Heavy metal juggernauts Trivium are currently out on the road for their North American “Deadmen and Dragons” tour. They’re hitting 29 cities across Canada and the United States in a 40-day run, including last week’s Toronto date at Rebel on October 25th. This is the band’s first headlining tour since the release of not one, but two recent albums: 2020’s “What the Dead Men Say”, and 2021’s “In the Court of the Dragon”. Although Trivium did support Megadeth on tour earlier this year, for many Trivium fans, this will be their first opportunity to hear the new material performed live. With the tour package rounded out by supporting acts Between the Buried and Me, Whitechapel, and Khemmis, this was sure to be an incredible night of top-tier heavy music.
Kicking off the evening’s musical festivities was Khemmis, a doom metal band from Denver, Colorado. This was their second time visiting Toronto this year, as they had been the opening act for the Opeth and Mastodon co-headlining tour earlier in 2022. Their set was short and sweet – they only played five songs, with a decent mix of both new and old. The music featured lots of slow, heavy, doom metal grooves that were fun and easy to headbang to. Not everything was on the slow side though – before playing one of their newer songs, “Sigil”, guitarist/vocalist Phil Pendergast asked that the crowd open up a circle pit to the faster sections, and once the music kicked in, they happily obliged. Khemmis’ set featured plenty of impressive guitar work to go around, with some shredding guitar solos by both Pendergast and Ben Hutcherson, as well as several soaring harmonized passages reminiscent of Metallica or Iron Maiden. They closed their set with the fan-favorite track “A Conversation With Death”, from their 2020 mini LP “Doomed Heavy Metal”. The Cappella vocal intro to this last song sounded great and was one of the set’s most captivating moments. Although they only played for about a half hour, Khemmis surely won over a lot of new fans with this performance.
After a short break, Whitechapel was the second band of the night to play. Being primarily a deathcore act, they’re the band that would probably be considered the “heaviest” of the night, despite each being heavy in their own right. However, Whitechapel’s more recent work has seen them expand their sound, incorporating influences from other genres, as well as increasing the use of clean vocals and acoustic guitars. They opened their set with “I Will Find You”, from their 2021 release “Kin”. It starts with an acoustic guitar for about the first 30 seconds, before the heaviness comes in and hits like a ton of bricks. Vocalist Phil Bozeman’s harsh screams are powerful and commanding, and drummer Brandon Zackey gets to show off some impressive double-kick chops. In total, five of the seven songs Whitechapel played that evening were from “Kin”. These included “Anticure”, which features some great dynamic shifts by the band, as well as some creative drum grooves, and “Orphan”, which showcases Bozeman’s clean singing abilities, as well as overall restraint from a technically capable rhythm section. Towards the end of the set, they played an older song called “This is Exile”, from their 2008 album of the same name, and proved they were still more than capable of getting extremely heavy. Whitechapel’s dynamic range, songwriting, and sheer technical abilities help them to stand head and shoulders above most others in the genre. Additionally, their set was accentuated by their minimalistic but highly effective light show. They had about six lights on the stage behind them that did most of the work, and they opted to only use one main color per song. This really helped to set the tone of the performance, while not taking away from the impressive musicality happening on the stage.
In direct support, the slot was Between the Buried and Me, the legendary progressive metal band from Raleigh, North Carolina. BTBAM’s current lineup has been intact since 2005 – guitarist Dustie Waring, bassist Dan Briggs, and drummer Blake Richardson all joined as the band was working on their album “Alaska”, and they haven’t looked back since. They opened with “Sun of Nothing”, from their 2007 album “Colors”. As soon as Richardson launched into that opening drum fill, the crowd went wild, and the energy level remained high for the duration of their set. In true prog metal fashion, BTBAM’s nearly 50-minute set time consisted of only five songs – for those keeping score at home, that’s an average runtime of about 9 and a half minutes each. This set of prog opuses included three songs from 2021’s “Colors II” – “Revolution in Limbo”, “Never Seen/Future Shock”, and “The Future is Behind Us” – and was rounded out by “Extremophile Elite” from “The Parallax II: Future Sequence” album. These songs have dozens of rhythmic and stylistic twists and turns, which the band members seemingly navigated with ease. Guitarist Waring and bassist Briggs are relatively stationary on stage, with the latter being confined by a synth rig, but vocalist Tommy Rogers and guitarist Paul Waggoner picked up the slack by running around the stage during moments of higher intensity. Rogers’s impressive vocal chops were on full display, sounding equally good whether he was singing or screaming, and Richardson’s drumming was impeccable throughout. One of the highlights was when he stood up to use the four electronic drum pads that were set up over his head as part of his extensive drum set, for a Phil Collins-esque 80s drum fill moment in “Never Seen/Future Shock”. These guys continue to raise the bar for progressive metal music.
Last but certainly not least, Trivium demonstrated to everyone why they were the headlining act on a bill stacked top to bottom with incredible bands. Trivium has been releasing music for nearly two decades now, with their most recent album “In the Court of the Dragon” being the tenth of their career. They did a great job compiling a setlist that spanned the majority of their catalog, with at least one song played from seven different albums. They opened their set with “IX”, a short instrumental track from “What the Dead Men Say”, and transitioned right into the title track from that same album, followed by “Into the Mouth of Hell We March”, from 2008’s “Shogun”. When introducing some of the next songs, vocalist/guitarist Matt Heafy would ask the fans to sing along to the choruses, which were often simple enough to pick up even if one was unfamiliar with the song. It was thrilling to hear so many voices help the band out with tracks like “Amongst the Shadows & the Stones”, “Like Light to the Flies”, and “Chaos Reigns”. Each member of Trivium is a powerhouse on their respective instrument. Heafy and Corey Beaulieu have plenty of chances to shine, both as rhythm guitarists and as lead guitarists, often trading solos within the same song. Bassist Paolo Gregoletto is solid as a rock holding down the low end, with his bass lines often mirroring the busy rhythm guitar parts, and drummer Alex Bent is an absolute beast, with songs like “The Sin and the Sentence” putting him and his double kick abilities in the spotlight.
A notable moment happened during the band’s performance of the song “In the Court of the Dragon”. Heafy stopped the song midway through in order to break up a fight that he saw taking place in the pit. Once he talked the agitators down and reminded the crowd to take care of one another, Heafy sang the guitar riff from the part of the song they stopped at, and the band picked things back up from there. In light of some recent tragic incidents that have happened at concerts and music festivals, it’s nice to see an artist that actively cares about the well-being of their fans. Heafy addressed the audience several times throughout the set, and seemed genuinely grateful that so many people had come out, were singing along, and generally having a great time. He made some comments that were borderline pandering, about how Toronto had to step it up to top Calgary as the best Canadian stop of the tour, but the crowd ate it up and roared with approval.
On top of the incredible musical performance, Trivium’s set was further elevated by how much the band members appeared to be enjoying themselves on stage. Guitarist Beaulieu headbanged ferociously throughout the entire set, while bassist Gregoletto was all over the stage, often helping to hype up the crowd. Heafy in particular seemed to be having a blast, and he was also all over the place with a big smile on his face for the majority of the night. He was able to sing from either side of the stage as well, on top of the classic lead singer position front and center, as there were multiple vocal mics set up across the width of the stage.
Trivium closed their set with “A Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation” from the 2005 fan favorite album “Ascendency”, which features a fun dual guitar solo section for Heafy and Beaulieu. The band left the stage briefly, only to come back and encore with the title track from their 2011 album “In Waves”. This is another song with a simple chorus that fans are able to sing along to, and the energy in the air was electric as the show came to an end. From top to bottom, this was an incredible night of heavy music. All the bands sounded fantastic, were truly professional performers, and they all brought something a little different to the table. Whether you prefer Trivium’s metalcore, Between the Buried and Me’s progressive metal, Whitechapel’s deathcore, or Khemmis’ doom metal, there’s a little something for everyone. If you’re a fan of heavy music, make sure you don’t miss this tour in a city near you.