Canada: No Church-Burners Allowed
Emperor, Witchery, Borknagar, Peccatum and Divine Empire
at the Reverb in Toronto, Ontario, on July 14th, 1999

by: Adam Wasylyk
This was probably the highest anticipated underground metal show of the year thus far, as 300+ (a record of some sort here in Toronto) came out to see some of Scandinavia's highest praised metal artists. Even the mighty Gino made an appearance, complete with both shit kickers and decked out in full corpse paint! Now I know his soul is purely black...

First off were the Floridian death metal unit Divine Empire, who everyone knows contains ex-members of Malevolent Creation. Having seen them a couple of times before, they did what they do best; playing aggressive death metal that rises above the many mediocre bands in the scene. The track "Silent Carnage" was the highlight and a definite trademark of the band, combining deadly riffs and some supreme blast beats. The crowd acknowledged their strength, as Divine Empire received a good response considering they were playing to a mostly black metal crowd.

What quickly became apparent was how soon Peccatum took the stage, something like 15 minutes! Why can't every concert be like this? Waiting 30 minutes between sets sucks; this show was a monument to how smoothly a show can go, and I'm sure it contributed to the enjoyment of many in attendance.

Peccatum were the wild card on the bill -- while not the prototype of the black metal sound, the band contains Emperor's Ihsahn, his wife Ihriel and her brother Lord PZ. Combining several elements such as black, death, classical and even opera, the foursome (accompanied with another male vocalist) were backed by drum machine (which sounded great) and programmed keyboards as both man and machine blended effortlessly into an extraordinary sight to behold. Ihriel's vocals right on par with those on their CD _Strangling From Within_ and Ihsahn's flawless guitar playing really made for an exciting listen. Highlighted by the track "The Change", I could tell that many in attendance didn't understand what exactly they were hearing. I admit that Peccatum may sound idiosyncratic on the first listen, but if given the chance to grow on you, they'll never leave an arms length of your CD player.

Borknagar followed quickly behind, backed by new drummer Nick (ex-Cradle of Filth). I'm not entirely familiar with their material, but listening to their material live moved me to spin their albums once again. Combining their core sound of black metal with some retro and classic metal influences, it's cool to hear something truly different coming out of Norway. Not bad, although about half an hour is about the right length of time to check out this band for.

Next up were Witchery, who many were here just to see. Playing both old material and new stuff from their upcoming _Dead, Hot and Ready_ album, the crowd reacted strongly to their black metal / retro sound. Not bad, but I couldn't help but think that these guys were merely an obstacle between me and Emperor. Ho hum.

Emperor would not disappoint on this night. Having played Milwaukee with no keyboards, tonight I would get to experience the entire Emperor sound. Starting off with "Curse You All Men!", Emperor would go on to prove that they couldn't be denied on this night. Despite the absence of Samoth, who because of his criminal record was denied passage into Canada, Ihsahn was up to the challenge and worked double-duty to make sure their guitar sound would be just as deadly. And they succeeded. Songs to follow were "I Am the Black Wizards", "The Loss and Curse of Reverence", "Thus Spake the Nightspirit" and the godly "Night of the Graveless Souls" with great keyboards courtesy of touring member Charmand Grimloch (Tartaros). Spectacular as far as both sound and choice of material, Emperor's near hour long set won't soon be forgotten.

A mind-blowing night of European black metal, this show will go down in record books as one of Toronto's best shows in memory. I was glad to be a witness to it.

(article submitted 12/8/1999)


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