Published Mar 20, 2015Every now and then, when the planets are aligned just right and the gods of prog and doom are in sympathy, heavy metal can bend the laws of space and time — for a moment, at least. Yob brought just such a moment into being at the Opera House in Toronto on this cool nearly spring night, leaving headliners Enslaved to tear through the churning aftermath.
The hypnotic atmosphere spun by openers Kosmograd and Ecstatic Vision was an essential part of the ritual, prepping the audience and calling just the right cosmic forces to awaken. Toronto's Kosmograd took advantage of their time to demonstrate the strength of their latest EP release, Orbiter, sounding even tighter and more at home than when they opened for the Ocean and Atlas Moth last year. They brought Act I of the night's drama to a close with more doomy ambience than sludgy hardcore — a fitting and expertly delivered prelude for what was yet to come.
Where Kosmograd are very much a band of the current era, Ecstatic Vision sink their roots deep into psychedelic nostalgia. The trio from Philadelphia declared this their first appearance in Toronto and they seemed to enjoy the visit. Ecstatic Vision's vibe is heavy stoner rock (with hints of early Monster Magnet), and they look the part — chimes on the mic stand, a tribal drum integrated into the kit, even the melodica took on a hippie aesthetic in this context. Though a touch too laid back for some in the crowd, Ecstatic Vision, like Kosmograd, played an integral part in the build up toward Yob.
Yob are proof that the size of a band doesn't determine the vastness of their sound. Witnessing them live is an immersive experience and one that's difficult to analyze after the fact. The detail and complexity of last year's Clearing the Path to Ascend comes across as powerfully as the album's mammoth weight, but it all melds together so perfectly in live performance that they might be speaking to another level of our collective consciousness. Up and east from their home in Eugene, OR, while they're performing they could just as well be from another dimension, and they're willing to give their audience a glimpse of that alternate reality for a short time.
Enslaved have their own Nordic sorcery live and they needed it to follow that doomy greatness — a lesser band might have been swallowed up in Yob's wake. The Norwegians were making up for a Toronto appearance cancelled two years ago (when a snow storm trapped them in Winnipeg), and if they didn't astound (who could, after Yob?), they didn't disappoint. Songs from new album In Times blended seamlessly with more familiar tracks off late-career releases like RIITIIR and Axiom Ethica Odini. Even the old fierceness that re-surfaced late in their set seemed shaped by time and weather into something more in tune with the band's progressive evolution. But there was no sense of anti-climax here. Enslaved's performance helped the audience channel all that latent energy Yob had invoked, and when they finished, the cosmic forces could be persuaded to sink back into the earth once more, to return to slumber till the next summoning.