Onslaught w Mpire Of Evil - The Annex Wreckroom, Toronto - April 3rd, 2012
Review and Photos by Mike Bax
Toronto got a double hit of thrash this week, with UK Thrash legends Onslaught making their first appearance in Canada at the Annex Wreckroom this past Tuesday evening. An added bonus was the inclusion of Mpire of Evil as their tour’s opening act. Onslaught was (and is) a seminal 1980's thrash band, their 1986 release entitled The Force gracing my collection back in the day, alongside Slayer's Reign In Blood, Metallica's Master of Puppets, and Nuclear Assault's Game Over. I can remember picking up all of these albums within months of each other, and for this reason Onslaught has always had a special place in my heart. Opening band Mpire of Evil (formerly Prime Evil) consists of Tony "Demolition" Dolan, Jeff "Mantas" Dunn and Antony "Antton" Lant (who recently departed in January 2012) all ex members of Venom. Up until a few days before this show, I didn't realize Mpire of Evil was on the bill, and I must admit that the thought of seeing some old Venom material live (even without Chronos on vocals) was an exciting proposition to me.
I got to the venue early enough to see Shotgun Cure, a young Toronto thrash five-piece that delivered a half dozen songs to a slowly filling room of old and young fans. Once Shotgun Cure finished up, I did some interviews with Onslaught and Mpire and wound up missing Panzerfaust entirely.
At around 9:30, Jeff and Tony were on stage with young Marc Jackson (Antton's replacement) behind the kit, tapping lightly on his cymbals. Tony was tinkering around with his wireless mic, which was giving him some problems. He got the device working only to have it kife out during the band’s first song, and a mic stand w a live mic was quickly set up for him. As the song played itself through, Tony was sharing Jeff's microphone.
Venom's similarities to Motorhead were never more obvious to me as I watched these three fellows bash out song after song as a three-piece on stage. Tony's bass delivery and singing style are much influenced by Motorhead, Jeff's guitar playing remains top notch, and fans in the venue were shooting him the devil forks for almost every guitar riff he levied upon them. Marc Jackson, a drummer in his early twenties, bashed out the backbone to Mpire’s and Venom’s songs like a road tested pro. That he's only been in the band a few months was audibly not apparent - he's an adept drummer indeed, and if he stays in the band with Tony and Jeff, the potential for some interesting new material together is certainly there.
As Onslaught came onstage a few short minutes after Mpire finished up their performance, and blasted into 'Killing Peace', the venue exploded into a 75-minute set of thrash that was top tier to my veteran ears. I've wanted to see Onslaught live for over 25 years now. Sure, their line-up has changed over the years… but Nige and Sy were in attendance this evening, along with three capable musicians who knew the material perfectly. Even though the venue wasn't packed to the back, seeing their performance was awesome. A young fellow in the front of the room was singing every damn song at the top of his lungs, and Sy handed him the mic a few times to sing the lyrics to songs old and new.
I couldn't help but feel a bit empowered at this show, like I was a part of something special that apparently most Toronto metal fans are un-hip to. This show SHOULD have sold out immediately. Onslaught's 2011 release The Sound of Violence is one of the best thrash albums of the past decade, and this fact was so painfully obvious as the band blasted through 'Born For War' early into their set. Onslaught's sound is SO big and meaty that it felt compressed in a room the size of the Wreckroom. At a festival like Mayhem or Heavy T.O. fans would go friggin' mental over Onslaught's live delivery. For me, I felt like I'd won the lottery, seeing a band so revered in Europe yet in front of such a small crowd, that it actually ADDED to the cool-factor of the show.
Merchandise was super-cheap - I picked up an Onslaught shirt for $15 and a European pressing of Mpire of Evil's debut album for the same price (the album doesn't come out in North America for another three weeks or so).
Two things: it BETTER not be another 25 years before Onslaught return! And Toronto… wake the f#$k up! I've seen way shittier bands fill venues four times the size of the Wreckroom over the past few years. This was an amazing double bill, and anyone that sat on the fence for it totally missed out.
(I'm sure I've gotten a few songs wrong here, so please weigh-in if this is the case)
Mpire of Evil:
Hell to the Holy
Leave Me in Hell
Waking Up Dead
Born for War
Let There Be Death
Angels of Death
Destroyer of Worlds
Rest in Pieces
Fight With the Beast
The Sound of Violence
Onslaught (Power From Hell)