By: Rachel Mattingly
Although I haven’t been to very many concerts, on November 30th I attended one that completely changed my expectations for them. At Bar le Ritz, a small venue with a short stage, the Cancer Bats as Bat Sabbath performed a Black Sabbath homage that quite literally blew me away.
The Cancer Bats are a Toronto-based metal/hardcore punk band. They’ve produced much of their own original music, but in August of this year they decided to release an EP of Black Sabbath covers, Masters of Duality, as Bat Sabbath, their alter ego. I had never heard of them prior to this concert, which my friend told me about, and didn’t even know any Black Sabbath, except for the songs that cannot evade public consciousness. The venue was filled with die-hard Black Sabbath lovers, most in their forties or fifties, and closely resembled what I’d assumed a stereotypical metal concert would look like. My friend and I huddled near the corner of the stage to avoid the moshing that was sure to come.
The concert opened with Black Mastiff and Ethereal Tomb, two other bands I hadn’t heard of prior to getting my ticket. I was used to patiently sitting through openers whose music I tried to appreciate purely out of respect. But these two bands were an entirely different experience. Black Mastiff is a hard rock band from Edmonton and were no less talented than the other bands, despite having the earliest slot, with a smaller audience. Their performance was incredibly energetic. I was especially impressed by their lead vocalist, but the band as a whole was extremely enjoyable. They have four albums out as of 2019 and I would recommend them if you’re into slower paced, drawn-out music.
The second band was Ethereal Tomb, which I was a little more familiar with because of my friend’s moderate obsession with them. They’re an indigenous doom metal band from Toronto and their sound was a sharp left turn from the set before. Their set was short, but powerful and much heavier than Black Mastiff not only in sound, but in content. Before their last song, “The Sufferance of Mourning,” the lead singer told the crowd it was written for the friends he’d lost from overdoses and teared up on stage. I had never seen such an emotional performance before, and the close connection the band has with their music is clear throughout their other songs as well, many of which are political. Their final song was from their second album, released in September of this year, When The Rivers Dry.
And finally, the Cancer Bats. I genuinely had never experienced a performance like theirs before. Other bands I’d seen had only ever consisted of musicians standing, playing their instruments, sometimes getting a bit dynamic and dancing around. This performance wasn’t just dynamic, but explosive. The lead singer wore a cape and was unhindered by an instrument, so he was free to leap around, lean into the audience, high five people, and wildly thrust on stage. In a word, it was uninhibited. He and the rest of the band connected with the audience exceptionally well. Their energy was contagious and purposeful. Before the show started, the guitarist convinced one of the show organizers to move the barrier closer to get people right up against the stage. Between songs, the lead singer hyped up the audience with his idolization of “the lords of metal” and exorbitant worship of Black Sabbath and Satan. The interaction with the audience was part of what made the show so special, but the interactions of the bands with one another served as added highlights. This was the second to last night of their 12-day tour and the extent to which they genuinely enjoyed each other’s company and music was evident. The members of Ethereal Tomb were standing only feet from us for the entirety of the Cancer Bats’ show and ran across the stage to crowd surf twice. At the end, the guitarist, who had been right in front of us for the duration of the show, reached out to shake our hands and thank us for coming. The musicians all cared deeply about the night and the people who had come to support them. Bonding over a shared nostalgia and love for a certain band also made the night unique.