The sad reality is that, as cool as the local scene in Ottawa is, it’s a small scene in a small city. When two or more shows are competing for attendees, the result can sometimes be that one show is left without much of a crowd. That may have been the case for Santuarium, Sovereign Council, and Basalisk, but it didn’t stop those bands from putting forth a set of compelling and energetic performance. They certainly deserved better.
Not only was there a lack of attendance, but Basalisk‘s set was plagued by sound issues, most notably in their drummer’s monitors. As one would imagine, this threw the whole band for a loop, and their playing devolved into a cacophony during one or two songs. But for what it’s worth, the band put a ton of energy and obvious passion into their set, with songs that sounded like a Dream Theater filtered through the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, they still proved to be a charming and enjoyable opener despite their technical difficulties.
Symphonic metal is not something that usually translates well in small clubs, but Sovereign Council didn’t seem phased by the small crowd. As their compositions took shape, one could easily see the talent on display from every member. No single component outshone any other, as the raunchy metallic guitars mixed perfectly with the pitch perfect vocals of Alexander MacWilliam and Lisa Thompson. SC wasn’t entirely spared from the blight of technical difficulties, and certain members fell out of time on a few occasions. This is really a shame, as symphonic metal is a genre that requires everything in its right place at all times. Without total cohesion and clarity, the compositions can’t keep the crowd suspended in a state of disbelief as anyone listen closely will notice even the smallest error. That being said, the band showed their professionalism by recovering quickly and not losing their cool. I can’t stress enough that Sovereign Council is a band to watch.
Coming from the other side of the world, it’s really a shame that attendance hadn’t improved significantly by the time Santuarium took the stage. A greater shame is that so many people missed a unique act firing on all cylinders: an act that’s learned the lessons of Metallica and In Flames, but has taken those influences and created something all together new and compelling. The biggest and most obvious of those addition comes in the form of violinist Marina Andrade. Her role was complimentary rather than primary, and while she did have her share of (fantastic) solo moments, she was most effective when working within each songs structure, adding harmony to the blitzed guitars of Fred Calmon and Gusttavo Boquimpani. The band’s real fire was their energetic frontman: a whirlwind of dreadlocks and vocal venom by the name of Alex Proença. His guttural, lacerated vocals over top of hard-driving tunes like “Oblivious” and “Insanity” brought chills to this writer’s spine. This is one damn cohesive unit and proof positive that, 30 years on from the inception of Sepultura, Sarcofago, et al., Brazil is still fertile ground for righteous heavy metal.
Not a perfect evening, but one full of promise, fun, and great music. It’s truly a shame that the assembly was so small, but the bands didn’t seem to mind too much. For yours truly, it was the perfect showcase for three bands who are, with a little luck, going to to some pretty interesting places. Take it from me, if little known bands from distant lands come through your neck of the woods, make sure to catch them while you can. You may be witnessing the beginnings of something special.