Canadian deathcore heavyweights Despised Icon arrived in Ottawa to lay waste to a raucous, packed Barrymore's, and they brought three of their most brutal genre-mates along with them for the ride. What was intended to be a prolonged, five-band assault was reduced to four, however, as Bay Area's "aliencore" pundits Rings of Saturn sadly couldn't make it across the Canadian border.
Opening act, New Jersey's Lorna Shore were the first to hammer the crowd, and they seemed on a mission to tenderize the fans for the bands to come. Touring in support of 2017's Flesh Coffin, the band chewed through five songs from their two albums. Vocalist Tom Barber anchored the center of the stage, leaning over the crowd howling into his microphone, inciting heavy moshing below. Every song was well received, particularly "Denounce the Light", from the band's latest effort. Unusually, though, the band is touring without a bassist, and for a band with such a heavy, booming underbelly at the core of their music, at times the sound felt very thin.
San Francisco's five-piece Fallujah, meanwhile, are touring in support of their early 2016 release Dreamless and injected their set with plenty of material from the acclaimed album. Sandwiched between three far more in-your-face bands, Fallujah's spacey, atmospheric set was a refreshing change of pace, and you could tell a they were a main draw for many in the audience. Alex Hoffman hovered above the crowd, delivering his powerful mid-range vocals, as his band mates spun swirling riffs and technical breakdowns. The new material was excellent, "The Prodigal Son" was particularly strong, and the mellower, well paced "The Void Alone" saw the band drenched in blue and orange lighting, delivering one of the strongest performances of the entire night.
Next to hit the stage were San Diego's Carnifex, and apparently, they seemingly made it as their mission to reduce the rabid crowd to clumps of flesh strewn on the mosh pit floor and venue walls. The band impressively sprang through select tracks from their six-album discography hitting on excellent choices every step of the way. "Slow Death," the title track from their latest release had the pit in a frenzy, and vocalist Scott Lewis later drew the crowd back to their first album (2007's Dead in my Arms) and one of the first songs they ever wrote with a guttural performance of "Lie to my Face." That chaos would just serve as a warm-up, though.
"We're going to do something we've never done on any other tour, and play another band's song on our stage," growled Lewis before the band exploded into a monstrous performance of Slipknot's "The Heretic Anthem." Calling for "one last circle pit" more than once, the band had the crowd bellowing in unison for "Hell Chose Me," the title track from their 2010 release. Carnifex's performance was truly one to behold.
Not to be outdone, though, headliners Despised Icon hit the stage next — and with acutely savage energy. They pulled heavily from 2016's Beast, but also delved into many of their best tracks from their 15-year catalogue.
Showcasing warring dual vocals from Steve Marios and Alex Erian, the set was laden with trademark multi-range growls, fry vocals and pig squeals that would have made fellow Montreal outfit Cryptopsy proud. Crushing riffs flung from the stage as the band performed "The Aftermath" and "Bad Vibes" from their latest album, while vintage tracks "Day of Morning" and "A Fractured Hand" had the crowd going absolutely ballistic.
For their final assault, the six members flung the new album's title track "Beast" from the stage, down into the biggest circle pit of the night. Announcing that the next song would be their last, the crowd erupted into a deafening chant of "MVP! MVP!" before the band played that blistering track (from 2009 release Day of Mourning) to end what was a deliciously crushing night of live metal.