High on Fire / Priestess / Skeletonwitch Opera House, Toronto ON July 16

High on Fire / Priestess / Skeletonwitch Opera House, Toronto ON July 16
One would imagine that with music such as doom and thrash metal, a voluminous crowd would ensure bands were as aggressive and energized as a reactor full of hot atoms dancing around during nuclear fission.

Sadly, what's good in theory doesn't always work in reality. Despite heaps of out-to-party metallions, one almost felt that an invisible lead suit created some sort of barricade between what was happening on the Opera House stage and the radioactive revellers, as the bands were surprisingly static while dishing out the sludge.

Oddball entry of the night, Athens, OH's Skeletonwitch were in fine technical form for their half-hour of blackened thrash. Pulling songs from each of their three albums, vocalist Chance Garnette prodded the growing audience with urges to scream, partake in cunnilingus and generally be rowdy. Still, regardless of his invoking words and the band's spotless relay of double-bass driven hyperactivity, other than his stomping back-and-forth/the occasional head bang, his compatriots seemed bolted to their square-footage. Visual lag notwithstanding, Skeletonwitch were still aurally vicious during tunes such as "Repulsion Salvation" and "Beyond the Permafrost."

A strangely similar situation beheld Montreal groovers Priestess. Understanding they have no singer free to roam since they all play instruments, the quartet were still equally stoic for almost the entire set. Vocalist/guitarist Mikey Heppner maintained a wonderful rapport with the crowd but not until a solid three-quarters of the way through tracks from both debut Hello, Master and sophomore effort Prior to the Fire did they feel the passionate embrace of both audience and their own driving grit. Even then, they gravitated around their otherwise-planted feet for all of two minutes. Again, sonically spectacular yet visually lacking, they were passable and far from jaw-dropping.

Picking up degrees of that slack, High on Fire were incredibly confident, raucous and randy during their own onslaught of thick grind. Pulling an impressive variety of tunes from their five albums while still focusing great attention on latest effort Snakes for the Divine, guitarist/singer Matt Pike, bassist Jeff Matz and drummer Des Kensel were animated, inclusive and explosive, proving that while some bands simply sound great, these Californians know how to show it.