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

Album Review – Sepultura / Machine Messiah (2017)

“Sepultura do Brasil” are back with an exciting, multilayered journey through countless music genres and styles, proving there’s still room for innovation in heavy music.

Rating4

sepultura_machine_messiahIf you’re one of those diehard fans of Brazilian Thrash/Groove Metal icons Sepultura that doesn’t accept anything the band has done after the departure of Max Cavalera, you can stop reading this review right now as that version of Sepultura is long gone. Machine Messiah, the fourteenth studio album by the most important band in the history of Brazilian Metal, is not only their best release since their 1998 album Against, but also (and more important than that) their most experimental album since their 1996 classic Roots, completely different from that basic Thrash Metal formula from their early days, therefore offering admirers of innovative music an exciting, multilayered journey through countless music genres and styles.

Machine Messiah, which features a stylish artwork designed by visual artist Camille Della Rosa that feels like a play with the cover art from their 1991 cult album Arise, is also the band’s first studio album in over three years since The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart, from 2013, marking the longest gap between two studio albums in their career. In addition, this is the second album with Eloy Casagrande on drums, who’s definitely a lot more comfortable now with the band and, consequently, he ends up adding a lot more intricacy, electricity and groove to the music by Sepultura. And regarding Mr. Andreas Kisser, well, nothing I write in this review will be enough to describe what he did in Machine Messiah with his superb technique.

Venturing on new lands never before explored by Sepultura, the title-track Machine Messiah is a dark, slow and atmospheric tune where we have Derrick’s clean and somber vocals complemented by Andreas’ unique riffs and soulful solos, showcasing elements from Doom and Stoner Metal that increase the song’s obscurity; whereas I Am the Enemy, with its rebellious lyrics (“Powered by thoughts of revolution / Building all bridges of error / Search and destroy my sick innerself / To realize I’m not a fraud”), gets closer to the brutal Hardcore found in albums like Against, with Eloy smashing his drums while Andreas and Derrick emanate sheer violence in this excellent high-octane hymn. And in Phantom Self, an experimental Groove Metal composition with hints of Alternative Metal, regional elements from the Brazilian and Middle-Eastern cultures are nicely added to the musicality, enhanced by the song’s thoughtful lyrics (“The crash. Flash backs. Carnage the blood keeps on flowing / Killing me. Trapped inside this tragedy / Can’t see the road in front of me / Replay this nightmare over and over”).

Alethea is another distinct composition in such diverse album, albeit not as crisp and exciting as the previous songs despite its progressiveness and experimentations. Once again, it’s Andreas who delivers the best pieces of the song with his flammable guitar, which also happens in Iceberg Dances, a kick-ass instrumental extravaganza where Andreas, Paulo and Eloy are in perfect sync, firing powerful riffs, thunderous bass lines and groovy beats. It reminds me a lot of the music by Mastodon, which means it’s at the same time insane and harmonious, with its Deep Purple-inspired keyboards and Flamenco acoustic guitar lines bringing even more awesomeness to the overall result. The symphonic and sometimes epic Sworn Oath, the longest of all songs, is not just another good surprise in Machine Messiah, but also in my humble opinion the best sonority for Derrick’s voice when he’s not singing fast-paced Hardcore. Moreover, if played live with a proper orchestra, it should sound simply astounding.

sepultura_2017In the dark Resistant Parasites, Paulo delivers sheer heaviness with his bass lines, taking the song’s modern Groove Metal to the extreme, exhibiting a powerful and innovative vibe without losing the band’s characteristic aggressiveness, followed by Silent Violence, another track that reminds me of the craziness blasted by Mastodon. It’s fuckin’ heavy and complex at the same time, a tune to break your neck where Derrick fires madness and anger with his growls while Andreas continues to deliver pure creativity and feeling through his riffs and solos. Eloy and Andreas speed things up in the thrilling mosh pit-generator hymn Vandals Nest, bringing forward tons of creativity, complexity and groove (needless to say, I can’t wait to feel this song played live), before Cyber God gets back to the doomed sonority found in many parts of the album. This is a beautiful, somber ending to the regular version of the album, displaying low-tuned bass punches and piercing guitars, and blending elements from several styles such as Industrial, Groove, Gothic and Doom Metal, among many others, being extremely hard to define its style. And of course, if you go for the special edition of Machine Messiah, you’ll be treated to two top-notch bonus tracks, in special their cover version for Ultraseven no Uta from the cult tokusatsu science fiction TV series Ultra Seven, originally recorded by The Echoes & Misuzu Children’s Choral Group, not to mention the version that comes with a DVD with the making of Machine Messiah available at the Nuclear Blast webstore.

After Machine Messiah, I wonder where Andreas, Paulo, Derrick and Eloy will go next with their music. It’s such an experimental, intense and elaborate album it’s hard to imagine those four guys will be able to top it in terms of complexity with their future releases. But who am I to doubt what the iconic Sepultura will offer the world in the future? Andreas keeps getting better and better in what he does, putting his heart and soul into his music and uniting with his guitar in the most perfect way imaginable, with the other band members supporting him with precision and stamina. Sepultura are and will always be Brazil’s most prominent metal band no matter what, and with Machine Messiah they’re sending a solid message to the world there’s still room for innovation in heavy music, always keeping their core essence heavy and electrifying.

Best moments of the album: I Am the Enemy, Iceberg Dances and Vandals Nest.

Worst moments of the album: Alethea.

Released in 2017 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Machine Messiah 5:54
2. I Am the Enemy 2:27
3. Phantom Self 5:30
4. Alethea 4:31
5. Iceberg Dances 4:41
6. Sworn Oath 6:09
7. Resistant Parasites 4:58
8. Silent Violence 3:46
9. Vandals Nest 2:47
10. Cyber God 5:22

Special Edition bonus tracks
11. Chosen Skin 3:17
12. Ultraseven no Uta (The Echoes & Misuzu Children’s Choral Group cover) 1:18

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

Album Review – Death Angel / The Evil Divide (2016)

Fast and furious anthems, dark mid-tempo songs, austere lyrics and endless stamina. This is how high-quality Thrash Metal should always be done.

Rating3

death angel_the evil dividethrash
/THraSH/

verb
1. beat (a person or animal) repeatedly and violently with a stick or whip.
“she thrashed him across the head and shoulders” 

noun
1. 
a violent or noisy movement, typically involving hitting something repeatedly.
“the thrash of the waves”
2. a style of fast, loud, harsh-sounding rock music, combining elements of punk and heavy metal.

In case you didn’t know the meaning of the word “thrash”, this is the official definition of both the verb and the noun for you to memorize anytime someone asks you why Thrash Metal has such a peculiar name. However, if this is too much for you to remember during a conversation (or if you’re too drunk to make long and complex sentences), simply keep two words in mind, those being Death Angel, and it will be extremely easy for you to explain exactly what Thrash Metal is all about. Those thrash metallers from Daly City, the largest city in San Mateo County, California, in the United States, might have gone through several line-up changes and a huge hiatus during the 90’s, but after their resurrection in 2001 they have been delivering nothing but top-notch heavy music to the world.

After the release of the excellent The Dream Calls for Blood, in 2013, one of the key bands in the Bay Area Thrash movement of the 80’s returns at full force in 2016 with their eighth studio album, the also amazing The Evil Divide. Featuring a distinct artwork by American tattoo artist Bob Tyrrell, The Evil Divide is a feast of fast and furious Thrash Metal anthems, dark mid-tempo songs, austere lyrics and, of course, flawless performances by all band members, especially frontman Mark Osegueda who displays a wider-than-usual vocal range throughout the entire album, providing a special taste to each one of the ten songs masterfully played by the band, turning The Evil Divide into one of the best albums of the year and a must-have for lovers of old school Thrash Metal.

Get yourself ready for a high-octane onslaught, because the opening track, named The Moth, offers those piercing riffs and overpowering drums we truly love in this type of music, being melodic and polished but keeping the overall violence at a high level. Moreover, as already mentioned, Mark Osegueda is getting more demonic (and consequently more awesome) through the years, bringing more dynamism to Death Angel’s musicality. Right after that solid start, the sick bass lines by Damien Sisson kick off the circle pit-generator Cause for Alarm, where guest guitarist Jason Suecof (Charred Walls of the Damned) fires an amazing solo while drummer Will Carroll paves a path of devastation behind his drum kit. Honestly, there’s no way a real metalhead can stand still to this hurricane of Thrash Metal.

Then it’s time to slow things down a bit in Lost, a powerful heavy ballad by Death Angel with Mark stealing the spotlight with his passionate performance on vocals, while guitarists Rob Cavestany and Ted Aguilar make sure the band’s aggression keeps burning nonstop through their riffs and solos; followed by Father of Lies, a belligerent Thrash Metal tune that reminds me of the golden years of Bay Area Thrash. All you have to do is grab a beer, slam into the pit and enjoy this excellent song, paying good attention to the outstanding job done on guitars and singing along with the band its catchy and vicious chorus.

death angelIn Hell to Pay, not only its lyrics and chorus couldn’t be any thrashier (“Lurid speaker, you toxic feeder / There’s no damage on the way / Selfish user, trust abuser / There will be hell to pay”), but the overall performance of the entire band is superb. Mark leads this sonic havoc with his sharp screams, while the rest of the band keeps “feeding the beast” with all their strength. Holy fuckin’ shit, what an amazing Thrash Metal anthem! And Death Angel keep blasting their fantastic music in It Can’t Be This, another tune to sing along with the band with highlights to the amazing riffs by Rob and Ted, as well as the rumbling bass lines by Damien, which increase the song’s impact on the listener. And there’s still a lot more to come, as Hatred United/United Hate is yet another song born to be a Thrash Metal classic of modern times. Guest guitarist Andreas Kisser (Sepultura) provides an excellent guitar solo that sounds like some of his classic creations from the early days of Sepultura, whereas Mark effectively follows the lines crafted by guitars and drums with his enraged screams.

In Breakaway, an intro keeps growing until the music explodes into cataclysmic Thrash Metal, with pure electricity flowing through all instruments in one of the best tracks of the album. This is an ode to everything we admire in the music by Exodus, Testament, Slayer and so many other icons, bringing forward the speed, melody and heaviness of most classic Thrash Metal anthems.  The Electric Cell, with its old school lyrics (“A cold deathly grip on the shovel of greed / You dig a mass unmarked grave / Just know your bones will be the first to lie / At the bottom of the masses betrayed”), is a good exhibit of the endless stamina present in all band members, especially Will who doesn’t seem to know the meaning of the word “soft” while playing drums, before the cutting tune Let the Pieces Fall closes this superb album. It’s heavy and thrilling just like the rest of the album, with the vocal lines by Mark transpiring hatred. Thus, when it’s over you’ll go back to the beginning of the album and start listening to it all over again, and probably repeat that a few (or even a lot) more times until your body collapses due to unstoppable moshing and slamming.

In a nutshell, what Death Angel (or maybe I should call them “Thrash Angel”) offer us in The Evil Divide might not be a revolution in music, but it is exactly how high-quality Thrash Metal should always be done. And that seems to be an easy task for them due to the refined skills of each band member, a good sign of the bright future that lies ahead for the band and also for traditional Thrash Metal without a shadow of a doubt. No one knows if they’ll be able to top what they have achieved with The Dream Calls for Blood and The Evil Divide in recent years, and while we wait for their next release there’s plenty of awe-inspiring metal music from this iconic band in The Evil Divide to keep us banging our heads and raising our horns to the unparalleled and unrelenting sound of Thrash Metal for a good while.

Best moments of the album: Cause for Alarm, Hell to Pay, Hatred United/United Hate and Breakaway.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. The Moth 4:38
2. Cause for Alarm (feat. Jason Succof) 3:22
3. Lost 4:57
4. Father of Lies 5:05
5. Hell to Pay 3:12
6. It Can’t Be This 4:16
7. Hatred United/United Hate (feat. Andreas Kisser) 5:17
8. Breakaway 4:01
9. The Electric Cell 4:38
10. Let the Pieces Fall 5:47

CD/DVD Digipak bonus track
11. Wasteland 5:18

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

Guest musicians
Jason Suecof – guitar solo on “Cause for Alarm”
Andreas Kisser – guitar solo on “Hatred United/United Hate”

Album Review – Sepultura / The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Heart (2013)

Another good album from the most important Brazilian Metal band of all time.

Rating5

Sepultura_-_The_Mediator_Between_Head_and_Hands_Must_Be_the_Heart_artworkIf there’s one thing that can be considered a true innovation in the new Sepultura album is its name: The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Heart is by far their most complex and longest album name ever. Take a look at their discography (if you’ve never seen it) and you’ll notice all albums have very short and direct names, such as Arise, Roots, Against, Nation, Roorback and Kairos. However, despite its creative name, the album doesn’t really bring anything new to the world of heavy music. It’s a good album with some interesting moments, but nothing that can be considered “above and beyond”.

I enjoyed a lot the opening track, Trauma of War. In my opinion, it has an excellent intro and reminds me of some insane 80’s Thrash Metal! The Vatican, the second track of the album, also has a cool intro, strong lyrics and sounds like classic Death Metal in most of its 6 minutes. Then that’s when the problems start with The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Heart: all the other songs sound very similar to each other. Impending Doom is one of the closest tracks to what Sepultura has been doing in the past few years, but it becomes quite boring after 2 minutes. Manipulation of Tragedy has the same problem as the previous track, while Tsunami might remind me a little of the old “Chaos A.D./Roots” days but this doesn’t make the song remarkable. The next track,The Bliss of Ignorants, has very “Roots” intro and riffs and this could have evolved to something more interesting. And Grief starts with a very clean guitar that goes on for about 2 minutes, then it becomes Doom Metal-like and that’s it, nothing special.

sepulturaThe last three songs raise the bar a little: The Age of the Atheist (the first single of the album) has awesome drums and it’s a perfect representation of Sepultura post-Roots; Obsessed has the best Metal drummer in the world, Mr. Dave Lombardo, as a special guest, and of course he adds a lot of feeling to the song with his unique technique; and the last track of the album, called Da Lama ao Caos, is a superb version for a song from a non-Metal Brazilian group called Chico Science & Nação Zumbi (it’s way better than the original song, by the way).

Regarding the job done by each band member, Derrick keeps singing like a caveman inside a cave fighting with a saber tooth (or vice-versa). Although his voice will never be as good as Max Cavalera’s, it works well for what the band needs nowadays. Eloy Casagrande is improving his drumming technique year after year, becoming faster and more violent, Paulo does a consistent job on bass, and Andreas shows why he’s the best Brazilian guitar player of all time.

The cover art matches perfectly with the album name, and maybe this is the best thing in its entirety. I’m not saying it’s a bad album, not at all. It’s pretty straight forward Heavy Metal material and I do love all music from Sepultura. It’s just that I know those guys can do better than this.

Best moments of the album: Trauma of War, The Vatican and Da Lama ao Caos.

Worst moments of the album: Impending Doom, Manipulation of Tragedy and Grief.

Released in 2013 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Trauma of War 3:45
2. The Vatican 6:33
3. Impending Doom 4:15
4. Manipulation of Tragedy 4:16
5. Tsunami 5:10
6. The Bliss of Ignorants 4:51
7. Grief 5:34
8. The Age of the Atheist 4:19
9. Obsessed (feat. Dave Lombardo) 3:53
10. Da Lama ao Caos (Chico Science & Nação Zumbi cover) 4:28

Band members
Derrick Green − lead vocals
Andreas Kisser − guitars, vocals on “Da Lama ao Caos”
Paulo Jr. − bass guitar
Eloy Casagrande – drums