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 – Blaze Bayley (Hard Rock Café, Toronto, ON, 10/17/2014)

The Messiah blessed his loyal fans with pure Heavy Metal at Indie Week Canada 2014 in Toronto.

OPENING ACTS: Laugh At The Fakes, The Blackcloud Syndicate, Spewgore and Phantom

blaze bayley torontoOn a very pleasant not-so-cold night in the heart of Toronto during Indie Week Canada, from October 15 to October 19, Hard Rock Café was invaded on October 17 by around 150 metalheads to support four amazing local bands, with the icing on the cake being an electrifying performance by the “Messiah” Blaze Bayley, as part of the festival’s Metal Showcase.

I can’t say I was expecting more or less people than that, probably a little more due to the presence of such a great musician as Blaze, but one thing that I loved about the festival was the sense of family among all bands and fans at the venue, including Blaze himself who spent a lot of time talking to fans, taking pictures and signing stuff, as well as being able to put some faces to names like Jon Asher, from Asher Media Relations. You will read more about this great guy from Montreal, his business and the bands he works with here at The Headbanging Moose for sure.

IMG_2993The first attraction to hit the stage was Rock/Metal band LAUGH AT THE FAKES, from Toronto, Ontario. Those guys play a nice mix of Rock N’ Roll, Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, very old school but with a more polished sounding, and they surely entertained everyone already at Hard Rock Café before 9pm. Although it was impossible to get or memorize the setlists of any of the opening bands, I know Laugh At The Fakes played a pretty cool song called Killing Time, from their debut album Dethrone the Crown, which will  be released pretty soon and, of course, reviewed here at The Headbanging Moose.

Band members
Everett Mason – guitar, vocals
Kevin Daliri – guitar
Galen Weir – bass
Chris Avalos – drums

IMG_2997After some Rock N’ Roll and a short beer break, it was time for Thrash Metal/Hardcore band THE BLACKCLOUD SYNDICATE, also from Toronto, Ontario, to speed things up with their visceral music, with highlights to the wicked performance by lead singer Miko Zolefrapanidis. The guy was on fire, probably inspired by Blaze’s usual performance. In regards to the songs, I truly enjoyed a song named Protest the Riot and their cover version for Billy Idol’s classic Rebel Yell, both from their 2013 release called Rage in Common.

Band members
Miko Zolefrapanidis – vocals
Giuseppe D’Angelo – guitar
Graham Scott Anthony – guitar
Shawn Davidson – bass
Glenn Novak – drums

IMG_3003And there was more violence to come with the third indie band of the night, Thrash Metal/Hardcore veterans SPEWGORE, from Brampton, Ontario. Led by vocalist Bill Brown, the band took the proverbial phrase “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” seriously, as they were able to deliver an almost full setlist in a very limited amount of time. If you enjoy fast, short and brutal hardcore songs, go after the music by this Canadian band. They truly delivered a nonstop energetic concert at the festival.

Band members
Bill Brown – vocals
Steve Macpherson – guitars
Ken Gibson – bass
Mark Macpherson – drums

IMG_3004The last attraction before the Messiah was Heavy Metal band PHANTOM, from Toronto, Ontario, and let me tell you those guys make the expression “New Wave Of Canadian Heavy Metal” more real than ever! What an amazing band, with powerful songs such as their new single Blood & Iron being the perfect warm-up for Blaze Bayley. Kudos to D.D. Murley, Necro Hippie and J.J. Blade for keeping the fire of Heavy Metal burning, and for reminding us why the 80’s were the best decade in the history of music by far.

Band members
D.D. Murley – lead vocals and guitar
Necro Hippie – bass guitar
J.J. Blade – drums and backing vocals

BLAZE BAYLEY

IMG_3015Coincidence or not, when the clock hit two minutes to midnight, BLAZE BAYLEY began his flaming performance at Hard Rock Café, accompanied by the extremely competent Iron Maiden tribute band MAIDEN QUÉBEC, from Montreal, Quebec, who were by the way supporting Blaze in all of his Canadian dates.

Celebrating 20 years of the controversial, obscure and awesome album The X Factor, Blaze and Maiden Québec presented a very interesting mix of his first solo albums (when his band was called only BLAZE) and Iron Maiden songs. And it wasn’t a perfect mix, just an interesting one, because unfortunately there were absolutely no songs from his best solo albums, the masterpieces The Man Who Would Not Die and Promise and Terror, which I can understand based on the fact Blaze is a 100% solo artist now, relying on local bands to build his setlist wherever he goes. I know it might be hard for any band to learn too many “new” songs in a short period of time, and so adding songs Maiden Québec are used to play like Running Free, Whathchild and Wasted Years was the most viable solution for all musicians involved.

IMG_3024Anyway, despite those minor limitations, it was indeed a great performance by “the man who will not die”, with highlights to songs such as The Brave, Silicon Messiah and Kill and Destroy, together with his Maiden-years songs When Two Words Collide (which I saw live only once, during the Virtual XI World Tour in 1998), Lord of the Flies, the all-time classics Futureal and Man on the Edge, and the more-than-perfect The Clansman. How can a normal person not get all fired up with this epic song, especially after Blaze’s inspiring words about living our lives, about feeling the sense of true freedom? This song always makes me want to be Scottish, I just love it!

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The Messiah is among us!

But the most important detail of the whole concert was, of course, Blaze Bayley himself. There’s an expression in Brazilian Portuguese that summarizes the state of a person when he is fearless, brave, lionhearted, and 100% ready for war: we say that person has “sangue nos olhos”, or blood in his eyes in English (not in a surgical way, of course), and that’s exactly how I see Blaze Bayley every single time he’s on stage. He gives it all, no matter if he’s playing for 50 or 50,000 people, and he literally demands each and every motherfucker from the crowd to join him in an incredible metal music havoc. You cannot hide from Blaze, he will see you standing still and kindly ask you “Hey, you, motherfucker! Come on!”, it doesn’t matter if you worked for over eight hours, if you’re fuckin’ exhausted nor if it’s already 1:30am. And that’s how true independent Heavy Metal is done.

Setlist
1. Lord of the Flies
2. When Two Worlds Collide
3. The Brave
4. Ghost in the Machine
5. Silicon Messiah
6. Ten Seconds
7. The Clansman
8. Futureal
9. The Launch
10. Soundtrack of My Life
11. Kill and Destroy
12. Man on the Edge
13. Running Free
14. Wrathchild
15. Iron Maiden
16. Wasted Years

Band members
Blaze Bayley – vocals

Maiden Québec (Canadian tour support band)
Pat Lalonde – vocals
Steven Bergeron – lead guitars
Leandro Alves – lead guitars
Math Gagnon – bass
Jef Rastoldo – drums