Sounds of the Underground Kool Haus/Guvernment, Toronto ON - July 11, 2006

I never imagined that the Kool Haus/Guvernment would make a good venue for an all-day metal event; it doesn’t. That’s not to say that Sounds of the Underground was a completely dismal experience. The bursts of energy emanating from the two stages helped fortify the drooping fans, while those with more stamina (or less discrimination) managed to fuel their head-banging with overpriced water, beer and barely warm take-out pizza. Merch tables were set up in several locations, some unwisely in the meet and greet area, providing a wide selection and a navigational challenge. The performances delivered what the venue lacked, once you made it through the bottleneck linking the two halls. In the Guvernment, Horse the Band radiated Atari-core intensity and a thick, crunchy groove (odour too, judging by the snarky stage banter). A few hours later, a horde of Gwar-ites enthusiastically writhed in a shower of multi-coloured gore (while many others, barred from an already overcrowded room, stayed unwillingly dry) as the band massacred a series of familiar victims, executed a raucous cover of "School’s Out” and ignored their classic anthems. Across the narrow divide, Behemoth flailed their hair wildly to a vicious (but thin-sounding) black metal blast and offered to drain Canada of its natural resources (beer, women…). Oozing stripped down authenticity and shouting support for fellow scene members who haven’t sold out, Converge were all over the stage for their brief set and, in an odd twist of concert sound fate, their vocals sliced into every corner of the room. Cannibal Corpse managed to impress even a few non-fans but Trivium suffered from the over-amplification afflicting most of the Kool Haus sets, making their back-up vocals sound like barking dogs. Before As I Lay Dying brought the show to a thunderous close, In Flames demonstrated that they have the songs off their last few albums rehearsed like a finely tuned machine (even if the precision was obscured by the muffling, "too loud” rumble) and that they can play all their recent "hits” in just over 35 minutes by excluding all their classics. The target demographic shifted down a gear or two as the evening progressed, the last three bands addressing more of a bounce metal crowd, and the whole thing wound down early enough to satisfy most any curfew. No, Sounds of the Underground was not dismal, just disappointing.