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

Concert Review – Wacken Metal Battle Canada Final (The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/11/2016)

One Canadian Band to rule them all, One Canadian Band to find them. One Canadian Band to bring them all, and in Wacken Open Air bind them.

INTRODUCTION: ONE BAND TO RULE THEM ALL!

wacken metal battle_canada_final2016If you were at the charming The Opera House in Toronto this Saturday, June 11, you were able to witness the future of Canadian Metal in pursuit of a sacred placed among the Gods of Metal at the 2016 edition of Wacken Open Air, which will be held during the first week of August this year. Five amazing bands made in Canada showcased all their skills and passion for heavy music during the final and decisive round of the fourth annual edition of Wacken Metal Battle Canada, but only one of them secured a spot in the most important metal festival in the world. Do you want to know which band was crowned the kings of the night?

This year, guest judges Noel Peters (Inertia Entertainment), Sarah Lutz (Metal Blade Canada), Darryl Hurs (Indie Week), Chris Gonda (PureGrainAudio.com), Tim Henderson (Bravewords.com), Andrew Epstein (Zombitrol Productions) and Glenn Fricker (Spectre Media Group) had the difficult mission to decide who would play at Wacken Open Air this August, but before I get into more details, let me say it’s impressive how well organized Wacken Metal Battle is in Canada, it doesn’t matter the city or the qualifying round. With over 100 independent Canadian metal bands from the cities of Toronto, Hamilton, London, Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, and after 27 qualifying rounds, 9 semi-finals and the national final this Saturday, all we can say in a huge THANK YOU to everyone involved in this awesome project, with a special thanks to my friend Jon Asher (Asher Media Relations) for letting me be part of this. And now, let’s get ready to rumble!

DISTORTHEAD

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DistortHead @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/11/2016

The first group to hit the stage, at around 8pm, was Melodic Death Metal/Metalcore band DistortHead, from Montreal, Quebec, who were obviously the Quebec Final winners this year. With all band members elegantly wearing lumberjack shirts, DistortHead fired a good mix of modern and groovy metal music the likes of The Black Dahlia Murder and Suicide Silence with the more ferocious sound of old school Death Metal, which translated into a solid and unstoppable performance by this talented quintet. Lead singer Phil Ranger led his troop during the entire setlist, demanding some furious circle pits from the fans at the venue and, as any proud Québécois, made good usage of “Bill 101” to teach the audience how to curse in French. If brutal Melodic Death Metal is your cup of tea, go check their BandCamp page, where you can enjoy their 2014 album Invasive Species in its entirety.

Band members
Phil Ranger – vocals
Vincent Rousseau – guitar
Alex Guindon – guitar
Felix Bourcier – bass, backing vocals
Max Arseneau – drums

PYRAMID THEOREM

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Pyramid Theorem @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/11/2016

In my opinion, one of the best things in any Wacken Metal Battle round is the variety of sounds you can listen to within a short span of time, getting truly paradoxical at times, but as awesome as usual. That was confirmed when Progressive Hard Rock act Pyramid Theorem began their psychedelic and electrifying performance. Those Torontonians, who were the Ontario Final 2/2 winners, sounded so professional, polished and in sync it’s hard to believe they do not have an agreement with a record label yet. Take a listen at the excellent tunes Outlaw for Good and Drive and you’ll see what I’m talking about. The crowd was excited during the whole show, mainly due to the thrilling performance by the dynamic duo Christian Di Mambro (vocals and bass) Sam Ermellini (guitar and vocals), who didn’t stop interacting with the audience for a single second while at the same time displaying their refined techniques on stage. Some of the guitar solos by Sam were simply outstanding.

Band members
Christian Di Mambro – vocals, bass
Sam Ermellini – guitar, vocals
Stephan Di Mambro – synths, guitar, vocals
Vic Dee – drums, percussion

THE MOUNTAIN MAN

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The Mountain Man @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/11/2016

Fans of the relentless music by icons such as Lamb of God, Whitechapel, Gojira and Pantera definitely had an awesome time during the performance by Vancouver-based five-piece act The Mountain Man, who blasted a nice fusion of Melodic Death Metal and Groove Metal, proving why the band was the B.C. Final winner. The whole festival seemed to be turning into “the night of the frontmen”, with lead singer Parker Lane keeping up with the vocalists from both previous bands with his unique screams and endless energy on stage. We have to give a round of applause to those guys, coming all the way from the other side of the country, paying all expenses from their own pockets, and still having enough strength to kill on stage. If you want to know more about their music, you can listen to their debut EP entitled Bloodlust at their BandCamp page, and if by any chance the band members themselves read this, please send us the EP for a detailed review.

Band members
Parker Lane – vocals
Tyson Tambellini – guitar
Jordan Orr – guitar
Tevyn Pacey – bass
Ryan McCreedy – drums

PROFANER

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Profaner @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/11/2016

After a quick break and another cold beer, it was time for Melodic Death/Thrash Metal band Profaner to distill their acid metal music upon the audience. Hailing from the city of Hamilton, around 70km southwest of Toronto, the Ontario 1/2 Final winners didn’t waste time and started kicking ass on stage from the very first notes of the opening song of their setlist. If you visit their BandCamp page, you’ll be able to listen to a few songs they played this Saturday, such as the awesome Marked For Death, and see how good and violent those guys are. Guided by the uncontrollable frontman Anthony “Tooty” Tuttolomondo, Profaner showed everyone at the venue how old school brutal music is done, with the blazing riffs by guitarists Jason Crook and Pat Rogers, together with the boisterous drumming by Craig Piggot, being the recipe for success in heavy music. I loved their music and charisma, and so did the vast majority of the fans at The Opera House. A good sign of the band’s future, don’t you agree?

Band members
Anthony “Tooty” Tuttolomondo – vocals
Jason Crook – guitar, backing vocals
Pat Rogers – guitar
Rusty – bass
Craig Piggot – drums

TALES OF THE TOMB

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Tales Of The Tomb @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/11/2016

There was still a lot more to come Saturday night, even with the clock getting closer to (or past) midnight, with the unique Psychological Horror/Death/Murder Metal brutally fired by Edmontonian metallers Tales Of The Tomb, who stood tall as the Prairie Final winner band. With lead singer Connor Adams, guitarist Corey Skerlak and bassist Bryn Herbert growling like possessed beats, Tales of The Tomb crushed the audience with their music inspired by icons such as Dying Fetus and Bloodbath, and the dark and gory vibe of classic slasher films. Those guys unleashed hell upon The Opera House, playing songs from their debut EP named Volume One: Morpras, as you can listen to at their BandCamp page. Nonstop violence is always fun in extreme music, and in the case of Tales Of The Tomb that enjoyment is multiplied by a thousand due to their demonic screeches and bestial riffs. In other words, a highly recommended band for fans of vicious Extreme Metal.

Band members
Connor Adams – vocals
Tres Thomas – guitar
Corey Skerlak – guitar, vocals
Bryn Herbert – bass, vocals
John Thomson – drums 

SPECIAL GUEST HEADLINERS: CRIMSON SHADOWS

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Crimson Shadows @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/11/2016

And before that incredible night of Canadian Metal was over, we were treated to the Epic Death/Power Metal by special guest headliners Crimson Shadows, winners of the first edition of Wacken Metal Battle Canada in 2013, and also crowned the Metal Battle international winners at Wacken Open Air that same year. Well, the epic devastation crafted by these talented Torontonians, mixing the speed and intricacy of Dragonforce and Rhapsody with the vileness and heaviness of Children of Bodom, sounded even more potent on stage, with highlights to the excellent performance of newcomer Paul “Ablaze” Zinay with his harsh screams, and especially Mr. Greg Rounding with his fantastic riffs, solos and clean vocals. If you know nothing about Crimson Shadows, I suggest you take a listen at the high-end battle hymns Rise to Power and Braving the Storm, which were played to perfection during their electrifying concert. I believe that whenever Rise to Power is played, if you do not start singing it together with Crimson Shadows, raising your fists in the air, drinking a pint of beer and getting ready to die in the battlefield, you’re not a honorable warrior.

Band members
Paul “Ablaze” Zinay – vocals
Ryan Hofing – guitar
Greg Rounding – guitar, vocals
Alex Snape – bass
Cory Hofing – drums

AND THE WINNER IS…

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Profaner – 2016 Wacken Metal Battle Canada Winner

…everyone that attended the event this Saturday, especially the bands and the amazing crew that helped that metal celebration become true! Unfortunately, only one band could win the tournament and head to Wacken Open Air in August, but all five bands were simply amazing and deserve our humble recognition for keeping the fire of Canadian Metal alive. Congratulations to runner-ups DistortHead, who won a bunch of cool stuff from PureGrainAudio.com and Los Cabos Drumsticks that will be very beneficial to their career, and in special to the 2016 Wacken Metal Battle Canada winners PROFANER! YOU GUYS KICK ASS!

As previously mentioned, Crimson Shadows went to Wacken Open Air and won the international battle in 2013, and in 2015 Vesperia (who were there on Saturday to pass the crown to Profaner) re-lived that success by once again bringing the first place from Germany to Canada. Now it’s time for Profaner to show to the craziest metal fans in the entire world who will attend the festival in August how awesome Canadian Metal is. If you want to have a good overview of what happens to all independent bands while at Wacken Open Air, I recommend you watch the movie Wacken 3D – Louder Than Hell, from 2014. But that’s just in case you’re not going to join Profaner in their thrilling quest in Teutonic lands, of course.

Concert Review – Primal Fear & Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody (The Mod Club, Toronto, ON, 06/01/2016)

In metal we trust, for metal we live. And last night in Toronto was just another beautiful attestation of all that passion for heavy music, courtesy of the indomitable Primal Fear and the epic Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody.

OPENING ACT: Vesperia

NorthAmerica-PFLTR-TourLet me start this review by thanking Mother Nature for being so amazing to all Torontonians since the end of winter, providing us some beautiful sunny days, warmer-than-usual temperatures and almost no precipitation. And when the weather is as good as now, there’s nothing better than going out with your friends and loved ones for a beer and some good old Heavy Metal, right? If you’re a true metalhead, a true lover of old school Power Metal, last night was the perfect occasion for that to the sound of three excellent heavy bands at the cozy The Mod Club, starting with Canadian Epic/Progressive Death Metal band VESPERIA.

IMG_1344Promoting their latest installment, their 2015 EP entitled The Iron Tempests, which by the way helped them win the 2015 edition of Wacken Metal Battle Canada (and consequently play at the biggest metal festival on earth the same year), this talented quartet showcased all their refined abilities with their instruments during their entire performance, with this demolishing and intricate uproar made in Canada being masterfully led by lead singer and bassist Morgan Rider. Unfortunately I do not have the setlist for their presentation (I know they played songs like Iron Saga and In the Hall of the Mountain King), but I can assure you each and every song sounded just amazing on stage. If you’re searching for a new band that offers complex passages, blazing riffs and an endless amount of stamina in their music, Vesperia might be exactly what you’ve been craving for.

Band members
Morgan Rider – vocals, bass
Frankie Caracci – lead guitars
Casey Elliott – guitars
Dylan Gowan – drums

PRIMAL FEAR

IMG_1353After Vesperia was over, all the metalheads at the venue had a short break to have another beer or quickly go to the washroom before German power metallers PRIMAL FEAR came crushing our ears with their thunderous and metallic music. When you’re a band like Primal Fear, all you have to do to hypnotize the audience right away is kicking off the concert with one of your best compositions to date, and last night not only they did that, but they chose my favorite tune of all to start their setlist, the flammable and thrilling Final Embrace. After that masterpiece, the unstoppable Ralf Scheepers, Mat Sinner & Co. kept firing some of their biggest classics blended with brand new songs from the awesome Rulebreaker, and the reaction of the fans to the new songs couldn’t have been better. Well, you know an album is goddamn amazing when fans really want to listen to new songs on the show, right?

IMG_1370From all new songs played, the ones that drew the most excited screams from the fans and made everyone at the venue raise their fists in the air were Rulebreaker and The End Is Near, not to mention their beautiful performance during the power ballad The Sky Is Burning. In regards to their top-notch metal classics, as a huge fan of the band I must say Angel in Black, Sign of Fear and Metal Is Forever drove the audience crazy while they were being played. Who doesn’t love to scream the words “There is blood there is pain / But my agony is not in vain / Cause there’s life after death / And I’m sure coming back to attack / As an angel in black” together with Ralf and the rest of the band?

IMG_1360The entire band was incredible as usual, with highlights to the explosive performances by Mat and the new drummer Francesco Jovino. Obviously, I don’t need to describe the perfection which Ralf sang all songs of the setlist, nor how guitarists Alex Beyrodt and Tom Naumann blasted some potent riffs and solos throughout the whole concert. The only issue during this entire North American tour was the absence of their third guitarist, Magnus Karlsson, despite having recorded the new album. Three guitarists live would have been awesome, but anyway, it was another exceptional performance by one of the best Power Metal acts in the world (just as good as their 2014 concert in Toronto), and after the encore was over with two more classics, Rollercoaster (another one of their songs I truly love) and Running In The Dust, the German troopers were gone and it was time to set the stage for the last concert of the night. I was expecting Primal Fear to headline the night, but that’s fine, we all got our share of their brilliant Power Metal. There was absolutely nothing to complain about that.

Setlist
Countdown to Insanity/Jaws of Death
Final Embrace
In Metal We Trust
Angel in Black
Rulebreaker
Sign of Fear
The Sky Is Burning
Nuclear Fire
Angels of Mercy
The End Is Near
When Death Comes Knocking
Chainbreaker
Metal Is Forever

Encore:
Rollercoaster
Running In The Dust

Band members
Ralf Scheepers – vocals
Mat Sinner – bass, backing vocals
Alex Beyrodt – guitars
Tom Naumann – guitars, backing vocals
Francesco Jovino – drums

LUCA TURILLI’S RHAPSODY

IMG_1388It was indeed a huge surprise for me that Italian Epic/Cinematic Metal band LUCA TURILLI’S RHAPSODY was the main attraction of the night. Nothing against them, but I believe Primal Fear are a lot more relevant to the world of heavy music than Luca and his crew, especially after all the countless changes the band has suffered through the years. Honestly, I lost count of how many times the band switched from one name to another, all the band members coming and going, and so on. I don’t know anymore if a song was originally recorded by Rhapsody, by Rhapsody of Fire, by Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody or by any other of those weird ramifications. If you’re a fan of any of those bands (or just a fan of one of them, who knows), please forgive me for my ignorance.

IMG_1386Anyway, what can I say about a band that claims to play “Cinematic Metal”? All fans were able to actually witness the soundtrack to an epic battle movie, one of those fantasy blockbusters full of dragons, knights, princesses and so on. The band itself looks very theatrical (and sometimes even cartoon-ish), and their performance was a lot better than what I was expecting, especially the idiosyncratic moves and facial expressions by the band’s leader, Mr. Luca Turilli. It was fun watching him firing his complex riffs while prancing around the stage with his stylish hair and a Guess T-shirt. Truly unique, I should say.

Although I got lost in time with all the changes that affected the original Rhapsody, it was a pleasure to see the band playing old classics like Unholy Warcry (my favorite of their setlist) and Emerald Sword, whereas at the same time their Game Of Thrones-themed drum solo was a very welcome surprise for all fans. My only complaint about their concert was the excessive usage of pre-recorded sounds used for all orchestrations and choir. I bet when they play at any European festivals that shouldn’t be a problem, but for smaller venues it sometimes sounds like a metal karaoke. That’s not the band’s fault, though, just a minor annoying detail in their decent performance. Now please excuse me, as I have to grab my sword, my shield and get ready for battle.

Setlist
Nova Genesis (Ad Splendorem Angeli Triumphantis)
Knightrider of Doom
Rosenkreuz (The Rose and the Cross)
Land of Immortals
Unholy Warcry
Son of Pain
Prometheus
Drum Solo (Game Of Thrones Theme)
Il Cigno Nero
Guitar Solo
The Pride of the Tyrant
Demonheart
Bass Solo
Dawn of Victory

Encore:
Quantum X
Emerald Sword
Outro

Band members
Alessandro Conti – vocals
Luca Turilli – guitars
Dominique Leurquin – guitars
Patrice Guers – bass
Alex Landenburg – drums

Concert Review – Behemoth (Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 04/26/2016)

The Satanist triumphed over Toronto, taking no prisoners in a memorable night of darkness and blasphemy.

OPENING ACT: Myrkur

Blasfemia Amerika Tour 2016Only a couple of weeks after watching Iron Maiden kicking fuckin’ ass in Montreal and Toronto, I knew my next concert had to be beyond amazing to keep the electricity flowing, otherwise I would start yawning during the show and not even a cold beer would wake me up. Fortunately, what I was able to witness yesterday at the Phoenix Concert Theatre here in Toronto together with thousands of other crazy metalheads was a fantastic night of obscure and blasphemous music, as part of the infamous Blasfemia Amerika Tour 2016. From start to finish, the night was absolutely flawless. And we were treated to the darkest and most amazing music we could possibly imagine as a warm-up for Behemoth, offered to us all by the gorgeous and charming Danish multi-instrumentalist and model Amalie Bruun, the mastermind behind the one-woman Black Metal project MYRKUR (or “darkness” in Icelandic).

IMG_1254For obvious reasons, our Valkyrie of Black Metal couldn’t deliver the whole concert by herself, having as a very solid support band guitarist Teloch (Mayhem), bassist Liam (Dillinger Escape Plan) and drummer Øyvind Myrvoll (Nidingr), helping her blast Myrkur’s entrancing music last night. She was responsible for both clean (almost operatic) and harsh vocals, keyboards, rhythm guitar, dancing and more, though. Is there anything she cannot do? Anyway, with stunning compositions like Den Lille Piges Død (“the little girl’s death” in Danish), Mordet (“assassination”) and her flawless version for Bathory’s Song to Hall Up High, Amalie hypnotized the entire crowd, drawing sighs from every single person during the smoothest passages of her songs and inspiring some decent mosh pits during the heaviest moments. If anyone asked me to summarize Myrkur in only a couple of words, I would definitely select “beauty” and “beast”, and you’ll notice she does that personality split herself on purpose, having two microphones during her performance: her right one being used only for clean vocals, while the left one is used for her demonic screaming. Would this be her depiction of the angel on the right shoulder and the devil on the left? Also, almost at the same time she got flowers from a fan and thanked the audience for such an amazing reception, when a guy asked her to play some nonsense song, she replied with a gentle “suck my dick”. Do you want to know more about this angel of darkness? Go check her BandCamp page, where you can listen to everything she’s already released in her promising career.

Setlist
Den Lille Piges Død
Hævnen
Onde Børn (False Start)
Jeg Er Guden, I Er Tjenerne
Mordet
Dybt I Skoven
Skøgen Skulle Dø
Skaði
Song to Hall Up High (Bathory cover)
Norn (outro)

Band members
Myrkur – vocals, piano, guitar
Teloch – guitar
Liam – bass
Øyvind Myrvoll – drums

BEHEMOTH

IMG_1265Finally, one year after their last concert in Toronto, the best metal band in the history of Poland returned with their magnificent Blackened Death Metal to storm the city once again and leave us all completely disoriented when their black mass was over. If a regular BEHEMOTH gig is already outstanding, I have no words to describe what witnessing them playing The Satanist in its entirety followed by some of their biggest classics feels like. Not only each and every song from The Satanist was played to perfection, but the stage was also amazingly set and the theatrical performance by all band members was sensational. I hope no one from those stupid churches ever goes to a Behemoth concert in Toronto, otherwise they might be banished from Canada like it happened with the band in other places.

If Myrkur was the evil queen of the night, the one and only Adam “Nergal” Darski could be considered our hellish king (or should I say priest?), commanding his loyal bandmates and the entire crowd with his refined technique as a guitarist and his trademark growls. I was eager to see the classic Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel live for the first time, and after Nergal appeared holding two torches up high and the music started, I got even more than what I expected. In addition, after each song of The Satanist the band had something different to offer, either being a disturbing video on the background, some extra smoke, dark lighting, or a wicked narration connecting it to the following opus. I’m not even going to say how incredible my other two favorite chants of the album, Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer and the mesmerizing O Father O Satan O Sun!, sounded. You have to be there to feel their fury and darkness.

IMG_1284When The Satanist part of the gig was concluded, Nergal and his horde still had some classics to blast our ears and fuel the insane circle pits that were consuming the entire venue, starting with the bestial Pure Evil and Hate. If anyone lost their lives during the execution of this anthem, I wouldn’t be surprised. Moreover, both guitarist Patryk Dominik “Seth” Sztyber and bassist Tomasz “Orion” Wróblewski seemed to be having a great time during the encores, mainly due to the awesome reaction they got from the fans who couldn’t stop slamming into the pit, and especially during songs like Conquer All and the last one of their setlist, Chant for Eschaton 2000, two high-octane compositions that sound even more powerful live than their already demonic studio versions. Except for the considerable line at the end of the concert for the coat check, everything else was beyond perfect, lefting us all wondering when Behemoth will return to Toronto to take over our beloved city one more time.

Setlist
Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel
Furor Divinus
Messe Noire
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
Amen
The Satanist
Ben Sahar
In the Absence ov Light
O Father O Satan O Sun!

Encore:
Pure Evil and Hate
Antichristian Phenomenon
Conquer All

Encore 2:
At the Left Hand ov God
Slaves Shall Serve
Chant for Eschaton 2000

Band members
Adam “Nergal” Darski – lead vocals, guitars
Patryk Dominik “Seth” Sztyber – guitars
Tomasz “Orion” Wróblewski – bass guitar
Zbigniew Robert “Inferno” Promiński – drums and percussion

Concert Review – Iron Maiden (Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON, 04/03/2016)

Not even a bitterly cold and snowy night in Toronto could stop Iron Maiden from writing another beautiful and epic chapter in The Book Of Souls.

OPENING ACT: The Raven Age

iron maiden_the book of souls world tour 2016Here we go again, another blistering cold night in Toronto when it was supposed to be already warming up, with around 15cm of snow out of nowhere just to make the beginning of this spring even weirder than the warmest winter in history. However, when you have the best Heavy Metal band in the entire world playing live in the city, who truly cares about some harmless snowflakes? My only concern was if we were going to have the same sound issues from the concert Friday night in Montreal also here in Toronto, but fortunately the sound quality at the Air Canada Centre was a billion times better than at the Bell Centre, making the whole night even more memorable.

After facing over 30 minutes out in the cold in a never-ending line where there was even an Elvis with an Eddie mask from Powerslave (would that make him the “Presleyslave” or the “Elvis High”?), I got back to the place where I belong in concerts, the floor section (and not those uncomfortable seats from Bell Centre). I might be wrong, but the floor section was quite empty for a sold out concert, even during Iron Maiden. If that’s for safety reasons, no problem, but I think they could have added at least a thousand extra tickets for that area. Anyway, my comments about the opening act, British Melodic Metal THE RAVEN AGE, are exactly the same from Friday night, which means if you read my review for Montreal you can apply each and every word to Toronto as well.

Setlist
Uprising
Promised Land
The Death March
Eye Among the Blind
The Merciful One
Salem’s Fate
Angel in Disgrace

Band members
Michael Burrough – vocals
Dan Wright – guitar
George Harris – guitar
Matt Cox – bass
Jai Patel – drums

IRON MAIDEN

IMG_1236While some bands look and sound the exact same every single night, there’s something about IRON MAIDEN that makes each of their live performances unique even if they do not change anything in their setlist during the entire tour, as it’s happening during the amazing The Book Of Souls World Tour 2016. We all know which songs they’re going to play, and some people even complain about the band’s predictability, but when the concert starts Bruce, Steve and Co. manage to be different, to sound different and to always offer something new to their fans. Maybe that’s the main reason why they’re who they’re today, right?

Thanks to the almighty Eddie, there were no problems with the sound! Quite the contrary, each instrument was loud and clear, especially the pounding drums by the one and only Mr. Nicko McBrain and the rumbling bass guitar by the band’s mastermind Mr. Steve Harris, who made the epic tune The Book of Souls sound more powerful than ever. By the way, what an amazing reaction the fans had to all new songs from The Book Of Souls, especially the opening song If Eternity Should Fail and what was once again the highlight of the show for me, The Red and the Back. Of course fans went crazy when they played classics such as The Trooper, Powerslave (with Bruce wearing the same “luchador” mask from the past couple of shows due to Wrestlemania weekend), Hallowed Be Thy Name (with everyone at the ACC beautifully singing it together with the band), The Number of the Beast and Wasted Years, but it’s nice to see Iron Maiden are not trapped in the past and are still releasing awesome music for our total delight.

iron maiden torontoNow let’s talk about those special details that made last night unique, and I’m not talking about the cold and the snow. We all know how intelligent and skillful Mr. Bruce Dickinson is, and that was once again proved after the band performed the heavy and fast Death or Glory. Any other musician would have ignored the fact the song has a special importance to Toronto and to Canada, but Bruce made sure he spent the necessary time to explain the song is about Baron Manfred von Richthofen, better known as the “Red Baron”, who was shot down by Canadian air ace Captain Roy Brown in 1918, and that the seat of Red Baron’s triplane was donated by the dauntless Canadian pilot to a museum in Toronto. Bruce only forgot to mention the name of the museum, so if you’re interested in visiting it and seeing the airplane seat from the renowned Red Baron you need to go to the Royal Canadian Military Institute Museum (RCMI). As a side note, “Turns like a devil, climbs like a monkey!” (or something like that) were the Red Baron’s words about the Fokker Dr I, the most successful triplane in history. Guess where you can also find these words? And before I forget, poor Janick Gers, his guitar stopped working in the middle of the song and he had to spend about two minutes backstage trying to fix it. I’m not going to mention that most people didn’t even notice that “small” detail mainly because Dave Murray and Adrian Smith were on fire with their flawless riffs and solos, ans also because I like Janick’s performance (I think he IS important to what Iron Maiden are today), but if you also saw that you know what I’m talking about.

IMG_1225By the end of the show, while introducing the melodic Blood Brothers, Bruce spoke about the differences in terms of safety and quality of life found everywhere the band goes, comparing for example our always safe Canada to one of the most dangerous countries in the world, El Salvador, but also saying if there’s one thing that unites us all and helps us face any adversities in life is Heavy Metal, in special if you’re part of the MAIDEN FAMILY. On the train back to my small city, Oakville, an “old school” couple who also attended the concert sat in front of us and we instantly started chatting about Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Anthrax, Slayer, Metallica (the guy even fist pumped me full of joy when I said Metallica is the most overrated band on earth), sports, and several other topics. They even gave us a customized pair of hockey blade tapes from The Book Of Souls without even knowing us! That moment I realized how big, fun and unified the Maiden Family mentioned by Bruce is. And I’m happy to be part of it, so happy I didn’t even care I had to wipe a ton of snow from my car at the train station, at midnight, and under a frigid temperature of around -6oC. Actually, I was very relaxed while doing that, humming the “Oh-oh Oh-oh-oh! Oh-oh Oh-oh-oh!” from The Red and the Black and already thinking about when I’ll be able to watch Iron Maiden kicking some serious ass once again.

Setlist
Doctor Doctor (UFO song)
If Eternity Should Fail
Speed of Light
Children of the Damned
Tears of a Clown
The Red and the Black
The Trooper
Powerslave
Death or Glory
The Book of Souls
Hallowed Be Thy Name
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

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