Photo by Zombitrol
Saturday, November 4th, Nineteen Seventy Eight, Toronto
It was a cool Saturday evening when I headed west to Parkdale to check out Philadelphia’s retro black metal punks Devil Master in an old garage. Apologies to Boston’s Final Gasp who opened the show, as one of Toronto’s famous short turn streetcars forced me to walk the final length of the trip and I missed their set. I arrived just in time catch their fellow Massachusettsans Fuming Mouth perform a powerful set of their Swedish-influenced sludgy death metal, interspersed by brief moments of thrashy exuberance. Drummer James Davis was definitely the standout of the band, as he delivered a tour-de-force performance of intensity and precision.
It was a bit difficult at times to enjoy the bands, as the venue put a barrier across the majority of the space. By day, “Nineteen Seventy Eight,” appears to be a vintage clothing outlet / art gallery in the remains of an old auto mechanic shop. Speaking to others at the show it seems that they have opened up the whole space in the past. But this setup made it so that if you wanted to use a bathroom, you had to cross the actual stage or use a porta-potty outside. I also heard more than a few grumbles about the lack of stage visibility. Look, I’m no stranger to low-key venues. I grew up on them. I love them. But there’s no reason to cram a full crowd into less than 50% of your total space. It was generally not the environment where I expected to pay $8 for a small can of Miller High Life. If you want to keep it underground, then keep it underground.
Devil Master’s popularity has thrived on their music’s retro appeal. But seeing the band live reveals that their reputation is well-earned. Their image completely matches their sound, a perfectly 50/50 blend of early black metal and crusty, thrashy hardcore punk. Lead guitarist “Darkest Prince” was the main attraction as his over-the-top classic metal solos dominated each song. Bassist/vocalist “Disembody Through Unparalleled Pleasure” was the glue that held everything together, with his perfectly barked vocals and dominating presence uniting the more disparate elements of the band. Gothic guitarist “Infernal Moonlight Apparition” and new drummer “Festering Terror in Deepest Catacomb” held down the riffs and rhythm respectively without detracting from their more energetic bandmates.
My main aversion to Devil Master in the past was that I found their musicianship to be top-tier, but their sound to be too retro just for the sake of it. While that’s something that will always have an audience, seeing Devil Master live showed me that they’re more than just a talented throwback act. Marrying black metal and crust punk isn’t new, but Devil Master infuse it with a touch of classic heavy metal and glam that makes them stand out. They're definitely worth a Saturday night.
Devil Master will be on tour in the U.S. through December 3rd, and their latest album Ecstasies of Never Ending Night is available now on Relapse Records.
Thank you to another/side PR