Concert Review – Cradle of Filth (The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 04/11/2018)

Four American boys, four Ukrainian metallers, a multi-cultural Extreme Metal institution and endless mosh pits. That’s what Toronto got in another memorable night of heavy music.

OPENING ACTS: Uncured and Jinjer

My neck and back still hurt today, and I don’t think it’s (just) because of my age, but because the three bands that hit the stage at the small but flammable The Opera House this Wednesday night in Toronto kicked some serious ass from start to finish, igniting nonstop circle pits during the whole night and, as a consequence, making every single fan at the venue more than happy to have spent a few good bucks on their concert tickets. It might be taking a while for the weather in Toronto to warm up in this beginning of spring, but the temperature inside The Opera House on Wednesday was definitely as hot as the fires from the depths of hell for another night of the CRYPTORIANA WORLD TOUR NORTH AMERICA 2018 with the bands Uncured, Jinjer and, above all, the majestic Cradle of Filth.

Photos by Laura Springall – https://www.instagram.com/lspringallphoto/

After having two slices of pizza in order to properly face the hurricane of metal music that was about to come, I headed to The Opera House (which by the way seemed to be sold out) to enjoy the first band of the night, the technical and heavy American Progressive Death/Groove Metal UNCURED. Formed in 2014 in New York City, the quartet comprised of brothers Rex and Zak Cox sharing the vocals and guitar duties (and before you ask, they’re not twins), Jon Kita on bass, and Liam Manley on drums delivered a very solid performance on stage, still promoting their latest album Medusa, released in 2017 (which you can listen in its entirety HERE). Those boys didn’t stop headbanging and shredding not even for a single second, receiving a very positive feedback from the crowd already jammed in the floor section. This is the second time I saw Uncured live and they’re just getting better and better, pointing to a bright future ahead of them. From their setlist I highly recommend the songs Stygian Valley and Myopic (both from Medusa), and their brand new song Terminal, the best of their concert in my opinion. And lastly, I just want to send a quick message to the guy from the crowd that called them “Backstreet Boys”: they might be boys, but they’re talented metalheads, so shut up and try doing something useful for society like what Uncured are doing with their first-class metal music, right?

Setlist
Stygian Valley
Petrified
Myopic
Dilate
Persia (Spontaneous Regeneration alternative version)
Terminal

Band members
Rex Cox – vocals, guitars
Zak Cox – vocals, guitars
Jon Kita – bass
Liam Manley – drums 

Photos by Laura Springall – https://www.instagram.com/lspringallphoto/

After a short break it was time for an explosion of Metalcore made in Ukraine, courtesy of the sexy frontwoman Tatiana Shmaylyuk and her interesting band JINJER. If you’ve never heard of Jinjer, the band was brought into being in 2009 in the city of Horlivka, having already released a few interesting studio albums, like their 2014 opus Cloud Factory (reissued now in 2018, only a couple of years after its original release for reasons beyond my comprehension). Their concert was energetic and straight to the point, with Tatiana leading her henchmen and having a very good interaction with the fans. The only issue for me was the quality of the sound coming from the drums, which sounded during most of their set like the annoying “frying pan beating” sound from Lars’ drums in Metallica’s hideous St. Anger, but nothing that could stop the band and their fans from having a very good time. As I enjoy Tatiana’s deep, enraged growls a lot more than her clean vocals, my top moments of their concert were for sure Who Is Gonna Be the One (from their 2014 album Cloud Factory) and Captain Clock (from their 2016 album King Of Everything), not only warming up the fans at the venue for the main attraction of the night, but also urging everyone to jump up and down and break their necks just like what we always expect from a good Metalcore band.

Setlist
Prologue
Who Is Gonna Be the One
Words of Wisdom
Sit Stay Roll Over
I Speak Astronomy
Just Another
Pisces
Captain Clock
Outlander
No Hoard of Value
Bad Water
Beggars’ Dance

Band members
Tatiana Shmaylyuk – vocals
Roman Ibramhalilov – guitar
Eugene Kostyuk – bass
Vlad Ulasevich – drums 

CRADLE OF FILTH

Photos by Laura Springall – https://www.instagram.com/lspringallphoto/

One thing that always impresses me at The Opera House is the insane speed and very little amount of time the bands and their crew take to switch the whole equipment from one band to another, which is why we didn’t have to wait for too long for another superb, violent and blackened performance by British Extreme Metal institution CRADLE OF FILTH. Spearheaded by the iconic Dani Filth and promoting their latest opus, the excellent Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay, released in 2017, the band didn’t show any mercy on our souls, blasting some of their most visceral, complex and beautiful compositions from their unparalleled career that already lasts for impressive 27 years (and please don’t ask me how Dani can still growl and scream flawlessly like a demon after almost three decades). Well, when you open the show with songs like the aggressive Gilded Cunt and one of my favorite songs of all time, the masterpiece Beneath the Howling Stars, you know the whole concert will be brutal.

The rest of the band was also on fire, providing the perfect instrumental for Dani to thrive on vocals, in special the bestial drummer Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka behind his glass cage (not sure if that cage is for sound or security purposes), and Oshawa-own beauty Lindsay Schoolcraft, who once again could not hide her happiness for playing with Cradle of Filth in front of her very own people. She was fantastic throughout the entire concert, and didn’t even know how to thank the fans for such warm reception. Actually, it’s us fans who have to thank her for such awesome performance, embellishing classic tunes like The Death of Love, Nymphetamine and Her Ghost in the Fog with her powerful voice.

One of the highlights of the night was undoubtedly the execution of the 11-minute extravaganza Bathory Aria, a marvelous and intricate song I honestly never thought I would be able to witness them playing live. Dani explained they’re playing it as the start of the celebrations of 20 years of what’s in my opinion the best Cradle of Filth album of all time, their 1998 concept opus Cruelty And The Beast (and get ready, because Dani mentioned already they’re planning to release a very special 20th anniversary edition of the album). The brand new songs from Cryptoriana also worked really well, with Heartbreak and Séance sounding simply astounding live, proving once again that Cradle of Filth are a band that don’t just defy time, they kick it in the ass and keep delivering awesomeness album after album, year after year, for our total delectation.

Photos by Laura Springall – https://www.instagram.com/lspringallphoto/

One thing I really enjoy about Dani is how fun and somehow cryptic he always sounds when interacting with the crowd (and he knows we love that). When he’s in town, he always makes sure he praises his Canadian fans, he shows his respect for his supporting acts (demanding a huge ovation for Uncured and Jinjer for their excellent performances), and always finds time to make a peculiar joke about something very Canadian. I remember a few years ago when he said he loved getting to Canada during winter, as our Canadian winter is truly unique, and this time he mentioned a lot of times his admiration for Canadian professional tennis player Eugenie Bouchard. I have absolutely no idea why he mentioned “Genie” Bouchard and dedicated so many songs to her, as she has pretty much no connection to heavy music as far as I know. Apart from being a bombshell and for having lots of serious issues in her tennis career, I don’t see why Dani loves her so much. Well, maybe those are the two reasons why, right?

Anyway, after the classic From the Cradle to Enslave, and after almost two hours of nonstop, electrifying mosh pits (even during a dark ballad like Nymphetamine there were people crushing their skulls inside the pit like wild beats), the concert was over and fans could head home, have another beer, take pictures with the guys from Uncured and Jinjer, and start thinking how they would be able to work the following day after a true avalanche of high-quality extreme music, courtesy of four American boys, four Ukrainian metallers, and a multi-cultural outfit that knows better than anyone else in the world how to perfectly blend Extreme Metal with a theatrical performance, fantastic lyrics and endless energy and pleasure for being able to be on stage for all of us fans.

Setlist
ACT I
Ave Satani (Intro)
Gilded Cunt
Beneath the Howling Stars
Blackest Magick in Practice
Heartbreak and Séance
Bathory Aria: Benighted Like Usher / A Murder of Ravens in Fugue / Eyes That
Witnessed Madness
Dusk and Her Embrace
The Death of Love
You Will Know the Lion by His Claw
Creatures That Kissed in Cold Mirrors (Interlude)

ACT II
A Bruise Upon the Silent Moon (Intro)
The Promise of Fever
Nymphetamine (Fix)
Her Ghost in the Fog
Born in a Burial Gown
From the Cradle to Enslave
Blooding the Hounds of Hell (Outro)

Band members
Dani Filth – lead vocals
Richard Shaw – guitars
Marek “Ashok” Šmerda – guitars
Daniel Firth – bass
Lindsay Schoolcraft – female vocals, keyboards
Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka – drums

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Concert Review – Trivium & Arch Enemy (The Danforth Music Hall, Toronto, ON, 11/07/2017)

Over 1,500 metalheads headed over to Toronto’s Greektown for a flammable night of modern and vibrant contemporary metal music, courtesy of the iconic Arch Enemy and the unstoppable Trivium.

OPENING ACTS: Fit For An Autopsy and While She Sleeps

Although it’s getting colder and colder as the month of November begins to switch from the colors of fall to the monochromatic look of winter, I guess no one can complain about the clear and not-so-chilly weather yesterday in Toronto, turning the night into the perfect occasion to head to The Danforth Music Hall, located at the easternmost side of what’s known as “Greektown”, to watch the fulminant performances by two of the most important bands in contemporary metal music, Swedish Melodic Death Metal masters Arch Enemy and American Heavy Metal troopers Trivium, both promoting their brand new kick-ass albums. Not only that, weeks before the concert all tickets were already sold out, which means we were going to experience around 1,500 metalmaniacs screaming, jumping up and down and slamming into the pit together with the bands. It can’t get any better than this, my friends.

The two bands chosen to warm up the crowd in a night of modern and aggressive heavy music were American Deathcore act Fit For An Autopsy and British Metalcore group While She Sleeps, with FIT FOR AN AUTOPSY being the first to hit the stage at 6:30pm. Formed in 2008 in Jersey City, in the state of New Jersey, United States, the band is supporting Arch Enemy and Trivium during their fall tour by promoting their latest album, titled The Great Collapse, released earlier this year. If Deathcore is your cup of tea, go check The Great Collapse in full on YouTube as their setlist was 2/3 formed of songs from that album, and also watch their official video for Black Mammoth, the closing song of their performance.

Setlist
Hydra
Heads Will Hang
Absolute Hope Absolute Hell
Still We Destroy
Iron Moon
Black Mammoth

Band members
Joe Badolato – vocals
Will Putney – guitar
Patrick Sheridan – guitar
Tim Howley – guitar
Peter Spinazola – bass
Josean Orta – drums

After that good start it was time for WHILE SHE SLEEPS to blast their Metalcore precisely at 7:15pm to all metalheads that were already at the venue (and the ones arriving a little late). Formed in 2006, this Sheffield-based squad is currently promoting their new album You Are We, with their setlist also being almost 100% based on it. New songs like the opening tune You Are We, Silence Speaks, and the closing one Hurricane kept the audience warm enough for the main attractions of the night, with lead singer Lawrence Taylor and bassist Aaran Mckenzie being absolutely on fire from start to finish.

Setlist
You Are We
Civil Isolation
Brainwashed
Feel
Silence Speaks
Hurricane

Band members
Lawrence Taylor – vocals
Sean Long – guitar
Mat Welsh – guitar, vocals
Aaran Mckenzie – bass
Adam Savage -drums

ARCH ENEMY

Finally, after over three long years (the last time the band was in town was in 2014 together with Kreator), Toronto had the pleasure of witnessing another bestial performance by ARCH ENEMY, precisely at 8:05pm (the punctuality of the concerts in Toronto always amazes me), and let me tell you that this time the whole band was even sharper and heavier than last time. Well, let’s say that is most probably due to the fact that in their new album, the excellent Will to Power, Arch Enemy put the pedal to the metal, sounding less melodic and more ruthless, and when their new songs were transferred to the stage the result couldn’t be different than some insane mosh pits, lots of growling and fists and horns in the air.

Frontwoman Alissa White-Gluz (with her always exotic and apocalyptic attire) seemed extremely happy and excited (as expected) to be with Arch Enemy once again in her homeland Canada, saying that it might be difficult for the band to cross the ocean to play in North America, but when they’re able to finally come to Canada and the US, it’s definitely worth it. She said that although she’s originally from Montreal, Quebec, she nurtures a deep passion and respect for Toronto, and the fans responded to that statement with a lot of enthusiasm, banging their heads nonstop to each and every song played by Arch Enemy. As mentioned, the new songs worked extremely well, in special the high-octane Slayer-ish tornado titled The Race, which by the way Alissa said is her favorite of the new album (and mine too), and the classy and groovy Blood in the Water.

Sharlee D’Angelo and Daniel Erlandsson were as precise and competent as usual with their bass and drums, respectively, but I must say it’s impressive how crystal clear, blazing and tuneful the guitars by Michael Amott and Jeff Loomis sounded during their entire performance. Those guys are true BEASTS with their cutting riffs and solos, sounding so perfect to the point you couldn’t tell if they were playing live or if it was the studio version of the songs. Whoever adjusts their instruments prior to the shows is a technical genius, no doubt about that, and if you get to see Arch Enemy live anywhere during this tour simply close your eyes and let each note played by Mr. Amott during the classic instrumental piece Snow Bound penetrate deep into your soul. The only “complaint” I have about their concert was the presence of not-so-exciting songs in their setlist, like Stolen Life, You Will Know My Name and Avalanche, which worked well, I have to admit that, but imagine if they played some of their more obscure and scathing classic tunes, like what happened with Ravenous, Dead Bury Their Dead and especially Nemesis? Well, we’ll have to wait for their next Canadian tour to see what they’ll do to their setlist (and I can’t wait for that).

Setlist
Set Flame to the Night (Intro)
The World Is Yours
Ravenous
Stolen Life
War Eternal
My Apocalypse
Blood in the Water
You Will Know My Name
The Race
The Eagle Flies Alone
As the Pages Burn
Dead Bury Their Dead
We Will Rise
Avalanche
Snow Bound
Nemesis
Enter the Machine (Outro)

Band members
Alissa White-Gluz – vocals
Michael Amott – lead guitars, backing vocals
Jeff Loomis – lead guitars, backing vocals
Sharlee D’Angelo – bass
Daniel Erlandsson – drums

TRIVIUM

After a short break, where the house DJ played some all-time classics on the speakers such as Iron Maiden’s “The Prisoner” and Motörhead’s “Born to Raise Hell” to keep the momentum created by Arch Enemy going, Orlando-based metallers TRIVIUM took the stage by storm at 9:45pm sharp already with the opening track of their superb new opus, The Sin and the Sentence, the title-track The Sin and the Sentence, which made the crowd explode in awe and ignited some serious mosh pits all over the venue. Matt Heafy, Corey Beaulieu and Paolo Gregoletto were as electrified and in sync as usual, with Matt leading the fans with his “meme-generator” faces and gestures, but it was newcomer Alex Bent who stole the spotlight. Holy shit, that guy is a relentless killing machine on drums, elevating the band’s already heavy sonority to a whole new level. Needless to say, he played all songs to perfection, in special one of the best of the new album and a serious candidate to become a Trivium classic, the Black Metal-inspired tune Betrayer.

Surprisingly (at least for me), one of the songs with the strongest reaction from fans was Until the World Goes Cold, which is a pretty nice ballad but, let’s be realistic, it’s far from being as awesome as classics like Down From the Sky and Kirisute Gomen. Two of the other songs from The Sin and the Sentence, the radio-friendly The Heart From Your Hate and Thrown Into the Fire, also sounded and felt truly heavy and thrilling, proving once again that Trivium are one of the most effective bands in heavy music when composing both heavier and slower, more melodic songs. Just like what happened with Arch Enemy, I missed a few songs in their setlist, especially some of the more complex tunes from Shogun, but Matt & Co. know what they were doing when they put this setlist together, trying to encompass all of the band’s phases in a little less than one hour and a half.

Last but not least, when the intro Capsizing the Sea started playing we all knew the show was coming to an end, but not before Matt thanked Toronto for another fantastic night of metal, promising to always return to the city with another blast of Trivium music, and asking everyone present at the venue to get down or kneel before one of their biggest classics, if not the biggest of all, In Waves. If you enjoy Slipknot you’ve already seen Corey Taylor and his bandmates do the same during their concerts, and with In Waves that Slipknot-ish formula worked extremely well like a precise time bomb, with all fans jumping up and down like maniacs while bursting their lungs screaming the two words from the song’s name. I guess there wasn’t a single fan that wasn’t eager for more Trivium when the show was over, as both Arch Enemy and Trivium had shorter-than-usual time slots to play for co-headlining the tour, but again, we must learn to be patient and wait for Trivium to get back in town in a not-so-distant future, right? At least Matt promised to be back soon, and we must trust the man.

Setlist
The Sin and the Sentence
Down From the Sky
Betrayer
Until the World Goes Cold
Like Light to the Flies
Rain
Dusk Dismantled
Strife
The Heart From Your Hate
Kirisute Gomen
Thrown Into the Fire

Encore:
Capsizing the Sea (Intro)
In Waves

Band members
Matt Heafy – lead vocals, guitar
Corey Beaulieu – guitar, backing vocals
Paolo Gregoletto – bass guitar, backing vocals
Alex Bent – drums, percussion

Concert Review – Megadeth & Scorpions (Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON, 09/22/2017)

The city of Toronto was beautifully taken by storm by two of the greatest bands in the history of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock on the last day of the summer, and the result was absolutely fantastic.

OPENING ACT: Megadeth

When this Crazy World Tour 2017 was announced a few months ago, I instantly thought about how amazing it would be to witness on the same night two of the greatest bands in the history of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock playing some of their biggest classics (as well as a few newer songs) at what’s in my humble opinion one of the best and most pleasant venues in the world to watch any type of concert (and I’ve been to several different ones in distinct parts of the world), the Torontonian amphitheater now known as Budweiser Stage. Well, it was even better than anyone could have expected, with the combination of two bands full of energy and excited to please the crowd, thousands of fans eager for some rockin’ music, and a weather that, for the very last day of summer, was beyond perfect, making the whole night truly memorable.

As the opening act, or maybe I should call them co-headliners as they’re not your average band, we had the absolute pleasure of enjoying American Thrash/Speed Metal heroes MEGADETH. Spearheaded by the unstoppable Mr. Dave Mustaine, Megadeth were still promoting their latest installment, the excellent Dystopia, released last year, but only one song from the album (its title-track) was played during the show. The setlist was pretty much a selection of their biggest hits with a huge focus on their 1990 masterpiece Rust In Piece, kicking off the concert with the blazing Hangar 18, and also featuring from that classic album the hits Take No Prisoners, Tornado of Souls (my favorite of the show) and, closing their performance, a song that needs no introduction, Holy Wars… The Punishment Due.

And obviously “Megadave” and his henchmen David Ellefson, Kiko Loureiro (who proved to be the guitarist Mustaine needed by his side) and Dirk Verbeuren played every song to perfection, with the background screen complementing the music in a fun and exciting manner. For instance, the Nascar images used as a background for Mechanix and the official video for Dystopia (another fantastic moment of the show) played while the band executed the song were spot-on to keep the fans mesmerized and in total sync with the band. In addition, everyone at the venue singing the power ballad A Tout Le Monde guided by Mustaine was just beautiful, and the smile on his face after that moment was awesome. Now, as usual, let’s patiently wait until we can see such distinct band performing live again in our beautiful Toronto.

Setlist
Prince of Darkness
Hangar 18
Mechanix
Take No Prisoners
Sweating Bullets
A Tout Le Monde
Tornado of Souls
Dystopia
Symphony of Destruction
Peace Sells

Encore:
Holy Wars… The Punishment Due

Band members
Dave Mustaine – lead vocals, lead guitars, rhythm guitars
Kiko Loureiro – lead guitars, rhythm guitars, backing vocals
David Ellefson – bass guitar, backing vocals
Dirk Verbeuren – drums

SCORPIONS

If the venue wasn’t fully packed during Megadeth’s kick-ass performance, things changed considerably a few minutes before German Hard Rock institution SCORPIONS hit the stage with their flawless setlist, but before the concert started I had the pleasure of exchanging a few words with other fans close to where I was (which was right in front of the stage), in special one father with his 13-year old son. The name of the boy is T Bone Bentley, he’s a very talented drummer who loves metal and rock, and you can check him smashing his drums on his official YouTube channel (together with his dad), playing songs like Iron Maiden’s all-time classic “Run to the Hills” and Judas Priest’s metal anthem “Breaking the Law”. When I see little fellas like T Bone and their passion for heavy music, my hope for a better future for mankind gets renovated, so don’t waste your time and go check his YouTube videos. They’re surely going to make your day a lot better.

Back to the concert, it was around 8:30pm when the iconic vocalist Klaus Meine, the flammable guitarists Matthias Jabs and Rudolf Schenker, the talented bassist Paweł Mąciwoda and the one and only drummer Mikkey Dee hit the stage with an avalanche of Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll hits, starting with a fantastic song from their 2015 album Return to Forever, the rockin’ Going Out With a Bang, already showing the night was going to be insanely fun. Let’s say that the first part of the show worked more like a “warm-up”, with the band jamming and rocking nonstop, generating a very good vibe and showing why they’re still alive and kicking after so many decades on the road. That first segment of the show had as its highlights the classic The Zoo, the fairly new but amazing We Built This House, and from their mini-acoustic set (including a weird but useful drum kit by Mikkey) I would say the touching ballad Send Me an Angel definitely stole the spotlight.

After that, Mr. Klaus Meine simply introduced one of the band’s biggest and most beautiful classics, Wind of Change, obviously hypnotizing all of us with the song’s renowned whistling, followed by another sensational new song titled Rock ‘n’ Roll Band and their awesome tribute to the most badass rocker that this world will ever see, Lemmy Kilmister, playing a cover version of Motörhead’s hit Overkill. Right after that, Mikkey offered us all an amazing drum solo (which put the little T Bone into a state of pure ecstasy), while the rest of the band was getting ready for a flawless Hard Rock attack comprised of nothing more, nothing less than Blackout, Big City Nights, No One Like You, Still Loving You (what a lovely moment of the show!) and Rock You Like a Hurricane. What else can you ask for, right?

Before this review of the show is over, I just wanted to mention two things that truly caught my attention during the concert, one in a very positive way, while the other was quite sad.  First, I was completely impressed with the fact that Mr. Rudolf Schenker is almost 70 years old and he keeps running frantically around the stage, screaming and interacting with the fans, and playing his guitar as if he was in his early 30’s. That was plain awesome, and definitely an inspiration for me and lots of other fans on how you can get old but remain young at heart, enjoying life until the end (just like Lemmy did, by the way). On the other hand, while Mr. Schenker was a role model to all of us, there were a few spoiled bi… I mean, girls, that thought that just because they’re (still) young and pretty they can do whatever they want, including being rude, disrespectful and annoying to anyone around them. One of them was so disrespectful to a guy next to me, elbowing him and pretending he was harassing her, to the point everyone close to that scene even stooped enjoying the concert for a few moments until security finally (and fortunately) took that stupid Barbie doll away. I hope when she gets old, and she will, she learns how to be a better person and how to respect other people. Well, Little T Bone is only 13 and he already knows how to behave in a rock and metal concert, as well as other kids that attended the show with their parents. It’s just a matter of learning what true respect is at home, right? And I hope that next time Scorpions take Toronto by storm with another faultless performance like that, that irksome girl is somewhere else, like at a Justin Bieber concert. Let the real bands for the real fans, lady.

Setlist
Intro
Going Out With a Bang
Make It Real
The Zoo
Coast to Coast
Top of the Bill / Steamrock Fever / Speedy’s Coming / Catch Your Train
We Built This House
Delicate Dance (with Ingo Powitzer)
Always Somewhere / Eye of the Storm / Send Me an Angel
Wind of Change
Rock ‘n’ Roll Band
Overkill (Motörhead cover)
Drum Solo
Blackout
Big City Nights

Encore:
No One Like You
Still Loving You
Rock You Like a Hurricane

Band members
Klaus Meine – lead vocals
Matthias Jabs – lead guitars, rhythm guitars, acoustic guitars
Rudolf Schenker – rhythm guitars, lead guitars, backing vocals
Paweł Mąciwoda – bass guitar
Mikkey Dee – drums

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Concert Review – Blaze Bayley (The Rockpile, Toronto, ON, 08/19/2017)

A journey through the past, present and future in the career of the unstoppable Blaze Bayley in the form of first-class Heavy Metal for his diehard fans in Toronto.

OPENING ACT: Cadillac Blood

I’ll never understand why people who call themselves diehard metalheads would miss a chance to attend a top-notch Heavy Metal concert like what we had this Saturday at the really nice venue The Rockpile, which despite being usually referred as located in Toronto, technically speaking it’s in Etobicoke, an administrative district and former city that makes up the western part of the city of Toronto, around 18km from downtown. The weather was perfect, the beer was nice and cold, the food was great and all prices were very, very reasonable (including the ticket price). And those so-called fans of heavy music keep complaining on Facebook, Twitter etc. that metal doesn’t have the proper support and all those shenanigans. How about instead of just typing, you get up from that couch, head to a place like The Rockpile and support underground metal?

If you do that, perhaps you’ll face an electrifying band like the young and restless thrashers from CADILLAC BLOOD, a completely independent act from Keswick, Ontario, located 70km north of Toronto. Blending elements from Thrash Metal, Punk Rock and Rock N’ Roll in their music, and being clearly inspired by bands such as Volbeat (by the way, the band’s name comes from Volbeat’s classic album Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood if you haven’t noticed yet), Metallica, Motörhead and Anthrax, the quartet comprised of Luke Morrell on vocals, Tyler Morrell on guitar, Sean Murphy on bass and Dean Fraser on drums delivered an excellent warmup to the fans that were there for Blaze Bayley, being extremely professional and excited from start to finish, in special Luke who didn’t stop jumping and headbanging for a single second while singing at the same time. Unfortunately I don’t have their full setlist, but you can go to their BandCamp page and check out songs like Crow’s Nest and Devil’s Brew, both played by the band on Saturday.

Band members
Luke Morrell – vocals
Tyler Morrell – guitar
Sean Murphy – bass
Dean Fraser – drums

BLAZE BAYLEY

When it was time for the unstoppable BLAZE BAYLEY to hit the stage with his Endure and Survive World Tour 2017, at around 10:30pm, The Rockpile was not even half full, maybe due to lack of better promotion or because the pub was a bit far for fans who rely on public transportation to move around, but I think those are just excuses for our society’s growing laziness to do anything that’s not online. Blaze deserved a much bigger crowd (he even joked it was his fault, as he asked that only true metalheads attended his concert), as he’s been doing superior music being totally independent, with very little support from anyone but himself and his bandmates. His music is powerful and vibrant, his lyrics are poetic and meaningful, and his energy on stage is simply fantastic. What else do you need in a metal concert?

Anyway, the brave fans who were at The Rockpile had the absolute pleasure of witnessing an amazing performance by Blaze and his amazing band formed by the talented Chris Appleton on guitars and backing vocals, Karl Schramm on bass and backing vocals, and Martin McNee on drums, who are not only the guys who recorded the first two parts of the kick-ass Infinite Entanglement trilogy with Blaze, the 2016 album Infinite Entanglement and the 2017 follow-up Endure And Survive (Infinite Entanglement Part II), but who are also three quarters of British Heavy Metal act Absolva, a great underground band highly recommended for lovers of old school metal music.

When Blaze was in Toronto for the last time, at the now defunct Hard Rock Café in 2014, he was supported by a Canadian Iron Maiden cover group named Maiden Quebec, and although they were a very good band, Blaze’s performance was somewhat hampered by their lack of chemistry. Fortunately for the fans at The Rockpile this Saturday, Blaze and the guys from Absolva were in perfect sync, a reflection of their years working together, delivering to the crowd a top-notch setlist encompassing the best of Blaze’s past, present, and even future (if you think of Infinite Entanglement as an evolving project), playing simply the best songs from Wolfsbane, Iron Maiden and his unparalleled solo career. From the very first notes of the inspiring Endure and Survive, to the speed and violence of Blood, Dark Energy 256 and Man on the Edge (see his intro video to this all-time classic HERE), and the epicness of The Clansman, their performance was flawless.

As I mentioned before, Blaze is a metal poet, and there was always a reason for a song to be inserted in his setlist, always bringing a powerful message to the fans who were singing along all lyrics with Blaze. For instance, his speech about how we all fail and how we all must stand up from our failures and fight our fears again and again in Fight Back, from his latest album, only shows how much he loves what he does and how much he’s passionate about Heavy Metal, as well as how he said us fans are his “home” in the emotional Calling You Home. Of course there was also room for lighter topics, like when he explained the origins of Wolfsbane and how we all would feel “sexier” after screaming the words “man hunt” during Wolfsbane’s biggest hit Man Hunt. By the way, the “duel” between Blaze and the rest of the band during this song was awesome, with Chris and Karl stealing the show with their refined techniques. Blaze made sure he acknowledged the undeniable talent of Chris not only as a guitarist, but also as a songwriter and producer, something we can easily see through his work with both Absolva and Blaze Bayley.

After the last song of the setlist, A Thousand Years (my favorite track from Infinite Entanglement), Blaze and the guys stayed at the venue for a free autograph and photo session with their fans, not charging a single penny as most band do nowadays with their “meet & greet experiences”, as a sign of his respect and admiration for us, supporters of independent music. All band members were very nice and courteous with everyone, talking about their tour across Canada and the US, their plans for the future and other topics. And all true metal fans who attended the concert on Saturday went back home with a huge smile on their faces, something that happens every single time you see a concert by the metal warrior Blaze Bayley. As simple as that.

Setlist
Endure and Survive
Escape Velocity
Futureal
Blood
Silicon Messiah
Fight Back
Virus
Calling You Home
Stare at the Sun
The Clansman
Man Hunt
Man on the Edge
Dark Energy 256
Lord of the Flies
A Thousand Years

Band members
Blaze Bayley – vocals
Chris Appleton – guitars, backing vocals
Karl Schramm – bass, backing vocals
Martin McNee – drums

Concert Review – Iron Maiden (Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON, 07/15/2017)

On a pleasant summer day in the city of Toronto, over 18,000 metalheads had a beautiful time screaming, singing, jumping up and down, raising their horns and “climbing like a monkey” to the flammable music by the unparalleled Iron Maiden.

OPENING ACT: Ghost

As opposed to last year’s Iron Maiden concert at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, when it was freaking cold and a snow blizzard covered the city and made driving a true nightmare, this Saturday the weather couldn’t be more perfect, with a temperature close to 30 degrees in a sunny day, resulting in another memorable night for all Maidenmaniacs that attended the concert at the always amazing Budweiser Stage (which used to be called Molson Canadian Amphitheatre). You could see in the eyes of the fans that everyone was in a great mood, probably because they spent the whole day getting ready for the concert, drinking beer, enjoying a nice BBQ or simply listening to Iron Maiden while getting tanned by the nice afternoon sun. And besides, everyone would have the whole Sunday to recover before returning to work on Monday (unless you were also seeing Metallica on Sunday, but that’s a different story).

It was around 7:30pm when the opening act hit the stage, Heavy Metal blue-eyed boys GHOST, who for some reason are deeply loved by most musicians, but not as much by fans of metal music. Even Metallica’s James Hetfield himself was at the venue watching the performance by Papa Emeritus III (also known as Tobias Forge) and his nameless ghouls. Anyway, this was my second time seeing Ghost, once again opening for Iron Maiden as in 2014 in the Czech Republic, and this time was way better than the first, I must admit. Papa Emeritus III was more dynamic on stage, more communicative and less “stuck” to the pope gimmick. A considerable amount of fans that were at the venue enjoyed their performance, singing together with the band songs like Ritual, Year Zero and Absolution, and as their performance wasn’t too long I guess not even the most diehard fan of Iron Maiden got bored with Ghost.

Setlist
Masked Ball (Jocelyn Pook song)
Square Hammer
From the Pinnacle to the Pit
Ritual
Cirice
Year Zero
Absolution
Mummy Dust
Monstrance Clock

Band members
Papa Emeritus III (Tobias Forge) – vocals
Nameless Ghouls – all instrumentalists:

  • Fire – lead guitarist
  • Ether – rhythm guitarist
  • Water – bassist
  • Wind – keyboardist
  • Earth – drummer

IRON MAIDEN

Finally, after over one year (and another cold winter), it was time for Toronto to scream one more time for the one and only IRON MAIDEN, this time during their The Book Of Souls World Tour 2017, the second leg of their majestic tour promoting their 2015 masterpiece The Book Of Souls. The setlist was pretty much the same as last time, except for Tears of a Clown being replaced with The Great Unknown, and the saddest change of all time, Hallowed Be Thy Name being replaced with Wrathchild due to a legal dispute with retired rock band manager Barry McKay, who is taking Steve Harris and Dave Murray to court over the song. Barry claims Hallowed Be Thy Name reproduces major parts of a song titled “Lying in my Shadow”, written by musician Brian Quinn (under the name Brian Ingham), and because of that Iron Maiden couldn’t play one of their most beautiful and powerful classics during their 2017 tour.

That didn’t stop Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris & Co. to kick ass one more time on stage for the delight of over 18,000 metalheads at the Budweiser Stage, blasting as usual a well-balanced mix of old school songs and newer compositions. Fans were already pumped up during the classic “Doctor Doctor” intro, exploding into sheer ecstasy when Bruce appeared at the top of the band’s Mayan-inspired stage to ignite their “ritual” with the initial spoken words of their new classic If Eternity Should Fail. After that it was an avalanche of hits played to perfection with Bruce interacting with the crowd all the time, while Steve was unstoppable with his galloping bass and Janick seemed as if he was high on something so electric his performance was. And I guess I don’t need to say how awesome Adrian, Dave and Nicko were with their instruments, right? There was only one minor issue with Bruceç mic, which kept failing a little once in a while, but nothing that could harm such sensational concert.

In my humble opinion, the best sequence of the night started with the classic Children of the Damned, where Bruce gave his already traditional speech about most of the fans not being born when the song was written and, for the ones born in 83 or 84, they might be the true “children of the damned”, conceived when the song was written in 82 (as Bruce mentioned, your parents had sex at least once in their lives!). After such stylish composition, the band invited all of us to fly with them and “fight” the Red Baron in the high-octane Death or Glory, with Bruce and his monkey mask enticing us to “climb like a monkey”, a fun move he started last year that became sort of mandatory every time they play this song. And the stunning sequel went on with the 13-minute hymn The Red and the Black, with all fans jumping up and down and singing the “Oh-oh oh-oh-oh! Oh-oh oh-oh-oh!” parts along with Bruce, followed by one of my top Maiden songs of all time, The Trooper, where guess what? It was time to burst our lungs again screaming the song’s famous “Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh!” together with the band. And closing their killer sequel, the imposing Powerslave, which almost made me blind with its initial flames as I was quite close to the stage.

The newer songs like The Great Unknown and the epic The Book of Souls (where Eddie had his heart “ripped out” by Bruce) kept their momentum going, making everyone even more excited for their final batch of unparalleled classics such as Iron Maiden, The Number of the Beast (with the stage fires making us literally burn), and Wasted Years. However, it was their 2000 creation Blood Brothers that really stole the show, with all fans signing its heartening lyrics together with the band, after Bruce’s inspiring intro where he spoke about how diverse and welcoming the city of Toronto is, and how there shouldn’t be no differences among us all, as we’re all blood brothers. What a brilliant performance of such amazing tune, I have to say! One of the best I’ve seen live together with the one from Rock In Rio III in 2001. As Bruce said close to the end of the show, Iron Maiden are far from being done, and they’ll return to Toronto with more of their unmatched metal music in a not-so-distant future. Needless to say, all 18,000 fans at the concert Saturday are more than eager for that without a shadow of a doubt. It doesn’t matter if it’s a hot and sunny day like this Saturday or if it’s in the middle of a cold winter, we all know that Iron Maiden’s gonna get us all.

Setlist
Doctor Doctor (UFO song)
If Eternity Should Fail
Speed of Light
Wrathchild
Children of the Damned
Death or Glory
The Red and the Black
The Trooper
Powerslave
The Great Unknown
The Book of Souls
Fear of the Dark
Iron Maiden

Encore:
The Number of the Beast
Blood Brothers
Wasted Years
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Monty Python song)

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
Steve Harris – bass
Dave Murray – guitar
Adrian Smith – guitar
Janick Gers – guitar
Nicko McBrain – drums

Concert Review –Testament (Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 04/27/2017)

When you have two of the best and most iconic Thrash Metal bands of all time playing together in the city, you know exactly where you have to be.

OPENING ACTS: Prong and Sepultura

As much as I enjoy the Phoenix Concert Theatre and obviously the bands that were going to play last night, I truly and deeply hate the weekdays rush hour traffic to get from my town, the suburban Oakville, to Toronto whenever there’s a good metal concert I want to attend. At least the weather was fantastic (even with a short storm that happened at around 7pm), with the temperature being above 20 degrees, which means no one had to carry their burdensome jackets like what always happens when a concert is in the middle of the winter.

Anyway, due to traffic (and because I had to eat something before heading to the venue), I completely missed the performance by American Crossover Thrash power trio PRONG. I have absolutely no idea if it was a good concert or not. Well, probably yes as the group spearheaded by Tommy Victor has all it takes to deliver great music to the audience, but unfortunately I can’t say a word about what they did last night, not even write down their setlist.

Band members
Tommy Victor – lead vocals, guitar
Jason Christopher – bass guitar, backing vocals
Art Cruz – drums

Fortunately, I got to the Phoenix Concert Theatre just in time to see the always amazing show by Brazilian Thrash/Groove Metal masters SEPULTURA, who are currently promoting their latest album, the very experimental and exciting Machine Messiah.  Derrick Green, Andreas Kisser, Paulo Jr. and Eloy Casagrande put on an electrified performance on stage from start to finish, blending several songs of their new album like the excellent Phantom Self and Sworn Oath with all-time classics such as Desperate Cry, Inner Self (my favorite of the night) and Refuse/Resist, and of course the song most fans at the venue wanted to hear, their ritualistic hymn Roots Bloody Roots. The sound was very clear, cohesive and powerful, just like what the band offers us in their studio albums, proving Sepultura are a band that always provides their fans the same high level of quality found in their studio versions when they transport those compositions to the stage. As usual, the highlights of their performance were the insane riffs, solos and other awesome tricks done by Andreas with his guitar. That guy is one of the most gifted guitarists in the history of heavy music, which means if you’ve never seen him playing live, don’t miss that chance the next time “Sepultura do Brasil” visit your city.

Setlist
I Am the Enemy
Phantom Self
Choke
Desperate Cry
Sworn Oath
Inner Self
Alethea
Resistant Parasites
Refuse/Resist
Ratamahatta
Roots Bloody Roots

Band members
Derrick Green – lead vocals
Andreas Kisser – guitars
Paulo Jr. – bass
Eloy Casagrande – drums, percussion

TESTAMENT

After a short bathroom and beer break, it was time for American Thrash Metal behemoths TESTAMENT to create a sonic Armageddon in Toronto with their unparalleled aggression and refined technique. I guess I always say the same thing about Testament, but all band members are extremely talented and way above average, in special the guitar virtuoso Alex Skolnick and the human earthquake Gene Hoglan. Those two are not simple musicians, they’re demonic beasts when armed with their instruments, delivering the best of the best when it comes to heavy music.

Blasting some of their newest creations from the best metal album of 2016, the superb Brotherhood Of The Snake, especially the kick-ass tunes Brotherhood of the Snake, The Pale King and Stronghold, with old school songs and newer classics, they delivered a flawless performance for the delight of all metalheads at the venue. A few songs from their setlist deserve some special attention, like the brutal and sensational Rise Up for its enhanced mighty power when played live, the high-octane Centuries of Suffering for the insanely intricate magic Gene does behind his drums, and Electric Crown for the amount of groove and feeling flowing from the band’s instruments.

My only complaint about the concert was the excessive amount of solos, one for each band member. As much as I love each guy from the band, I personally prefer regular songs than solos. If they replaced those solos with newer songs like “The Number Game” or “Native Blood”, or with classic like “D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)” or “Burnt Offerings”, it would have been just perfect, but that’s just my opinion. The whole concert was fuckin’ awesome anyway; not even all those solos were able to cool down the audience, mainly because whenever there was a solo there was also a demolishing classic right after it, like when they played the circle pit-generator First Strike Is Deadly after Gene’s drum solo.

Before playing the encore, the iconic Chuck Billy, who by the way is singing better and better as time goes by, therefore being able to perfectly replicate his sensational deep growls live without making any extra effort, told the fans a story about when they were in Texas hanging out with the guys from one of the most respected, energized and violent bands of all time, the one and only Pantera, drinking Jack Daniel’s (and probably taking other stuff as well) with them. Can you imagine that? Testament and Pantera together? The 90’s were definitely the best period for Thrash Metal, no doubt about that. Chuck said that after a lot of drinking, something hit his head (maybe a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, or maybe it was the alcohol itself) and he told the other guys he had the name for their new album. It was going to be called Practice What you Preach, one of their biggest hits, and one of the best of the night as well.

There was still time for one last sick mosh pit with Over the Wall, and after all was said and done you could see how happy all fans of Testament were with their amazing performance. As Chuck said, I hope all promoters in Canada turn their eyes to Testament more often aiming at having more concerts all over the country, not only two or three cities. Let’s hope that those promoters listen to the deep voice by Chuck and we have more of the brotherhood of Thrash Metal in our currently not-so-cold country, because after such brilliant performance last night I’m sure all Torontonian fans of Testament are eager for more of their music.

Setlist
Brotherhood of the Snake
Rise Up
The Pale King
Centuries of Suffering
Alex Skolnick’s Guitar Solo
Electric Crown
Into the Pit
Low
Throne of Thorns
Stronghold
Eric Peterson’s Guitar Solo
Eyes of Wrath
Gene Hoglan’s Drum Solo
First Strike Is Deadly
Steve DiGiorgio’s Bass Solo
Urotsukidôji
Souls of Black
Seven Seals
The New Order

Encore:
Practice What You Preach
Over the Wall

Band members
Chuck Billy – vocals
Eric Peterson – guitar
Alex Skolnick – guitar
Steve Di Giorgio – bass
Gene Hoglan – drums

Concert Review – Lordi (The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 02/22/2017)

The God Of Thunder finally answered our call, and the most electrifying horde of Rock N’ Roll monsters in the universe stormed Toronto with their sensational, gory and theatrical performance for the first time ever.

OPENING ACTS: Mineta and Bookakee

lordi_toronto_2017The weather in Toronto couldn’t have been better for a night of heavy music, given the fact we’re in the middle of the winter and it was supposed to be freaking cold now. Not only there was no snow or rain, but with a temperature above 10 degrees we simply had the perfect conditions for praising the most awesome monsters in the world of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock, our beloved Finnish metallers Lordi, at the always comfortable The Opera House. But before Mr. Lordi and his horde hit the stage to mesmerize us with their sensational music and performance, we were treated to two very interesting Canadian bands that, if you don’t know them yet, certainly deserve our attention.

img_0141The first attraction of the night, MINETA, which is Polish for “cunnilingus” or “fellatio” (or if you prefer, in plain English it means giving oral sex to a woman), was more than just a music band, but a talented group of street performers blasting a mix of Ska, Punk Rock and Heavy Metal with a circus-inspired attitude, or as Mineta themselves like to call it, they play “Circus Party Punk”. Formed in 2012 in the city of Toronto, Mineta have just released their debut full-length album Polyglamerous, which was the base of their fun setlist, including the entertaining Fag Beef. While lead singer Bella Muerta stapled Christmas lights to her thigh, showed her boobs and urged the crowd to sing “daj mi mineta” with her (or “give me oral sex” in Polish), guitarist Tony Patrick Olivero played his strings while doing some circus tricks, Arty Basinski pounded his drums from the top of his stilts, and Matt Pazzol (bettern known as YuMB YuMB) was the weirdest clown I’ve ever seen to play bass guitar. There was still time for a sexy bunny to take some bloody eggs from her pussy and eat them. Yes, that all happened during their wicked show. Are you excited to see them live now?

Band members
Bella Muerta – vocals
Tony Patrick Olivero – guitar
Matt Pazzol (YuMB YuMB) – bass
Arty Basinski – drums

img_0149The second opening act of the night was just as insane as Mineta, but instead of an upbeat Punk Rock they played a very violent and gory version of Death Metal defined by the band as “Progressive Theatrical Melodic Brutal Gore Death Metal”. I’m talking about Montreal-based act BOOKAKEE, a name that also has a sexual connotation meaning “a sexual practice in which several men ejaculate on the face of an individual woman”. Formed in 2007, the band comprised of Philippe Langelier, Simon-Pierre Gagnon, Mathieu Paré, Jonathan David and Jean-Philippe Bouchard haunted the souls of the fans at The Opera House with the visceral compositions from their latest album, named Whorrific, including the title-track Whorrific and the bestial Bookakee Blast. And just like mineta, those five metallers didn’t only play their infernal, technical and thrilling music, but also “helped” a girl give birth to her creepy baby, scalped a nun and were joined on stage by the one and only Donkey Kong. However, the most unusual part of the show was when what was supposed to be a wall of death became a dance floor to the sound of Haddaway’s dance hit “What Is Love”. I guess no one saw that coming.

Band members
Philippe Langelier – vocals
Simon-Pierre Gagnon – lead guitar
Mathieu Paré – rhythm guitar
Jonathan David – bass
Jean-Philippe Bouchard – drums 

LORDI

img_0164After such unique performances, it was time for Mr. Lordi and his horde of monsters to deliver an absolutely flawless performance to an audience avid for their music. It was the first time ever that LORDI performed in the city of Toronto, and the whole band gave their best to make it a memorable night for their Torontonian fans. Still promoting their latest release, the excellent Monstereophonic (Theaterror vs. Demonarchy), the band blasted all types of songs in their solid setlist, from the beautiful ballad It Snows in Hell to the high-octane rockin’ anthem Bringing Back the Balls to Rock, from the very old school song Icon of Dominance to their newest hit Hug You Hardcore, and so on, putting a huge smile on everyone’s faces the whole night.

But Lordi also had some help in their theatrical performance from the very beginning like what happened with Mineta and Bookakee, with the iconic Skeletor introducing the band and displaying the decapitated head of the sissy He-Man in the opening song of the night, the cheesy but fun Let’s Go Slaughter He-Man (I Wanna Be the Beast-Man in the Masters of the Universe). Also, a priest tried to exorcise Mr. Lordi but failed miserably. Who did he think he was dealing with, right? Anyway, Mr. Lordi was on fire the whole presentation, always interacting with the fans and singing all his classics better than ever. Moreover, before playing the fantastic The Riff, he mentioned the song had the same “special ingredient” (which is obviously a heavy riff, if you have no idea what he was talking about) present in the music by behemoths such as KISS, Judas Priest, Motley Crüe, Skid Row and Black Sabbath, proving that before being a monster, he’s a crazy metalhead just like the rest of us.

img_0166Despite being slightly “hidden” at the back of the stage, Mana and Hella both had amazing performances with their powerful beats and keys, in special our stunning  schizo doll emanating charm and electricity during the entire show. And while OX blasted his strings in an entertaining disco-rock-dancing bass solo, Mr. Lordi’s right-hand man Amen was the personification (or should I say “monsterification”?) of a true Rock N’ Roll guitarist, being unstoppable on stage with his cutting riffs and solos. Let’s say their job gets easier than other average bands as they have tons of beyond-catchy hymns to mesmerize us like Hard Rock Hallelujah and Devil Is a Loser, and when they ended the concert with their two most famous “questions”, Who’s Your Daddy? and Would You Love a Monsterman?, they left us all questioning when we’ll have the pleasure of seeing those incredible monsters of rock once again in the city. I personally hope it doesn’t take another 20 years for Lordi to come to Toronto, but I guess I don’t need to worry too much about it as, based on the flammable response by their fans, it won’t take more than a few months for that to happen.

Setlist
God of Thunder (KISS song)
SCG VIII: Opening Scene
Let’s Go Slaughter He-Man (I Wanna Be the Beast-Man in the Masters of the Universe)
Babez for Breakfast
Nailed by the Hammer of Frankenstein
The Riff
Bass Solo
Bite It Like a Bulldog
Icon of Dominance
Drum Solo
Bringing Back the Balls to Rock
Hug You Hardcore
It Snows in Hell
The Children of the Night
Keyboard Solo
Down With the Devil
Blood Red Sandman
Hard Rock Hallelujah
Devil Is a Loser

Encore:
Who’s Your Daddy?
Would You Love a Monsterman?
The Night the Monsters Died

Band members
Mr. Lordi – vocals
Amen – guitars
OX – bass
Hella – keyboards
Mana – drums

Concert Review – Slayer (Sound Academy, Toronto, ON, 09/12/2016)

When you have the iconic Death Angel, Anthrax and Slayer playing together in Toronto, you know it’s going to be an action-packed night of demented headbanging, beer drinking and brutal slamming.

OPENING ACTS: Death Angel and Anthrax

img_1784Anytime a concert is scheduled for a weekday that’s not Friday and there are a few bands on the lineup, I believe the organizers should push the whole event one hour later than planned to give more time to several fans that do not live right beside the venue to get there before the first band starts. And when the opening act is a band like Thrash Metal masters DEATH ANGEL, that extra time should be mandatory. The doors at a completely revamped Sound Academy (which will soon change its traditional name to Rebel, the most generic thing you can think of) opened at 6:30pm yesterday, and right after that Death Angel began their concert. Was I there to witness the amazing band led by Mark Osegueda fire their classics and new songs from the superb The Evil Divide? Of course not, nor hundreds of other fans who due to work or school could not get to the venue before 7:30pm. Is it too difficult to take into account the fact that most people do not live only five minutes from the venue, especially on a Monday night? We paid good money for the tickets, we deserved to see Death Angel, but it looks like some people just don’t care if you’re attending the full concert or not, right?

Setlist
The Ultra-Violence
Evil Priest
Claws in So Deep
Thrown to the Wolves
The Dream Calls for Blood
The Moth

Band members
Mark Osegueda – vocals
Rob Cavestany – guitar
Ted Aguilar – guitar
Damien Sisson – bass
Will Carroll – drums

img_1787And if you arrived after 7:30pm you might even have missed the beginning of the excellent concert by Thrash Metal titans ANTHRAX, simply proving how early the whole event started. Despite playing only nine songs in total, our good friends Joey Belladonna, Jon Donais, Scott Ian, Frank Bello and Charlie Benante kicked fuckin’ ass, with half of their setlist being comprised of songs from their latest album, the classy For All Kings. And let me tell you that those new songs worked really well live, especially Evil Twin and Breathing Lightning. Obviously, all fans got really pumped up when they played some of their biggest classics such as Caught in a Mosh, Antisocial and Indians (including a war dance), with Joey and Scott (“Do you love Thrash Metal?”) igniting some flammable mosh pits with their endless energy and unique charisma. I hope they get back to Toronto soon, and next time they have to be the headliners and play their full set, because I lost count of how many times I’ve seen Anthrax as the opening act only in the past few years, always having to cut down their setlist due to time restraints.

Setlist
You Gotta Believe
Monster at the End
Caught in a Mosh
Got the Time
Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t
Evil Twin
Antisocial
Breathing Lightning
Indians

Band members
Joey Belladonna – lead vocals
Jon Donais – lead guitar
Scott Ian – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Frank Bello – bass guitar, backing vocals
Charlie Benante – drums 

SLAYER

img_1796One very positive thing I have to say about the revamp at the Sound Academy is that they fixed all past issues they had with their sound system, turning what once was a muffled and tangled noise into detailed and crystal clear sounds. That, my friends, was what made the cataclysmic performance by Thrash Metal behemoths SLAYER, the most badass and heaviest band on earth, even heavier than what we were used to, in special the demolishing drums by Mr. Paul Bostaph. He sounded bestial the entire concert, louder and heavier than a construction zone working at full force, making our chests pump hard with his beats as if he was using a stone crusher instead of regular drum sticks behind his drums. Simply amazing.

Obviously, the rest of the band also had a fantastic performance, with Tom Araya leading the band with his deranged screams while Gary Holt and Kerry King showed us how a guitar duo should really sound in heavy music. After the devilish intro Delusions of Saviour ended and their new bone-crushing hymn Repentless started, it was a feast of old school classics the likes of Postmortem, Mandatory Suicide, War Ensemble and the demonic Seasons in the Abyss mixed with new material from Repentless (five new songs to be more precise, including the awesome You Againt You and Vices), generating some sick mosh pits and rabid screams from all fans at the Sound Academy.

img_1808A few songs from their setlist hit me like a stampede so heavy, dark and amazing they were played. First of all, it’s always a pleasure to see Tom reciting the chorus for Dead Skin Mask before the song starts, inspiring every fan to sing along with him. As Tom said, we love Slayer’s music and they love to play it, so it’s like a love affair, right? And what to say about the brutal Disciple (I bet you were bursting your lungs out screaming “God hates us all!” together with Tom during the song, just like I did), the chaotic Born of Fire, and the really old school Fight Till Death, from their 1983 masterpiece Show No Mercy? This one crushed me like an insect so fantastic it was.

I have no words to describe the apocalyptic aura generated by the last batch of classics played by Slayer, starting with one of the most demonic songs of all time, Hell Awaits, followed by the also obscure South of Heaven, my favorite Slayer song of all Raining Blood (where Paul Bostaph gave a lesson in drumming from the very first beat until the end), the classic Black Magic and finally, paying homage to the legacy of Jeff Hanneman, the unparalleled Angel of Death. That was the last song of a pure Thrash Metal night on a perfect day in Toronto, leaving us all eager for more Death Angel, Anthrax and Slayer in a not-so-distant future. Add to all that the excellent Dystopia by Megadeth and the upcoming releases by Testament and even Metallica (at least their new song sounds good, let’s wait for the rest of the album), and you know 2016 is the year of Thrash Metal. And, of course, Toronto couldn’t be left out of such an awesome party.

Setlist
Delusions of Saviour
Repentless
The Antichrist
Disciple
Postmortem
Hate Worldwide
War Ensemble
When the Stillness Comes
You Against You
Mandatory Suicide
Fight Till Death
Born of Fire
Dead Skin Mask
Seasons in the Abyss
Pride in Prejudice
Vices

Encore:
Hell Awaits
South of Heaven
Raining Blood
Black Magic
Angel of Death

Band members
Tom Araya – vocals, bass guitar
Kerry King – guitar
Gary Holt – guitar
Paul Bostaph – drums

Concert Review – Disturbed & Breaking Benjamin (Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, Toronto, ON, 08/08/2016)

The city of Toronto got awesomely “infected” by David Draiman and his horde on a warm and beautiful night of alternative music.

OPENING ACTS: Saint Asonia and Alter Bridge

Disturbed_Breaking Benjamin_2016Due to my hectic working schedule yesterday and the distance from my place to the fantastic Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, I wasn’t able to see the performances by the two special guests of the night, Canadian Nu Metal/Hard Rock band SAINT ASONIA and American Rock N’ Roll/Hard Rock band ALTER BRIDGE. To be honest, I wasn’t very excited to watch Saint Asonia, despite the fact they’re portrayed as a “supergroup” based in Toronto formed by lead singer and guitarist  Adam Gontier (ex-Three Days Grace), lead guitarist Mike Mushok (ex-Staind), bassist Corey Lowery (ex-Stuck Mojo) and drummer Rich Beddoe (ex-Finger Eleven). I’m not sure how many people were actually able to watch their concert, nor if they were a good warm-up for the following bands. All I can say is that the music they play is not my cup of tea and I don’t really regret missing their performance.

What I do feel slightly sad about was missing the excellent singer Myles Kennedy and the talented guitarist Mark Tremonti (together with bassist Brian Marshall and drummer Scott Phillips) playing their straightforward and honest rock music with Alter Bridge. We all know Myles and Mark are awesome musicians, and even considering the music by this Orlando-based group a bit too soft for me I’m sure that might have been a kick-ass concert. Well, that’s the price to pay when there are too many bands in such a short period of time, fans end up missing a good chunk of what they paid for unless they arrive REALLY early to the venue, which was not the case for most fans last night.

BREAKING BENJAMIN

IMG_1585The Molson Canadian Amphitheatre got packed only a few minutes before American Rock N’ Roll/Hard Rock band BREAKING BENJAMIN began their show, with frontman and guitarist Benjamin Burnley leading his competent band from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania formed by Jasen Rauch on lead guitars, Keith Wallen on rhythm guitar, Aaron Bruch on bass and Shaun Foist on drums. The band got back in action a couple of years ago after Benjamin was finally able to overcome his phobias and addictions, with all members being completely new to the band (except for Benjamin, of course), and based on the warm reaction from everyone at the venue I believe fans truly missed Benjamin’s melodious mix of Alternative Metal and Hard Rock during the band’s hiatus.

As a fan of the darkest side of music who’s always listening to the most visceral forms of Thrash, Death and Black Metal, I must admit their music didn’t excite me despite being extremely well-crafted and played to perfection by all band members. Except for the brief moments when they played an excerpt of the superb Walk, by one of my favorite bands of all time, Pantera, as well as another excerpt from the classic Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana, I couldn’t really connect to the band’s music. One thing I enjoyed a lot though was the vocal range by Aaron, going from clean and melodic lines to furious growls whenever he was responsible for the vocal parts, and for me that was the best ingredient of their concert. Please don’t think I hate Breaking Benjamin with all my strength or that it was a horrible concert, let’s simply say it’s hard to pay some decent attention to a band you’re not a fan of their music or style when you’re anxious for the following act.

Setlist
So Cold
Angels Fall
Sooner or Later
Blow Me Away
The Imperial March / Schism / Smells Like Teen Spirit / Walk
Polyamorous
Ashes of Eden
Believe
Breath
Failure
Until the End
I Will Not Bow
The Diary of Jane

Band members
Benjamin Burnley – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Jasen Rauch – lead guitar, electronic strings, programming
Keith Wallen – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Aaron Bruch – bass, backing vocals
Shaun Foist – drums, electronic percussion, programming

DISTURBED

IMG_1592Only one day after playing at Heavy Montréal, Mr. David Draiman and his Alternative Metal horde DISTURBED hit the stage at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre to do what they do best, which is playing electrifying razor-edged modern metal music. Still promoting their 2015 album Immortalized (which by the way was awarded gold in Canada as well as platinum to the single The Sound of Silence, as informed by Draiman during the show), this iconic band from Chicago, Illinois not only revolutionized music with their inception back in the 90’s, but they also keep bringing different generations to their live concerts like what happened yesterday, something only traditional bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica do nowadays.

Blending classics such as the opening song Ten Thousand Fists and the classy Stricken with new songs like the kick-ass The Vengeful One, Draiman and his crew conquered all from the very first notes of their powerful performance. Draiman might not be moving around like before, but it looks like that’s a task he’s leaving for guitarist Dan Donegan, drummer Mike Wengren and especially bassist John Moyer to do, with those three guys being unstoppable on stage while Draiman focused on his unparalleled vocals (including his classic “monkey screams”) and leading gestures. They even invited the guys from Saint Asonia and Breaking Benjamin to sing the classic Who Taught You How to Hate with them, although it felt a bit weird seeing two bass players on stage at the same time.

IMG_1602One of the most anticipated moments of the show was their beautiful version for Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence, and I have to say that lived up to all expectations and beyond. The drumming by Mike was incredible, as if he was pounding our hearts, and the piano notes embellished the entire ambience, but of course the main ingredient in such a unique ballad were Draiman’s vocals. He sang each and every note to perfection together with the fans, a memorable moment in a warm Torontonian night that will stay fresh in our minds and hearts for many years to come. Another great example of how Draiman flawlessly captivated and commanded the audience throughout the whole gig occurred during their new song called The Light, where he asked everyone to raise their lighters and mobiles during the chorus of the song and every single person obviously attended his demand, creating a sensational view of brilliant dots all over the venue.

My only complaint is that their setlist was way too short, with only fourteen songs being played in total. They could have played a few more tunes like the title-track “Immortalized” or even their version for “Land of Confusion”, which has been part of their recent setlists. Anyway, the icing on the cake came in the form of their biggest hit Down With the Sickness, with all fans jumping up and down and screaming the lyrics together with Draiman, especially the ones in the floor section like myself. The heat of the fire coming from the stage might have been strong, but the heat coming from their music was even stronger, leaving all fans happier than usual on a Monday night on their way back home. When introducing Down With the Sickness, Draiman said Toronto was “infected” by their music. I can’t think of a better definition to their concert than that.

Setlist
Ten Thousand Fists
The Game
The Vengeful One
Prayer
Liberate
Who Taught You How to Hate
Stupify
The Sound of Silence
Inside the Fire
The Light
Stricken
Indestructible
Voices
Down With the Sickness

Band members
David Draiman – vocals
Dan Donegan – guitar
John Moyer – bass
Mike Wengren – drums

Concert Review – Guns N’ Roses (Rogers Centre, Toronto, ON, 07/16/2016)

Do you know where you are? You’re in Toronto, baby! Wake up! Time to die!

OPENING ACT: Billy Talent

GNR_Toronto_2016I must confess I’ve never felt so happy in my life for missing an opening act like what happened this Saturday, when I “couldn’t” arrive on time at the Rogers Centre to watch Canadian Rock N’ Roll band BILLY TALENT opening for Guns N’ Roses on their sole Canadian concert from the colossal Guns N’ Roses: Not In This Lifetime… Tour. I had the unpleasantness of watching their lame and tiresome concert once back in 2011, when for a reason beyond my knowledge they played AFTER classic bands such as Exodus, Death Angel, Testament, Mastodon and, believe it or not, the almighty Slayer, and were obviously booed throughout their entire “performance”. Whoever had that brilliant idea of inserting such a hideous group among so many real metal bands might have been involved in the stupid decision of placing them as the opening act for Guns N’ Roses instead of the excellent Alice In Chains, the iconic The Cult or even the not-so-bad Lenny Kravitz, as it’s happening in every city Guns N’ Roses are playing except for Toronto. The only thing I know about their performance is that drummer Aaron Solowoniuk was replaced by Jordan Hastings (Alexisonfire), which doesn’t really mean anything at all for any regular fan of Guns N’ Roses. Their setlist is below, but why bother?

Setlist
Devil in a Midnight Mass
This Suffering
Louder Than the DJ
Rusted from the Rain
River Below
Surprise Surprise
Afraid of Heights
Devil on My Shoulder
Red Flag
Fallen Leaves
Try Honesty
Viking Death March

Band members
Benjamin Kowalewicz – lead vocals
Ian D’Sa – guitar, vocals
Jonathan Gallant – bass guitar, backing vocals
Jordan Hastings – drums, percussion

GUNS N’ ROSES

IMG_1542Who would imagine that after 20 years Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan would not only be reunited on stage, but still kicking fuckin’ ass as if they had never split up in the beginning of the 90’s? I’m pretty sure the entire crowd of over 50,000 gunners who were at the Rogers Centre this Saturday will agree with me that GUNS N’ ROSES were almost flawless during the whole concert, blasting their biggest classics from the 80’s and 90’s blended with some “newer” material from the controversial (but good) Chinese Democracy, their latest studio album. To be fair, after they played It’s So Easy, Mr. Brownstone, Chinese Democracy and Welcome to the Jungle, I was already satisfied enough to go home so good those songs were. Let’s say the only thing that didn’t make anyone happy were all those despicable scalpers trying to extort good people who just wanted to see one the best Hard Rock/Hair Metal band of all time playing. I truly hope very few people ended up getting their tickets from those scammers, and this is only going to end when absolutely NO ONE buys tickets from unauthorized people anymore, but you know how diehard fans are, right?

Anyway, getting back to what really matters, the (official) price paid for the tickets was definitely worth every penny. The whole band was in such perfect sync it’s hard to point any issues with their concert, and except for minor changes I would personally make to their setlist (which might have been already perfect for many) everything else went beyond my expectations. The “least famous” members of the band (Frank Ferrer on drums and Melissa Reese on keyboards, or whatever she was doing on stage) did their job, provinding the necessary support for the other guys to shine. Keyboardist Dizzy Reed (don’t ask me why they have three keyboardists, including Axl) and guitarist Richard Fortus proved why they’ve been with Axl for such a long time, probably even more time than Slash and Duff themselves, especially Richard who was spot-on with his riffs and solos to the point he wasn’t overshadowed at all by the one and only Slash. Quite the contrary, they make an amazing guitar duo together. However, no matter how much I praise those musicians, we know everyone was at the Rogers Centre to see the “heart”, the “soul” and the “blood” of Guns N’ Roses.

Starting with the “blood”, known as bassist Duff McKagan, he couldn’t be more physical and dedicated to the music he plays. Wearing a Lemmy T-shirt and having a Prince sticker on his bass guitar (a nice tribute to two unique musicians, with only the black star by David Bowie “missing”), Duff was on fire with his rumbling bass lines and awesome backing vocals. And when he was the lead singer, like in their cover version for Attitude, by the Misfits, he showed all his love for Punk Rock and how charismatic he is.

IMG_1541Axl Rose, who will always be the “heart” of Guns N’ Roses, surprised even the most skeptical fan with an absolutely incredible performance on vocals, singing each and every song as if he was the same Axl from Appetite for Destruction and Use Your Illusion. What he did on my favorite Guns N’ Roses songs of all time, the superb Estranged, You Could Be Mine and Civil War (how can the lyrics for this song still be so meaningful after more than 20 years?), was a thing of beauty. He kept running around the stage, danced a lot, wore some almost-classic outfits from the 80’s and smiled to the fans all the time, and by seeing that I finally realized his troubled years might be dead and gone for good. When they played the beautiful ballad This I Love, the touching Sorry and the fun Better, songs where Axl is truly needed as they had zero contribution from Slash or Duff when composed, we could witness a focused and passionate artist that has found peace and is now on the right path to reconquer the world of music. Even when Axl talked about their small incident at the border, when the police found a gun with them, he didn’t get angry or anything like that, simply mentioning it was a funny moment and that “it wasn’t his gun”.

Lastly, what can I say about the “soul” of the band, the unparalleled Slash? That guy is getting better and better as time goes by, delivering his unique riffs and even more unique solos for the total delight of every fan of the band. His guitar duet with Richard Fortus, his beyond stunnig solo in November Rain and his classic riffs and solos in Sweet Child O’ Mine led many fans to an amazing state of ecstasy, a sensation many had to hold for decades to feel again. Let’s just hope Slash remains with Guns N’ Roses for many years to come, because that’s the place where he truly belongs in music. Well, as everything must come to an end, after the masterpieces Nightrain, Patience and Paradise City, together with a cover version for The Seeker, by The Who (which could have been easily replaced by another classic like “Think About You”, “Used To Love Her”, “Don’t Cry” or “Yesterdays”, or even by “Madagascar”), it was time for Axl, Slash, Duff & Co. to say goodbye to the awesome Toronto crowd after almost three hours of concert and get ready for the next city. No one knows if they’re coming back to Canada soon, but based on the reaction of the fans and the smile on the faces of each band member when the show was over, I doubt it will take another 20 years for us to see those guys in action again.

Setlist
Looney Tunes Theme (Intro)
The Equalizer (Harry Gregson-Williams song)
It’s So Easy
Mr. Brownstone
Chinese Democracy
Welcome to the Jungle
Double Talkin’ Jive
Estranged
Live and Let Die (Wings cover)
Rocket Queen
You Could Be Mine
Attitude (Misfits cover)
This I Love
Civil War
Coma
Speak Softly Love (The Godfather Love Theme)
Sweet Child O’ Mine
Sorry
Better
Out Ta Get Me
Slash & Richard Fortus Guitar Duet
November Rain
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Bob Dylan cover)
Nightrain

Encore:
Patience
The Seeker (The Who cover)
Paradise City

Band members
Axl Rose – lead vocals, piano, keyboards
Slash – lead guitar, backing vocals
Duff McKagan – bass guitar, backing vocals
Dizzy Reed – keyboards, piano, percussion, backing vocals
Richard Fortus – rhythm and lead guitar, backing vocals
Melissa Reese – synthesizers, keyboards, programming
Frank Ferrer – drums