Baroness / Royal Thunder Mod Club, Toronto ON, August 9

Baroness / Royal Thunder Mod Club, Toronto ON, August 9
Photo: Matthew Ritchie
9
Not even border delays or damage to their instruments could stop Savannah, GA metal gods Baroness from playing what was likely one of the best performances of their career Friday night at Toronto's Mod Club. Starting things off early (and we're talking 7:45 p.m. early) were up-and-coming Southern-fried doom rockers Royal Thunder. Coming off last year's debut full-length CVI and a recent line-up change that found the Atlanta-based quartet strip down to a power trio, lead singer Miny Parsonz joined the stage, angular bass in tow, and quietly greeted the modest crowd.

Relying heavily on their debut, the Sabbath-inspired rockers delved into a heady mix of tenuous guitar lines and rhythmic riffing, with most songs jamming out far past the eight-minute mark. For a three-piece, the Georgian outfit created a highly complex wall of sound that stood up next to competitors twice their size, with Parsonz's melodic bass action and guitarist Josh Weaver's pentatonic skipping perfectly accentuating drummer Evan Diprima's nuanced tribal rhythms. And although the band took the stage early on in the night to only a few all-ages concertgoers, by the time the group launched into lead single "Parsonz Curse," the venue had filled up, as ticketholders became enraptured in the crew's snake oil-charm and old world sound.

But nothing could compare to the night's headliners, who came on just before nine to rapturous cheers from the adults in attendance, and awkward applause from those under legal age. Walking onstage with his fist held high, metal maestro John Baizley picked up his guitar and directed the band through an atmospheric rendition of Blue Record segue "Ogeechee Hymnal." Wasting no time, the art-metal rockers jumped into a set heavy on cuts from last year's glorious Yellow & Green double LP, creating caustic renditions of "Take My Bones Away" and "March into the Sea," which truly showcased the band's complex colour theory, as their instruments painted broad strokes over "Little Things" and harmonic shredder "Green Theme."

As the set progressed, the high-minded metalheads grew only more anthemic, injecting a slinky shot of Blue Record galloper "Swollen and Halo" into the mix, followed by the optimistic major chord riffing of underappreciated scorcher "Board Up the House," which found lead guitarist Pete Adams fulfilling every teenager's fantasy as he threw power stances onstage every which way like a bona fide guitar god.

Taking a break near the end of their final act, the mostly-mute Baizley addressed the crowd, apologizing for the time its taken them to get back to Toronto and alluding to the exhausting struggles of the last 12 months together as a band. But considering that less than a year ago the group's two guitarists literally fell off a cliff while on tour, Baroness looked in fine form, with finger-style bassist Nick Jost delivering articulate thumping rhythms alongside post-rock hero and ex-Trans Am member Sebastian Thomson's playful drumming.

While the audience retained their form for the majority of the night, swaying to and fro with the occasional devil-horned bob, Baroness' three-song encore whipped the pit into a frenzy, annihilating the crowd with Blue Record stompers "The Sweetest Curse" and "Jake Leg." But the highlight of the night came from crowd favourite "Isak," a Red Album joint that apparently has been gaining traction with younger fans due to its ferocious instrumental attack and chant-heavy verses. As the final moshpit of the night lost momentum, Baizley and company waved at the crowd, smiles from ear to ear and with promises of returning sooner than later, punctuated by one fan screaming what everyone in attendance had been thinking all night long: "Fuck yeah!"