Summer Slaughter Tour: Cattle Decapitation / Carnifex / The Faceless / Rivers of Nihil / Nekrogoblikon / Lorna Shore / Brand of Sacrifice Opera House, Toronto ON, July 28

Summer Slaughter Tour: Cattle Decapitation / Carnifex / The Faceless / Rivers of Nihil / Nekrogoblikon / Lorna Shore / Brand of Sacrifice Opera House, Toronto ON, July 28
Photo: Matt Forsythe
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A lot can change in six years. The last time the proper Summer Slaughter Tour breezed through Toronto, Rob Ford was mayor and fans flocked to the Sound Academy to see a band that has since broken up. Now, in the smaller confines of the Opera House, Toronto's metal community showed up for what is billed as 'The Most Extreme Tour of the Year."
 
Toronto's own Brand of Sacrifice have already released one of the best metal albums of the year with God Hand earlier this month. Here, at their first hometown show, they were unstoppable. Kyle Anderson is a formidable frontman and, together with drummer Rob Zalischi, they brought the Opera House down. Diving to the depths of heaviness on "The Branded" and "Eclipse," Brand of Sacrifice left the stage to chants of "one more song, one more song!" — no easy feat at the ungodly start time of 4:30 p.m. Brand of Sacrifice earned a legion of new hometown fans.
 
Hawaiian shirts, booty shorts and a hype man dressed as a goblin scuttling about the stage? It can only be Nekrogoblikon. The goblin actually doesn't play any instruments, but he is the subject of almost every song, including "We Need A Gimmick" and the shout-along "Dressed As Goblins," which started up the night's first full-floor mosh pit. As the most upbeat band on the bill, Nekrogoblikon's music amounts to thrashy takes on nursery rhymes, especially "The Magic Spider" courtesy of keyboardist Aaron Minich. Hilarious.
 
Rivers of Nihil have certainly come far since they played the Opera House last year. Their last album claimed the #3 spot on Exclaim!'s Best Metal Albums of 2018, and it was clear by the number of Nihil T-shirts that most people here had heard it. The saxophone may be sampled, but Rivers of Nihil captivated the audience throughout with spidery bass lines, odd time signatures and a woozy, psychedelic sound. Standouts were "The Silent Life," and last album's title track "Where Owls Know My Name," which produced the only lighters-in-the-air moment of the night. A little dynamic goes a long way on a bill this relentlessly heavy.
 
On the other end of the spectrum, Lorna Shore's slightly by-the-numbers deathcore and the Faceless's technical noodling were received less wildly. The Faceless fell flat on their (um,) visages early on when guitarist Micheal Keene commanded the crowd to do a "kiss of death," a wall of death "where everyone comes together in the middle and kisses on the lips." Nobody complied.
 
Both bands lacked bass players, though Lorna Shore made up for it with gut-churning programmed bass drops and vocals lower than any stringed instrument. The blackened "Fvneral Moon" went over extremely well.
 
Flanked by professional stage props and in front of a huge banner, Carnifex signalled the move up to the headliners. The deathcore legends have been at this for over 15 years and tonight it showed. Frontman Scott Lewis looked like a Fallout raider with his warpaint and patchwork pants, holding the crowd in the palm of his hand. As the intro sample of Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again" morphed horribly into "World War X" the band threw down the gauntlet to all heavy music with a set of the most absolutely blistering tracks, like "Bury Me In Blasphemy" and the timeless "Lie To My Face." With a new record out next week, Carnifex showcased new track "Visions of the End" to ecstatic response. Deathcore will never die as long as these guys around.
 
By this point the crowd was battered, bruised and near collapse. But Cattle Decapitation's (pictured) brand of grindcore has been known to raise the dead. Despite forming in 1996 (the closest thing to an old-guard act on this tour) Cattle stuck to their two newest albums, 2015's The Anthropocene Extinction and 2012's Monolith of Inhumanity. This was perfect, because they are two of the best things the band have ever made. The night's most absolutely demented act, packing songs like "Forced Gender Reassignment," "Manufactured Extinct" and brand new cut from the upcoming Death Atlas, "One Day Closer to the End of the World," this was a band at their peak. Crowd banter was kept to a minimum. It wasn't needed.
 
Six years is a long time. It's how long it has taken Cattle Decapitation to rise to the level of unquestioned headliner. It's also long enough for a fresh crop of talent to foster, and for exciting bands to hone their sound into something more mature. You won't find a better example of modern heavy music then the Summer Slaughter Tour. Please guys. Don't wait another six years to come back.