CONCERT REVIEW: The KLASH OF THE TITANS Tour Obliterates The Danforth Music Hall in Toronto (June 8th, 2023)

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In the middle of a week when Canada was still fighting the bushfires that substantially damaged the air quality across North America, the Klash of the Titans tour hit the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto. The smoke from the bushfires created a foggy and red landscape throughout the city, with the perfect post-apocalyptic scenery for a show of this kind.

Old school fans might remember another similarly titled tour, the legendary Clash of the Titans, which happened in the early 90’s and consisted of Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax and a rotated spot which was occupied by Suicidal Tendencies, Testament or Alice in Chains, depending on the leg. This year’s Klash of the Titans, although not exactly linked to that one, counted on at least two names that were invited to join the 90’s tour, but for one reason or another, could not make it: Kreator and Death Angel. Another staple of the thrash metal community, Brazilian band Sepultura, was the co-headliner with Kreator, and new-ish band Spiritworld concluded the lineup.

The 22 dates ran from May 12th to June 10th, and seeing how most venues in North America have early curfews, Spiritworld had to start at 6:30 PM. For the Torontonian audience, this meant that most fans would have to arrive halfway through their set, but that didn’t stop the Las Vegans from committing to the show and delivering a captivating performance. Wearing colourful jackets full of glitter and cowboy hats, they entered the stage with the bucolic and calm “Cattle Call”, from country artist Eddy Arnold sounding in the PA system. It was the last time something so soft would be played on the night. Their setlist was perfectly split between their two albums to date, 2020’s “Pagan Rhythms” and 2022’s “Deathwestern”. If you listened to both these albums, you’ll know that the future is bright for them, considering the jump in songwriting quality and ambition between the two. Their blend of country music with thrash metal appealed to the younger crowd that night, especially on songs like “Comancheria”, “Relic of Damnation” and the Slayer-infused “Ulcer”.

Photo by Joel Barrios

Death Angel entered the stage around 07:20, for a short but very intense set. If you have been following our page for a while you know we’re huge Death Angel fans (check out our review of their show in Toronto in 2019 HERE). By that time the venue was at full capacity, and they certainly did not disappoint. With their backdrop showing the cover of their latest studio album, 2019’s “Humanicide”, they held no punches on their performance. Kicking things off with “Thrashers” and the galloping “Voracious Souls”, from their debut album “The Ultra-Violence”, then following up with the title track of 2013’s “The Dream Calls For Blood”, the band had the audience in their hands the whole time. They reached the speed of light on the intro of “The Moth”, and it was refreshing to see Will Carroll pounding the drums like his life depended on it, after battling Covid-19 in the beginning of the pandemic and being on the verge of death. The interaction between guitarists Rob Cavestany and Ted Aguilar is almost telepathic at this point, and Mark Osegueda remains one of the most underrated and iconic frontmen of his era. He addressed the crowd several times mentioning how they played two sets on the same night at the legendary venue El Mocambo in 1987, and another show at the Danforth on the day his mother had a bypass surgery. The set progressed with “Humanicide” and concluded by coming full circle with their staple thrash anthem “The Ultra-Violence”.

Photo by Joel Barrios

Next up was Kreator, who came on stage with the intro “Sergio Corbucci Is Dead”, from their latest album “Hate Über Alles”, followed by the title track of the same album. From the onset, it was clear they were the band with the biggest production of the night – strobe lights, stage props and an inflatable demon in the back, with arms that embraced Jürgen “Ventor” Reil’s drum riser. Staples of their set, “People of the Lie” and “Enemy of God” came next, the former with a great solo from Finnish lead guitarist Sami Yli-Sirniö, and the latter being played at breakneck speed. Mille Petrozza, the bespoke leader of the band, at this point is no longer only a musician, but a metal institution. Throughout their set, he summoned the crowd to do walls of death, circle pits and the good old crowd-surfing, most notably during the breakdown of “Betrayer”. His abrasive singing style is intact, with the same power he had since the band’s inception in the distant year of 1982.

Photo by Joel Barrios

At this point, the experimentation done by Kreator on albums like ’“Renewal” and “Endorama” are log gone from their sound, and they have reached a cadence of releasing a new studio album every five years, with relentless touring in-between. Their set consisted of one song only from each album they chose to represent, with the exception of “Violent Revolution”, of which they played the title track and “The Patriarch”. Although the crowd was totally satisfied, one can hope they return to North America with a longer set in the near future.  The ominous “Satan Is Real” received the biggest reaction of the night, followed by early hit “Flag of Hate”. Another high point of their show was “666 – World Divided”, a song release in early 2020 to promote a then upcoming tour of Europe, which never materialized due to the pandemic. The proceedings ended with the title track of their landmark release, 1986’s “Pleasure to Kill.”

Photo by Joel Barrios

A 10:00 PM sharp, it was time for the Brazilians of Sepultura to enter the stage. Their latest release, 2020’s “Quadra”, did not have a proper tour to be promoted, and since the pandemic has eased, they seem determined to make up for lost time. They played in Toronto in March of 2022, and were now back to headline this night, on a much larger venue.

The last time I had seen Sepultura live was on the third installment of the Rock in Rio festival, on a night that also had Queens of the Stone Age, Halford and Iron Maiden, playing the show that would become their “Rock in Rio” live DVD. And boy, have things changed since then! At that time, Igor Cavalera was still on drums, and the band has only released on studio album with then, “the new vocalist” vocalist Derrick Green at the helm (“Nation” which had come out a few months before that performance).

Photo by Joel Barrios

I must admit, my connection with Sepultura had been broken for a few years. I did listen to some of their releases such as “Dante XXI”, “A-Lex” and a few others, and although the concepts were great, the music was just not that appealing to me. However, 2017’s “Machine Messiah” and the aforementioned “Quadra” rekindled my love for the band, and tonight I was more than ready to have my ears bleed due to their sonic onslaught. The intro song as they came on stage was “Polícia”, from the Brazilian pop rock band Titãs, and they quickly started with “Isolation”, one of the best songs from “Quadra”. As a stark contrast with the high end production of Kreator, Sepultura’s stage felt more like a boxing ring, with the four musicians feeding off each other constantly. The classic “Territory”, from “Chaos A.D.” came next, much to the joy of old schoolers like me.

Photo by Joel Barrios

The confidence of the band in their newer material is strong, and they chose to represent the new album with four more songs: “Ali”, the heartfelt homage to the late boxer Muhammad Ali, the brutally percussive “Means to an End”, the evocative, Opeth-esque “Guardians of Earth” which celebrates the indigenous people of Brazil, and the atmospheric and brooding “Agony of Defeat”. Derrick’s imposing figure and incredible voice are a force to be reckoned with, and any expletives to describe Eloy Casagrande’s energy behind the kit would not do him justice. The man really elevated the band’s sound, and brought an extra dose of brutality to their already massive sound. Paulo Jr., the only original band member at this point, provided the much-needed support on the low end, while Andreas’ rich and heavy tapestry brought melody and heaviness at the behest of the songs. Be it on the acoustic intro of “Guardians of the Earth”, on the heavy riff attack of “Kairos” or on several solos through the night, he remains a versatile musician, whose virtuosity might be ignored by the casual listener, but which comes out once examined at close range.

Photo by Joel Barrios

The final portion of Sepultura’s set was a wet dream for old school fans, with four classic songs in a row: “Refuse/Resist”, “Arise”, “Ratamahatta” and the anthemic “Roots Bloody Roots”. As the economics of putting together a tour make it more and more difficult for bands to tour Canada, it’s admirable that four bands of this calibre were able to join forces and perform more than twenty shows across North America, many of which were sold out. Here’s hoping that more acts are able to make it work and make it to these shores. Being creative with their set-lists, giving fans what they want and investing in high quality merch go a long way in today’s competitive and expensive market. Spirit World, Death Angel, Kreator and Sepultura did all that and then some on this tour!

Photo by Joel Barrios

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