This show, which kicked off a trek the four bands are undertaking throughout the U.S. and Canada, heralded an auspicious beginning for the month-long tour. Demand for the event was so great that the opening date quickly sold out, and what was initially planned as a stop in Quebec City expanded to a second date in Toronto (albeit at the undersized Sound Academy). The excitement and support from the Toronto crowd were the dominant features of this high-energy suite of performances.
Openers Huntress had to contend with extremely truncated stage space (most of it being hogged by Testament's elaborate setup) and a short set that began well ahead of schedule, but still managed to raise the energy in the room, playing to a surprisingly respectable-sized crowd. Jill Janus's exceptional voice was in fine form, swooping effortlessly between harpy-like shrieks and throaty clean singing as she writhed and raked talon-like nails at the crowd. Their set was punctuated by a particularly wrenching rendition of "Spell Eater," the lead single and titular track from their 2012 record.
Testament are one of heavy metal's thrash institutions, and their experience shows in their theatricality. They performed a solid, confident set on a stage covered with huge, architectural set pieces and flashing white lights, while vocalist Chuck Billy sang into a microphone stand that appeared to be a cross between a truncheon and a lightsaber. The deeply respected thrash-metallers project an air of iron confidence, absolutely at home live.
The crowd swelled visibly just before Massachusetts-based metalcore act Killswitch Engage began their energetic set. The group are often credited as being one of the foundational units in modern metalcore, and are intensely beloved for it. Their set revolved primarily around material from 2013 effort Disarm The Descent, including an excellent rendition of "You Don't Bleed For Me" (which they dedicated to the women in the crowd via a convoluted explanation involving wet panties and periods), with a smattering of older material. Much of the power of their performance came from their relentless energy and unflagging enthusiasm, and they effortlessly blazed their way through an hour-long set.
Without question, Lamb of God were greeted with the most ravenous audience reaction of the night. The crowd roared along with every chorus and spoke every word of the intro to "Omerta." Singer Randy Blythe was both gracious and overwhelmed in the face of the support Lamb of God inspired, noting that two of their studio albums have been certified gold in Canada and nowhere else, channelling that emotion into a manic, merciless performance. "Walk With Me In Hell" became a rallying cry, and their performance of "Now You've Got Something to Die For" was gutting. The crowd responded with a pit that took over most of the floor space in the Kool Haus, with one fan even crowd-surfing all the way to the front of the stage in his wheelchair. Their set perfectly encapsulated why heavy metal fans are the most dedicated and ferocious on the planet.