Five Must-See Acts at Toronto Metal Fest Prepare the Ground 2024

Among the heavy acts playing this spring are a reunited Orchid and disbanding Burning Love

Photo: Erin Prout / Sled Island

BY Marko DjurdjićPublished Mar 13, 2024

This year, Toronto will be hosting the inaugural Prepare the Ground festival, a three-day celebration of all things heavy. Organized by Denholm Whale (of Transmit Presents) and KW Campol (of Mythos Management and Perpetual Flame Ministries record label), the festival runs from May 31 to June 2 and takes over five venues in the city: the Phoenix Concert Theatre, Lee's Palace, the Garrison, the Baby G and Bar Orwell.

This heavily curated festival isn't just slapping together a bunch of "metal" bands and calling it a good time. Instead, the organizers of Prepare the Ground are intent on promoting the diverse ways music can be "heavy." From the distorted, punishing sounds of hardcore, doom, noise and black metal, to hushed folk, dreamy goth and blipping electronica, the organizers want to disturb their audience, to elate them, to shake them to the very core.

Quiet or loud, there is something for anyone who demands tension, passion and catharsis from the music they enjoy. These are Exclaim!'s picks of Prepare the Ground's must-sees.

Burning Love
When Toronto's Burning Love unceremoniously disappeared in 2015 after releasing two final singles, fans of the crunchy hardcore punks were cursed to live with a lack of closure. Now, almost a decade later, the band are reuniting to play their final show, giving fans the chance to properly grieve, mosh and scream along one last time.

Mares of Thrace
Frontrunners for sleeper hit of the festival, Alberta's Mares of Thrace are a punishing duo whose hardcore-inflected doom (wait, is that sludge?!) will overpower your brain like the smoke from all those bong hits you could barely handle in undergrad. Thérèse Lanz's venomous, soaring vocals and ferocious riffs are beautifully complemented by Casey Rogers's crushing drums, and the noise they conjure is worthy of both headbanging and reverie. Get ready to quake.

Dissonant, chaotic, and forever essential (they are the article photo for "screamo" on Wikipedia), Orchid are back after more than 20 years to whip Toronto into a sweaty, screeching frenzy. This is punk at its most blistering and cacophonous, and their reunion show is sure to be packed with millennials looking to revisit the days of white belts and swoopy bangs — just feel free to leave 'em both back in 2002, okay?

Desolation's Flower was one of 2023's best albums, genre be damned. Bleak, extreme and intensely atmospheric, the band channeled all their frustration and anger — with themselves and with the world around them — into 41 minutes of discomfort and liberation. Luckily for all of us, Ragana will be playing their towering, blackened masterpiece in full. Unapologetically queer and confrontational (as they fucking should be!), Ragana will demolish you, build you back up and comfort you. It's the noisiest embrace you can ask for.

Emma Ruth Rundle
Fusing folk and alternative with elements of post-rock, doom and ambient music, Emma Ruth Rundle's diverse compositions stretch, crumble and collapse, her stunning voice cooing darkness and dust over the stirring music. Sometimes it's fuzzy, sometimes it's subdued — but it's always intimate and powerful. It's heavy as all hell, and there's barely a distorted guitar in sight.


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