, whether the focus is on the sheer speed of the entire band or the comical banter of vocalist Oliver Rae Aleron, whose performance was so fast yet so articulate, seemingly without drawing breath. As Inferi’s Steve Boiser so eloquently put it, Archspire “are the fastest motherf*ckers in the business”. They performed a good portion of their 2017 release, ‘Relentless Mutation’, including “Calamus Will Animate”, “Remote Tumour Seeker”, and “Involuntary Doppelgänger”, all of which won me over as a fan. The combination of tapping bass and an almost nu metal groove on top of blasting tech death makes Archspire a force to be reckoned with on and off of the stage. If you are a fan of their recordings, you have no idea what you’re missing live.
Over the last few years, one of Montreal’s biggest exports has been Beyond Creation. They had already toured Europe opening for Obscura, and fit extremely well on this bill as well. A shorter setlist, but a pulverizing and clean performance, Beyond Creation provided a good balance of new and old material. Fans heard the title track from 2014’s ‘Earthborn Evolution’, as well as “Omnipresent Perception” from their debut, ‘The Aura’. Both vocals and guitars from founding members Simon Girard and Kevin Chartré astounded the crowd with precision, and although I will personally always miss former fretless magician Dominic Lapointe, Hugo Doyon-Karout is a force behind the bass. The band also played two singles from their upcoming album, “Algorythm” and “The Inversion”, which sounds like a very promising October release.
Finally, Obscura greeted the sweat-drenched Velvet Underground in clouds of smoke. Completing their series of conceptual releases with ‘Diluvium’, I wasn’t worried about not hearing my favourite older tracks live; Obscura delivered a healthy array of perfection, starting with material off of the two recent albums, ‘Akróasis’ and ‘Diluvium’, and ending with a wondrous encore of “Incarnated”. Also from ‘Cosmogenesis’ was “The Anticosmic Overload”, which, when announced, sent fans into a frenzy of excitement. Speaking of fan frenzies, stage diving is a staple of live metal shows, but when bands like Beyond Creation and Obscura encourage such behaviour, you end up with three guys high-fiving each other in the air at all times. The fact that everyone was enjoying themselves immensely is fantastic, but after ten minutes of avoiding a foot to the face, it becomes difficult to pay attention to the band that you waited seven years to see. However, this tour is so jammed with talent and groundbreaking heavy music that it remains a memorable experience, regardless of flying bodies.
The Velvet Underground saw a dynamic and classy set from Obscura, full of technical prowess and forever impressive fretless bass. All five bands brought their own level of force and fire to Toronto, both impressing fans and establishing new ones. From blasting snares and crisp splashes, to sweeping guitars and rapid fingers, to crushing growls and an energy unmatched by other subgenres of metal… this is a tour that is not to be missed.