Rotting Christ / Mantic Ritual / Epicurean / Panzerfaust Wreck Room, Toronto ON January 12

Rotting Christ / Mantic Ritual / Epicurean / Panzerfaust Wreck Room, Toronto ON January 12
Short but brutally sweet, Rotting Christ's latest visit to Toronto produced the ideal concert outcome - leaving the audience craving more.

Prompt arrivals were met with the militant pagan black metal of Mississauga's Panzerfaust, kicking off an intense but efficient progression of bands.

Next on the bill, Epicurean, from Minneapolis, sounded a little out of place. They shared with Rotting Christ the support of a synth backing track but they were more symphonic prog/power than extreme, despite the bassist's growled vocals. Occasionally, especially with the lead melodic voice, the machine would slip just out of alignment, but when they could hear themselves, the ambition and complexity fell into place - "Malice of Majesty" was the best example of this success.

I'd only had the briefest of introductions to Epicurean and Mantic Ritual before the show, but of the two, Mantic Ritual more clearly surpassed my expectations. I anticipated straightforward old school thrash and that's what I heard, but it was the delivery that won me over, at least in the live setting. Energetic, tight, sincere - they didn't offer up anything new (Venom's "Black Metal" was one of the highlights of their set), but the Pittsburgh crew put on a convincing show.

Mantic Ritual provided a strong lead-in to Rotting Christ's monumental sonic climax. A little experimentation yielded some of the Wreck Room's acoustic sweet spots and the ideal vantage points for viewing the power and precision on stage. Black metal, thick with melody and free of theatrics, the four-man onslaught sounded much bigger than it looked. The Greeks' set list drew heavily from their last, Theogonia, finishing off with album closer "Threnody" before performing a loud one-song encore.

Addressing their "brothers and sisters" in metal, Rotting Christ brought the night to what seemed like an early close, leaving behind them the promise of return.