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

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Concert Review – Heavy Montréal 2014 Day 1 (Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal, QC, 08/09/2014)

A Saturday full of sun, Thrash Metal and Punk Rock at the biggest heavy music festival in Canada.

INTRODUCTION: The Island of Heavy Metal

heavy montreal 2014Since its first edition in 2008, Heavy Montréal (formerly known as Heavy MTL), has become one of the largest heavy music festivals in the world, being compared to some huge traditional European summer festivals, with around 70,000 people attending every year. Not only that, after only two editions of Heavy T.O. in Toronto in 2011 and 2012, Heavy Montréal became the only mega Heavy Metal/Hard Rock festival in the entire country, elevating its importance even more for all Canadian headbangers.

In my opinion, one of the most outstanding characteristics of Heavy Montréal is the fact that the festival is held annually at the beautiful Parc Jean-Drapeau, which is located on Saint Helen’s Island in the middle of the romantic Saint Lawrence River in Montreal, Quebec. In other words, heavy music festivals happen all over the world in different sites, but only Heavy Montréal offers us the uniqueness of spending two days of our summer every year at a true “island of Heavy Metal”.

HEAVY MONTRÉAL: Where to Stay, How to Get There and Overall Organization

IMG_2899Booking a hotel in Montreal during the summer is not only painful, but also as pricey as hell: even the most disgusting pigsty downtown will cost you at least 100 Canadian dollars a night or more, if you’re lucky enough to find a room available. In case you’re not driving, there’s not much you can do but surrender to that “mafia”. However, if you go to Montreal by car there are many excellent hotels near the airport, which is just a 20-minute drive from the heart of the city. You can park your car at Complexe Desjardins for around 10 Canadian dollars a day, and then take the subway to Jean-Drapeau (yellow line) metro station starting either at Place-des-Arts (green line) or Place-d’Armes (orange line) metro stations, arriving at the festival main entrance in less than 15 minutes.

IMG_2891Another highlight of Heavy Montréal was its overall organization: the food trucks were amazing and the beer was ice cold (a bit costly, though), the Wi-Fi zone was relaxing and the internet service worked fine, the toilets were clean, there was plenty of water, good merchandise and some freebies, among many other cool stuff happening all over the island. Of course, the main “attractions” were the stages where lots of awesome heavy bands from different styles delivered unforgettable moments to their fans. We had Scène Heavy (Heavy Stage) and Scène Molson Canadian (Molson Canadian Stage) for the main bands, Scène De L’apocalypse (Apocalypse Stage) for midcarders, Scène De La Forêt (Forest Stage) for indie bands, and Scène Heavy Mania (Heavy Mania Stage) for some awesome wrestling action.

ANTHRAX

IMG_2827Unfortunately I had to miss some of the afternoon bands on Saturday such as Overkill, Apocalyptica and Babymetal as the drive from Toronto to Montreal is lengthy and boring, but I got there just in time for American Thrash Metal masters Anthrax. Honestly, I don’t know what else to say about Joey Belladonna, Scott Ian, Charlie Benante, Frank Bello and Jonathan Donais: they kick fuckin’ ass no matter where they are and how much time they have to play. Their SETLIST was pretty much the same from the previous time I saw them, but you know what? It’s always a pleasure to listen to Thrash Metal classics like Madhouse and Antisocial mixed with some newer badass songs such as Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t. I just thought the crowd was not as excited as I was expecting, maybe because Saturday was a day for “softer” bands, but that didn’t stop Anthrax from delivering an awesome concert to everyone attending the festival that day. As Scott Ian said at the end of their performance, always remember to worship music!

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

THE OFFSPRING

IMG_2837Right after Anthrax were done at the Molson Canadian Stage, it was time for American Punk Rock veterans The Offspring to hit the Heavy Stage at 7:15pm performing one of the most influential Punk Rock albums of all time in its entirety, the excellent Smash, plus some other classic songs to complete their SETLIST, to the delight of their old and new fans. They might not be a true metal band, but it’s impossible for any living person not to enjoy the hits Come Out and Play, What Happened to You?, Why Don’t You Get a Job? and The Kids Aren’t Alright. Moreover, the quality of their live performance is superb, just as if you were listening to the studio versions of all songs with an extra dose of energy added to them, especially in regards to frontman Dexter Holland, who doesn’t seem to get old with time. Quite the contrary, he seems to be in great shape and ready to rock for many years to come.

Band members
Dexter Holland – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Noodles – lead guitar, backing vocals
Greg K. – bass guitar, backing vocals
Pete Parada – drums, percussion 

METALLICA

IMG_2841It was 8:15pm when the lights went off at the Molson Canadian Stage and, after the intro The Ecstasy of Gold, the main attraction of the night, American Thrash Metal giants Metallica, delivered to their fans their “Metallica by Request” concert. Let me start by saying that I’m not the most recommended person to talk about Metallica. Although I like some of their old songs, I consider them an extremely overrated band, and pretty much 99.9% of everything they recorded in the past 20 years or so is pure garbage, especially the abominable album St. Anger. Well, as I was already there I decided to enjoy their performance as much as I could, which really happened with kick-ass songs such as Blackened, Battery and The Four Horsemen, by far the best moments of all, but besides those songs there was nothing else truly memorable from their SETLIST chosen by their “fans”. Not even Master of Puppets, One, Seek & Destroy or Fade to Black turned me on, mainly because their setlist is always that same old annoying “radio hit collection”.

They give the fans the unique chance to select some old school Thrash Metal anthems such as Whiplash, Metal Militia, Damage, Inc., Trapped Under Ice, Motorbreath, and many other songs they haven’t played in ages, and what do those so-called fans do? They vote for the repetitive sleep aids The Unforgiven, Sad But True, Enter Sandman and Nothing Else Matters (do they know anything besides the Black Album?), which sounded even worse when blended with their new dreadful song Lords of Summer, the unnecessary instrumental Orion (not a bad song, but an awful choice for live performances), and two absolutely disgusting guitar solos (if those “things” can be called solos) by Kirk Hammett. Even when people could choose The Four Horsemen, Fuel or Fight Fire with Fire for the “Vote of the Day” things went partially wrong, as we ended up without listening to the amazing Fight Fire with Fire.

I don’t know if the fans who voted actually attended the concert, because I saw lots of people yawning during the never-ending slow songs, especially during The Unforgiven, which was a true torture. You have to agree with me here: how can you consider a song boring if you voted for it to be part of the setlist, right? At least for me and for the real Metallica fans, this “Metallica by Request” thing was a huge failure, and that could be easily seen by the extremely low level of energy and excitement after the show was over, as people were just like “yep, let’s go home now”, no one was screaming the name of the band nor anything fun happened after that. Leastwise, let’s all remember some beautiful words from Monty Python and “always look on the bright side of life”: although some people mysteriously voted for some songs from St. Anger, none of that tuneless rubbish made it to the setlist. That made me really proud of living in Canada.

Band members
James Hetfield – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Kirk Hammett – lead guitar, backing vocals
Robert Trujillo – bass guitar, backing vocals
Lars Ulrich – drums

To be continued…

Concert Review – Nova Rock Festival 2014 (Pannonia Fields II, Nickelsdorf, Austria, 06/14/2014)

A flawless festival at one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

novarock2014

INTRODUCTION: The City of Nickelsdorf and 10 Years of Nova Rock

The town of Nickelsdorf is located in the district of Neusiedl am See in the Austrian state of Burgenland, it belonged to Hungary until 1920 (like the whole province of Burgenland) and it has a population of less than 2,000 people. Those details alone wouldn’t encourage anyone to visit this little town in the middle of nowhere in Austria, don’t you agree? However, over the past 10 years there are three very special days between the second and third weeks of June when its population increases almost 100 times and Nickelsdorf becomes the world capital of heavy music: that’s what happens when the awesome Nova Rock Festival hits the town.

It was from June 9 to June 12, 2005 when the first edition of Nova Rock brought to town names such as System of a Down, Marylin Manson, Nightwish, Audioslave and Green Day, with over 30,000 fans per day. The following year, with huge bands like Metallica, Motörhead and Guns N’ Roses, the festival received over 150,000 visitors, becoming the largest ever rock festival in Austria. Since then, names like Volbeat, The Prodigy, Rage Against the Machine, Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth, Rammstein, Kreator, Testament, In Flames and many other heavy music icons have helped put Nickelsdorf in the route (and in the hearts) of metalheads from all over the world during the always incredible European summer.

This year the lineup was once again more than amazing, starting on Friday, June 13 with the power of Volbeat, Slayer, Steel Panther and Sepultura; kicking fuckin’ ass on Saturday, June 14 with Epica, Trivium, Anthrax, Amon Amarth and Iron Maiden (and believe me, American actor David Hasselhoff); and topping it off with Rob Zombie, The Offspring, Bad Religion, Arch Enemy and Black Sabbath. You can take a look at the full lineup per day by clicking HERE.

As I was travelling around Austria and Eastern Europe I couldn’t attend all three days of the festival due to time and money restrictions, so this review is solely in regards to Day 2, with focus on the performances by Trivium, Anthrax, Amon Amarth and Iron Maiden. Unfortunately (or not), I couldn’t stay later to see “The Hoff” singing the hit song Du or doing whatever he was going to do there.

NOVA ROCK FESTIVAL: Where to Stay, How to Get There and Overall Organization

If you’re planning on attending Nova Rock next year for only one or two of the three days of the festival, or if you’re not a huge fan of camping sites, the two best options available are staying in the capital Vienna (about 70km from Nickelsdorf) and driving for about one hour or taking the train to the festival, or staying in the very pleasant city of Bratislava, in Slovakia, which is only 40km from Nickelsdorf (or a quick 40-minute drive). We chose to stay in Bratislava, mainly because it was our first time in Slovakia and our chance to know that amazing city, and we do not regret that at all: it’s a lot cheaper than Vienna, the food and drinks are amazing, and it is full of breathtaking views like the one of the entire city from the top of the Bratislava Castle during the sunset.

The festival itself was very well-organized, with a huge free parking lot, good camping space, lots of different options to eat, good toilets, decent prices for the merchandise available, and more important than all that, both the blue and the red stages were set up in a way you could see and listen to everything no matter where you were. There were also lots of different activities going on, keeping the fans entertained before their favorite bands hit the stages, including a huge party zone. The only issue this year was the unbearable dust that impregnated the entire festival due to the dry and sunny weather in Nickelsdorf, which was responsible for lots of people wearing bandanas to cover their faces like if they were some kind of outlaws. Anyway, it was better than a heavy storm, especially because driving back to Bratislava all covered in mud wouldn’t have been a nice experience.

TRIVIUM

IMG_1976Because I had some sightseeing to do in the morning and part of the afternoon, I was able to get to Nova Rock only at 4pm, which means I unfortunately missed Epica (and fortunately missed Ghost). However, I was there just in time for one of the best bands of the past 10 years: American Heavy Metal band Trivium started their powerful and fun concert at around 4:30pm setting the crowd on fire, especially the ones in the front row/section. The band’s sonority was better than the last time I saw them, partially thanks to drummer Mat Madiro: he seems to be an excellent replacement for Nick Augusto, helping the band sound more cohesive with him on drums.

A constant presence in previous editions of Nova Rock, the band seemed pretty happy to be back in Austria and, with heavy and technical songs such as Strife, Black, Through Blood and Dirt and Bone and Down from the Sky, Matt Heafy and his crew delivered what in my opinion was the second best show of the day, only behind Iron Maiden. Matt said numerous times the fans were kickin’ ass at Nova Rock, which is an absolute truth, leaving the doors open for more Trivium at future editions of the festivals, maybe one day as the main attraction (and they indeed deserve that opportunity).

Band members
Matt Heafy – lead vocals, guitars
Corey Beaulieu – guitars, backing vocals
Paolo Gregoletto – bass guitar, backing vocals
Mat Madiro – drums

ANTHRAX

IMG_1996After a short break, American Thrash Metal icons Anthrax started their energetic show at around 6pm, showing why they have their spot in the famous “Big Four”. What an amazing performance! Mixing some old mighty classics like Caught in a Mosh, Got the Time, Indians and Antisocial with songs from their latest album from 2011, Worship Music (with highlights to the fun zombie-anthem Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t), Anthrax kept a very positive energy flowing among the fans and got the recognition they deserved from everyone in the end.

Two things should be said about their performance: first of all, in regards to the band members, Joey Belladonna proved one more time why, just like Ozzy, he’s a horrible singer but an incredible frontman. The man doesn’t stop running around the stage, cheering up the fans and making the whole experience of watching Anthrax live really awesome! And Scott Ian might not be the best guitar player in the world, but he is a true Heavy Metal hero, banging his head and delivering lots of awesome heavy riffs during all songs.

And last but not least, the tribute the whole band payed to Dio (R.I.P.) and Dimebag Darrell (R.I.P.) with the banners and the song In the End, and the other tribute to Australian masters AC/DC in the form of a beautiful cover version of T.N.T., just proved how humble all members of Anthrax are and how much they love heavy music. Anthrax were not only an excellent warm-up for Iron Maiden, but a superb lesson in Thrash Metal for everybody at Nova Rock.

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

AMON AMARTH

IMG_1997Then came one of the most anticipated attractions of the day for me, as I love most of their albums and it was the first time I was able to see them live, but sadly it was not as powerful as I was expecting: Swedish Melodic Death Metal warriors Amon Amarth had a very competent performance, playing some great tunes such as Father of the Wolf, Guardians of Asgaard and The Pursuit of Vikings, and Johan Hegg is becoming one of the top frontman in heavy music. However, probably due to the fatigue everyone was feeling after so many electrifying attractions that day, their concert sounded a bit tiring after a while.

I don’t know if most of the fans there were not that much into their Viking theme, but I saw lots of people simply static and some even yawning during the entire show. I would say that huge festivals are not the best place for a band like Amon Amarth, because let’s face it: singing about Vikings is not considered cool by a huge part of the society, so I’ll wait until they come to Toronto this fall during their own tour to better analyze them live. I’m pretty sure it will be a lot better than their performance at Nova Rock.

Band members
Johan Hegg – lead vocals
Olavi Mikkonen – guitar
Johan Söderberg – guitar
Ted Lundström – bass
Fredrik Andersson – drums 

IRON MAIDEN

IMG_2010And at around 9pm, guess what happened? My sixth “Maiden England” concert, which was also my second one in less than a week (and of course the second of this Maiden England Tour 2014), was once again totally awesome. Because it was a festival, which means you’ll find all types of people there and not only true Maidenmaniacs, I just felt the audience wasn’t as great as in Brno, but that doesn’t mean people didn’t go crazy with classics like Aces High, Run to the Hills, The Prisoner and The Trooper. Revelations was again one of the top moments in my opinion, and the energy people put into singing Fear of the Dark always reminds us why they keep it in the setlist even if lots of diehard fans want them to change it for something else.

I’m not sure if the band was running out of time or if they just wanted to end the show earlier to watch the World Cup match between England and Italy, but without any further explanation they simply removed Wrathchild from that night’s setlist. I bet it was because of the match, as Bruce was wearing a weird English white jumpsuit during Aces High and said a couple of times that we all had to get back to our tents to see England beat Italy 10-0. Well, I guess Mick Jagger is not the only jinx around.

Apart from that minor upset (I’m talking about Wrathchild, not about England losing to Italy, of course), all fans were able to witness another memorable performance from the most influential Heavy Metal band of all time, which was corroborated by everybody happily singing Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life when the concert was over. Now I really hope “Maiden England” is over (after three years) and they come back with a new album, because although I’m 100% passionate about all those classics, I also love when Bruce, Steve & Co. provide us some fresh compositions. Let’s hope they deliver us something as good as The Final Frontier, and that they keep on rockin’ all over the world with their unique and marvelous tours.

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

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