Summer Slaughter The Opera House, Toronto ON August 16

The unprecedented rise in the popularity of metal and hardcore has led to the proliferation of many mid-to-high profile festival tours. In fact, one of the more initially successful and celebrated of the summertime juggernauts, Sounds of the Underground, was forced into cancellation this year due to overwhelming competition, leaving Summer Slaughter as just about the only tour repping the more extreme side of things this year.

The densely packed bill allowed for pathetically short sets from some of the earlier highlights, although the show moved along at a notably quick pace due to quick changeovers and solid timing and organization from the promoter and crew.

While Veil of Maya’s passable Meshuggah worship was inoffensive, the momentum really took off when Whitechapel hit the stage. While not necessarily bringing anything new to the table for those familiar with Despised Icon and their ilk, the group undeniably come into their own in the live setting, opening with a predictably thunderous breakdown but quickly winning the attention of metal heads back with the following barrage of blasts, lightening-quick melodeath and overall charisma.

Neuraxis followed shortly after, providing the clear highlight of the forward half of the show. With a fantastic new record to support, they made a point of not wasting their 20-minute set on anything less than a stellar performance, and their recent line-up changes haven’t hindered the potency of their unique brand of technical melodeath one bit. Fellow Montreallers Beneath the Massacre had a tough time living up to Neuraxis’s standard, as their sound is somewhat more one-dimensional, but nonetheless delivered a decent set of shredding tech-death tempered with off-time mosh.

Coming after so many punishing acts, Into Eternity’s peculiar progressive metal fusion and three-pronged melodic vocal approach seemed more than a little out of place, although their musicianship was faultless. Dying Fetus disappointed somewhat, playing as a three-piece and thus, lacking their usual merciless crunch. Nonetheless, they schooled most of the opening acts as far as songwriting potency is concerned.

Ultimately, the peak of the show was clearly reformed New York grindcore pioneers Brutal Truth, who scorched the venue with their peerless, deliciously disorienting onslaught. Breaking out a fine set list chock full of favourites as comparatively recent material, they made it painfully clear that this was one reunion that was not to be questioned or fucked with, and whetted appetites for their upcoming fifth full-length.

Necrophagist seemed a bit rigid and sanitized coming after such a knockout performance, but retained their status as the current flagship technical death metal act. A new full length at some point would be nice though, as they’ve toured on Epitaph nonstop for four years at this point. An evening with both positive surprises and unexpected letdowns, although barring Neuraxis and Brutal Truth’s show-stealing appearances, the line-up offered a respectable bill that fell somewhat short of expectations.