Watain / In Solitude / Tribulation Opera House, Toronto ON, October 12

Watain / In Solitude / Tribulation Opera House, Toronto ON, October 12
Photo: Laina Dawes
Where was the blood? Where was the stench of rotting animal flesh from the decapitated animal heads on stakes? C'mon, with three Scandinavian metal bands, what gives? There was a sense of disappointment when headliners Watain didn't show up with their trademark stage props, but Saturday night at the Opera House was, in comparison to previous tours, a tepid visual scene, but the attention shifted from the extraneous to what was important: the music.

Supporting their latest release The Formulas of Death, blackened death metallers Tribulation quickly showed their musical diversity in their short set. They got an impressed reaction from the half-filled venue, who seemed enthusiastic to check out this band, for whom early reviews of their second album insisted that it was not the first, but the second spin that showed what the band was made of. In this live setting, the quartet started and finished strong, and while the band was certainly dynamic enough in their stage presence, their strongest song was an incredible instrumental.

Solitude also eschewed the animal fur pelts and black war paint from their previous stage getup, trading them in for 70's-era cock-rock stage garb. Their enthusiasm for their music and for the art of performing was infectious. Brothers Pelle and Gottfrid Ahman might just be the Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of Scandinavian metal; bassist Gottfrid, a consummate showman, shared the spotlight with his brother but didn't hog the adulation. The rail-thin singer showed his vocal chops and ensured that the rest of the band's talents were just as important and relevant to their punkish/Mercyful Fate/hard rock hybrid. "To Her Darkness," from 2011's The World. The Flesh. The Devil. was a particular standout in a set that included new songs from their latest, Sister.

As Watain entered the stage and walked past a wooden cross to light a row of candles, the crowd went wild. While the blood, animal heads and putrid smell were missing, singer/bassist Erik Danielsson wore menacingly white eye contacts, which made every glower directed to the audience seem like he had singled out every single person and not-so silently wished them a horrible death. The foolish fan that climbed up to stage dive was obviously not aware of the silent rule for Watain audiences, which is that no one messes with their live performance — no one. The diminutive Danielsson used his bass to knock the guy off the stage with such force you could hear audience members moan in sympathy. Unfortunately for the band, who played new tracks from their excellent recent release The Wild Hunt, including "Reaping Death," their performance was slightly marred by some technical difficulties and muddled sound. Still, it was an excellent set overall, and a great end to a dynamic evening.