Children of Bodom / Eluveitie/ Revocation / Threat Signal Sound Academy, Toronto ON February 26

Children of Bodom / Eluveitie/ Revocation / Threat Signal Sound Academy, Toronto ON February 26
The Sound Academy filled up early, providing a large and enthusiastic audience for Threat Signal's opening set. The Hamilton, ON-based, metalcore-tinged melodic death metal outfit played their short set with as much gusto as any headliner, even though they had to be off the stage before 7 p.m. The band really upped their game technically between their sophomore effort Vigilance and their most recent self-titled offering, and that proficiency and tightness has carried over into their live performance.

Revocation continued the cheerful violence with their set. The Boston, MA extreme metal band have had a prolific few years, releasing three full-length albums since 2008, and they brought that energy and forward drive to their performance. Lead vocalist David Davidson did a fine job whipping the crowd into a frenzy, turning on the house lights to demand a giant circle pit and to see if the resulting maelstrom was to his satisfaction. He also took joy in planting epic images in the audience's mind, demanding they picture "a field of slain Vikings" during "Across the Fields and Fjords," and announced that "Conjuring the Cataclysm" was all about "conjuring an army of demons to party with, and then the hot chick demons have sex with you!" Davidson's personality and dextrous guitar work are without a doubt the keystone of Revocation's sound and stage presence.

By the time Swiss folk metal force of nature Eluveitie took the stage, the Sound Academy was so packed that the audience was crammed like sardines onto the floor -- only at the very back and remote edges of the venue was it possible to move freely. Eluveitie responded to the size and ferocity of the audience, and sought to give back as much positive energy as they could. They reached far back in their catalogue to Spirit and Slania to craft their set list. However, it was "Quoth the Raven" from 2010's Everything Remains (As It Never Was) that became a set highlight, and the more aggressive, military-sounding pieces from their recent concept album Helvetios about the fall of Gaul went over particularly well.

Anna Murphy, mistress of the hurdy gurdy and vocalist, was in fine form, her clean voice soaring over frontman Chrigel Glanzmann's growls. Unfortunately, it was also during their set that the Sound Academy's failings as a music venue became most apparent: all night the kick drum and lead guitar dominated the sound of every set, sometimes obscuring the more delicate instrumentation and rhythms. With a complex set-up like Eluveitie's, this flaw was most obvious.

Children of Bodom's drawn-out, ominous entrance whipped the already ravenous crowd into a frenzy. Three-quarters of the floor became a seething mass of bodies slamming together, a nightmare for the claustrophobic. The Finnish metal band took the enthusiasm in stride, and poured out favourites with very little in the way of pause or banter. Live, the black and power metal aspects of their sound come most to the fore, in the chilly guitar tone and dark imagery combined with epic, sweeping soundscapes and flourishes. By the time they band pulled out "Silent Night, Bodom Night," the entire crowd was singing along at the top of their lungs, a teeming mass of sweat and violence.

Children of Bodom were in incredible shape, performance-wise, now deep into their current North American tour. While the crowd was wild, the band played with enthusiasm but also a cool, effortless precision.