Onslaught / Artillery / VX36 / Shrapnal The Palomino Smokehouse, Calgary AB, November 16

Onslaught / Artillery / VX36 / Shrapnal The Palomino Smokehouse, Calgary AB, November 16
Photo: Sarah Kitteringham
On a freezing Sunday night (November 16), Onslaught and Artillery, two underground thrash legends, played a small, sweaty venue in the icy frosted city of Calgary.

Local thrash act Shrapnal opened the early start show, and their Megadeth/Sodom worship was audible. The crowd thus far was small, but already the mosh pit was feisty, to the extent that an attendee with multiple shots balanced in her hands was nearly barrelled over by a patched-out drunk. Although the band delivers fairly standard thrash, they've grown quickly and become extremely tight musically in their short four-year history. To boot, the drumming was airtight, a snare-heavy assault with metronomic double kicks. Their last song was the strongest, inciting a rough pit with its driving rhythms coupled with genre-typical lyrics on science versus religion.

VX36 was next, and it took the entirety of their set for the crowd to warm up to them. It might have been that the desire for thrash, rather than death with a sprinkle of thrash, was too strong, or perhaps it was their utterly generic sound. The vocals were incessantly copping Tom Araya's growl in the chorus of "God Hates Us All," and when coupled with a much, much louder mix than the previous band, the effect was off-putting. To cap off their lowest common denominator feel, they had branded panties for sale at the merch table.

Denmark's Artillery were next, and they were extremely tight — the evening highlight for most. The volume had returned to a good, rather than painful level, and the relative newcomer vocalist Michael Dahl (who joined in 2012) sang/growled above the melee while the audience went nuts. The band started a vigorous scream-along several times, most notably when they performed tracks from fan favourite By Inheritance (1990). "By Inheritance" was first, "Khomaniak" was next; the aggressive pit was all denim and leather, and beer was flying. The drummer delivered rollicking double kick patterns, anchoring the performance, as the band delivered another string of tracks, including "Terror Squad" and "The Almighty," to cap off the set.

Finally came British legends Onslaught. Facebook has been awash with criticism for their Canadian sets thus far, complaining that original Anthrax front person Neil Turbin (a last-minute replacement for original frontman Sy Keeler, who had to cancel due to his son's illness) isn't a suitable replacement, given that he performs with an iPad strapped to his mike stand. Yes, it seems strange the lyrics aren't committed to memory, but when one considers he wasn't able to rehearse once with the band before going on tour, it becomes irrelevant. That, and it didn't take away from the performance at all.

Onslaught ferociously delivered tracks from across their discography, most notably songs from their Discharge worshipping debut, Power From Hell (1985). Other highlights, surprisingly, came from their 2013 album VI, via a ripping rendition of "Children of the Sand," and from 2011's Sounds of Violence, with "Rest in Pieces." The pit was again frenzied and soaked in alcohol; amps and microphones were slammed into musician's feet and faces as fists rose upwards and elbows flew. As the last notes rang out into the room, the crowd chanted "ONSLAUGHT" repetitively. One song later it was over, and attendees spilled out, either elated by the performance or loudly complaining about an iPad. Life sure is tough for us metal fans.