Concert Review – Slipknot (Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON, 08/20/2019)

An awesome night of heavy music spearheaded by the world’s most beloved and rebellious masked horde, showing everyone that if you’re 555, then Toronto is 666.

OPENING ACTS: Behemoth, Gojira and Volbeat

Blackened Death Metal, Progressive Groove Metal, Rock N’ Roll and Alternative Metal. What at first it might look like the distinct styles you usually find at an European metal fest during the summer is actually the lineup of the 2019 edition of the highly-acclaimed Knotfest Roadshow, and fortunately for us Torontonians the one and only Slipknot and their friends from Behemoth, Gojira and Volbeat brought that amalgamation of very different but utterly electrifying genres to the always great Budweiser Stage on another hot summer day in the city. It was a Tuesday, just the beginning of the week, which means most people who attended the show still had an entire week of work after around six intense hours of loud beats, unstoppable riffs and demented circle pits. Well, who cares, right? It’s all in the name of our good old Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll.

Just by arriving at the venue you could see it was going to be a very special day for longtime fans of Slipknot, with several of them being properly dressed as their idols, including some wicked (and a few weird) masks, showing how much those people love and respect a band that revolutionized metal music 20 years ago and that are still alive and kicking. If you had the opportunity to arrive to the Budweiser stage right when the gates were opened, you were able to enjoy a lot of different attractions such as a special Slipknot exhibition right beside where 2018 Wacken Metal Battle Canada winners Centuries of Decay (you can see more details about their 2018 win HERE) where blasting their first-class Progressive/Atmospheric Death Metal, enjoy one or more of the several food trucks available, test your knowledge of metal music by taking a fun quiz at the Monster Energy truck (needless to say, I had all six answers correct and got myself a nice Monster Energy bandana), or even take a picture with that crazy dude who tried to swim back to the Slayer concert in 2018 at that same venue. He was wearing a personalized shirt about his 2018 incident and two arm floats. Yes, he’s that crazy.

However, when the clock hit 5:30pm sharp, it was time for the gods and demons of heavy music and all fans that were already at the venue (and I was surprised by the huge number of people that managed to get there in time for the very first concert) to witness another blasphemous, theatrical and absolutely heavy-as-hell performance by Poland’s own BEHEMOTH. Still promoting their awesome 2018 opus I Loved You At Your Darkest, the iconic Nergal and his henchmen Seth, Orion and Inferno delivered a short and sweet concert for fans of their darker version of Death Metal, literally spitting fire, blood and blasphemy on our faces for around 40 minutes, with songs like Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer,  Bartzabel and Chant for Eschaton 2000 proving why they became one of the most beloved extreme bands of the past decade, and also one of the most hated and abhorred by any type of church (which in the end is a very positive thing).

Setlist
Solve
Wolves ov Siberia
Daimonos
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
Bartzabel
Conquer All
Sabbath Mater
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

After a quick break the stage was ready with all of its lights aiming at our faces to warn us the pulverizing concert by French Progressive/Groove Metal institution GOJIRA was about to begin, and let me tell you it was simply fantastic and insanely heavy from start to finish. The Duplantier Brothers Joe and Mario, together with Christian Andreu on the guitar and Jean-Michel Labadie on bass delivered a neck-breaking performance for our total delight, leaving us all eager for more of their music in Canadian lands. I loved how heavy, dense and thrilling songs like Stranded, Flying Whales (my favorite of their setlist) and Silvera sounded last night, and we must thank Mr. Mario Duplantier for that. The guy is an untamed beast on drums, crushing his drum set flawlessly and throwing almost all of his sticks to the fans throughout his bestial performance. After such devastating concert by Gojira, I must say once again there’s only one thing I hate about festivals, and that’s the fact bands like Gojira do not have enough time to show the crowd everything they got.

Setlist
Toxic Garbage Island
Backbone
Stranded
Flying Whales
Love
The Cell
Silvera
The Gift of Guilt

Band members
Joe Duplantier – vocals, guitar
Christian Andreu – guitar
Jean-Michel Labadie – bass
Mario Duplantier – drums

After two demolishing concerts of extreme music, it was time to cool things down a bit with the heavier-than-usual Rock N’ Roll by Danish institution VOLBEAT, who are just beginning to promote their newest album Rewind, Replay, Rebound. As a big fan of Volbeat, I was a little worried about how the most berserk Slipknot fans would react to their fusion of lighter styles like Rock N’ Roll and Hard Rock, and during the first few songs let’s say most fans weren’t impressed with their music. However, after Sad Man’s Tongue (preceded by a snippet of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”) and Black Rose, featuring Toronto’s own Danko Jones on vocals together with Michael Polsen, things started to pick up and the more than 13 thousand fans at the venue who were already anxious for Slipknot had a great time with the band, especially when they played their heavier stuff like A Warrior’s Call, Dead But Rising and Seal the Deal. In a nutshell, it might not have been the best slot to add Volbeat, right after Behemoth and Gojira and right before Slipknot, but you know what? In the end it all worked really well, something only talented bands like Volbeat can do even against all odds.

Setlist
Born to Raise Hell (Motörhead song)
The Devil’s Bleeding Crown
Lola Montez
Sad Man’s Tongue
Black Rose (with Danko Jones)
The Everlasting
Slaytan
Dead But Rising
A Warrior’s Call / I Only Want to Be With You
Last Day Under the Sun
Doc Holliday
Seal the Deal
Still Counting
Sawdust in the Blood (Rob Zombie song)

Band members
Michael Poulsen – vocals, rhythm guitar
Rob Caggiano – lead guitar
Kaspar Boye Larsen – bass guitar
Jon Larsen – drums

SLIPKNOT

It was already past 9pm when the speakers began playing AC/DC’s rock anthem “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)”, getting our engines revved up for a storm of heaviness, insanity and explosions by American institution SLIPKNOT. It was total chaos and anarchy from start to finish, with the first few songs from their setlist, those being the classics People = Shit, (sic) and Get This, already inspiring all their fans to go absolutely mental into the pit. The temperature at the Budweiser Stage was just going up, with their new songs Unsainted, Solway Firth (both from their brand new, ass-kicking album We Are Not Your Kind) and All Out Life working even better than expected. As a matter of fact, I was more than sure those three songs would sound fantastic on stage, first because they’re already damn good songs, but mainly due to the fact Slipknot on stage always take their heaviness to the next level.

Corey, Mick, Jim and all others were on fire during their long and incendiary performance, with all their stage paraphernalia (and the Budweiser Stage is just perfect for that type of concert) adding a very welcome touch of insanity to the night. Not only that, it was visible how Corey was extremely happy to be back in Toronto after a long time, letting all the energy coming from the crowd penetrate deep inside his mind and helping him growl and scream like a beast until the very end. “We’ve been at this for 20 years! It hasn’t always been easy, but looking at all of you here tonight, I can safely say we’ll be doing it for another 20,” said a more-than-excited Corey to his fans before crushing their heads once again with their venomous music. I honestly have no idea if they can keep that level of violence on stage for another two decades, but if they keep going and delivering top-of-the-line heavy music like what Slayer have been doing until now, we can rest assured rock and metal will never die.

Although the fans at the floor section were out of control inside some killer circle pits, I must say the most demented guy from the entire night was the band’s newest member Tortilla Man. How deranged and talented is that guy? He kept pounding his drums, screaming, jumping up and down, dancing and hitting his beer kegs as hard as possible without showing any signs of fatigue for almost two hours; now I fully understand why the rest of the band is so happy and excited to have Tortilla Man in the band. The only field where he wasn’t number 1 in madness and precision was dancing, because that’s Mr. Sid Wilson’s undisputed title. I don’t know for sure what exactly he does behind his turntables, but when he’s there dancing and having fun around the stage it’s a whole new thing. That guy is just as sick as his music, no doubt about that. Anyway, after the all-time hits Spit It Out (including their famous “get down/jump the fuck up” interaction with the crowd) and Surfacing, it was time for Slipknot to say goodbye, to promise us all they will return to Toronto, and for the fans to breather a little and try to recover their energies to try to get home safe and sound. And as one final message after such amazing night of metal music, all I have to say to you is that if you’re 555, then I’m 666. As simple as that.

Setlist
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) (AC/DC song)
(515)
People = Shit
(sic)
Get This
Unsainted
Before I Forget
Solway Firth
The Heretic Anthem
Psychosocial
The Devil in I
Prosthetics
Vermilion
Custer
Sulfur
All Out Life
Duality

Encore:
Spit It Out
Surfacing
‘Til We Die

Band members
(#0) Sid Wilson – turntables, keyboards
(#4) Jim Root – lead and rhythm guitars
(#5) Craig “133” Jones – samples, media, keyboards
(#6) Shawn “Clown” Crahan – custom percussion, backing vocals
(#7) Mick Thomson – lead and rhythm guitars
(#8) Corey Taylor – lead vocals
Alessandro Venturella – bass
Jay Weinberg – drums
Tortilla Man – custom percussion, backing vocals

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Album Review – Illimitable Dolor / Leaden Light (2019)

Drenched in wistful melancholy and stirring up faded albeit rich memories, the new album by this Australian-based unity is an ambitious ode to all things doom.

New South Wales, Australia-based Atmospheric Doom/Death Metal masters Illimitable Dolor return from the darkest corners of the earth after the release of their highly acclaimed self-titled debut album in 2017 with a brand new opus, entitled Leaden Light, carrying on where they last left, drenched in wistful melancholy and stirring up faded albeit rich memories, sounding purer, more refined and clearer in expression than before, and lingering for long in your thoughts. With three artworks made by Indonesian artist Varises Otak for the CD, LP and box set editions exclusively (with layout and design by Australian graphic designer Pat Di Palo), this is an ambitious release from the band that features some of the best music in the style without overdoing any aspect of it.

Formed in 2014 in the city of Sydney, the band comprised of Stuart Prickett (The Slow Death, Horrisonous) on vocals, guitars and keyboards, Yonn McLaughlin (The Slow Death, Nazxul) on drums and vocals, Dan Garcia (The Slow Death) and Mat V. Newton (Lycanthia) on the guitars, Gavin Collison on bass and Guy Moore (Elysium) on keyboards offers in Leaden Light a raw and obscure fusion of Atmospheric Doom and Death Metal with Funeral Doom, influenced by renowned acts such as Skepticism, My Dying Bride and Officium Triste, beign therefore recommended for admirers of the music by Mournful Congregation, Evoken, The Slow Death and Chalice of Suffering, among others. Containing five extremely detailed, mournful and lengthy songs in the span of over 51 minutes, Leaden Light is not an easy listen for the lighthearted, consuming your soul and inviting you to join the band in darkness for all eternity.

A thunderstorm warns the listener darkness is upon us, before Yonn and his sluggish beats together with Guy’s phantasmagorical keys invade our senses in Armed He Brings The Dawn, showcasing a dense and heavy atmosphere from start to finish while Stuart vociferates the song’s Stygian words deeply through his low-tuned, devilish gnarls. In addition, the music flows like a river of darkness, alternating between purely somber passages and more piercing sounds, embracing the listener majestically. Soil She Bears is just as damned, lugubrious and grim as its predecessor, with deep and visceral roars permeating the air while the keys by Guy keep the ambience truly menacing. Not only that, Gavin and Yonn bring heaviness to the musicality with their respective punches and beats, dragging you to the bitterly cold crypts of the underworld.

Horses Pale And Four continues form where the previous song ended, building momentum and aiming at reaching a climatic stage where all instruments are darkly connected, with Stuart’s growls and the band’s guitar triumvirate’s riffs complementing each other flawlessly. Put differently, this is a bold and enfolding display of Atmospheric Doom Metal spiced up by Atmospheric Black Metal and Blackened Doom nuances tailored for lovers of the genre. Then the serene, melancholic piano notes by Guy kick off the utterly doomed and depressive Leaden Light Her Coils, where the guitars by Stuart, Dan and Mat feel like a delicate but extremely sharp knife cutting our skin deep. Furthermore, its rhythm is beyond mesmerizing, and you’ll certainly be stunned by how grandiose their music can be, with Guy, Gavin and Yonn giving a lecture in Doom Metal with their slow, steady and reverberating tones. And last but not least, the sextet morphs into their most Atmospheric Black Metal mode possible in 2.12.14 (which is probably the date when the band was created), feeling very touching, ethereal and melancholic, with Stuart, Dan and Mat taking the lead with their gentle guitar lines, followed by Yonn’s precise beats and all other grim instruments and sounds until the song’s dense ending.

As already mentioned, Leaden Light, available in full on Spotify, might not be an easy listen at first for the average rock fan, but it’s definitely worth a shot and a fantastic introduction to the world of modern-day Atmospheric Death and Doom Metal. Hence, you can show your true support to such idiosyncratic entity hailing from Australia by following them on Facebook, and specially by grabbing your copy of Leaden Light from several locations like their own BandCamp page or the Transcending Obscurity Records’ webstore in the US or in Europe (where by the way you can still purchase the beyond special gold CD or LP box sets), as well as from iTunes or Amazon. In other words, succumb to the most lugubrious side of music by joining Illimitable Dolor in pitch black darkness, and may your life be doomed forever and ever to the sound of their classy and extremely somber music.

Best moments of the album: Horses Pale And Four and Leaden Light Her Coils.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Transcending Obscurity Records

Track listing
1. Armed He Brings The Dawn 14:50
2. Soil She Bears 7:18
3. Horses Pale And Four 11:27
4. Leaden Light Her Coils 13:48
5. 2.12.14 4:27

Band members
Stuart Prickett – guitars, vocals, keyboards
Dan Garcia – guitars
Mat V. Newton – guitars
Gavin Collison – bass
Guy Moore – keyboards
Yonn McLaughlin – drums

Album Review – Et Moriemur / Epigrammata (2018)

Transcending the perceptions of the death and doom styles and bringing back forgotten elements from the past, the new opus by this talented Czech band perfectly depicts our attempt to cope with the death of those we loved.

Founded in 2008 in Prague, in the Czech Republic, Atmospheric Black/Death/Doom Metal supergroup Et Moriemur, featuring members of legendary bands like Dissolving of Prodigy, Self-Hatred and Silent Stream of Godless Elegy, has been spreading what they like to call “Existential Doom” all over the world ever since. The name of the band, which is Latin for “and we will die”, already says a lot about how obscure and damned their music sounds, with their brand new album Epigrammata, the third in their already solid career, transcending the perceptions of the death and doom styles and bringing back forgotten elements from Gregorian chanting, delving into the rich European history and using Latin and ancient Greek to convey their message. Featuring an array of amazing guest musicians, Epigrammata has all of its song names in Latin taken from the Requiem Mass, notable for the large number of musical compositions that it has inspired, including settings by Mozart, Verdi, Bruckner, Dvořák, Fauré and Duruflé. Originally, such compositions were meant to be performed in liturgical service, with monophonic chant.

The band, comprised of Zdeněk Nevělík on vocals, piano and keyboards, Aleš Vilingr and Pavel Janouškovec on the guitars, Karel Kovářík on bass and Michal “Datel” Rak on drums, had a few interesting words to say about their new album. “Epigrammata represents our attempt to cope with the dying or death of those we loved. To create a solemn and classical atmosphere we used lyrics in ancient Greek (the title itself means epigrams) and in Latin, more precisely from the Mass for the dead – the album follows the typical Requiem structure, i.e. Introitus, Requiem Aeternum, Dies Irae etc. – and of course the traditional, unisono male Gregorian chant. In any case we tried not to do a uni-dimensional record. So apart from the inevitable grief there is gratitude as well for having had the chance to share our life with them and hope that they are well – wherever they are.”

Whimsical waves invade our senses in Introitus (or “prelude”), with guest Kostas Panagiotou bringing epicness to the intro with his enigmatic words before a massive wall of sounds crushes us all in Requiem Aeternam (“eternal rest”), with the doomed, sluggish beats by Datel and the imposing background choir generating a truly Stygian ambience. Furthermore, Zdeněk sounds as demonic as he can be, not to mention the potency of the music coming from the violin and cello. Then the piano by Zdeněk kicks off a Blackened Doom extravaganza titled Agnus Dei (“lamb of god”), a song that reeks of sheer darkness where cavernous growls get deeper and deeper in a delicate paradox with the smother background elements. In addition, Guest musicians Labrini Karousou and Vangelis Mertzanis provide another anguished and eccentric narration, feeling more doomed than atmospheric, and absolutely haunting and dense from start to finish. And their somber mass of Doom and Black Metal goes on with another fantastic hymn titled Dies Irae (“day of wrath”), with the band’s stringed trio Aleš, Pavel and Karel being extremely precise with their scorching, damned riffs and punches, and with the keyboards by Zdeněk sounding beautifully eccentric and wicked.

In Offertorium (“offering”) we’re treated to a Phantom of the Opera-like vibe blended with the band’s otherworldly sounds and tones, with Datel simply smashing his drums slowly and flawlessly while the choir keeps mesmerizing our minds, remaining dark and vibrant until its grand finale; whereas in the slightly faster and more piercing Communio (“communion”), Et Moriemur continue to fire their low-tuned, demonic tones intertwined with the church-like choir and a huge dosage of melancholy, maintaining the album at a vibrant and perturbing level. And in Libera Me (“rescue me”) an eerie organ together with the cavernous growls by Zdeněk generate a truly enfolding atmosphere, evolving into a lecture in Blackened Doom infused with church music elements. Furthermore, the entire band is utterly focused and energized, extracting the most damned but at the same time melodious sounds you can think of from their instruments, with every single second of this aria being beyond captivating (especially the final recitation by Zdeněk).

Then the piano by Zdeněk dictate the rhythm in Absolve Domine (“release lord”), complemented by his pensive words and cinematic-epic-imposing background sounds, with the music growing beautifully until darkness is upon us once again in the Blackened Doom aria Sanctus (“spirit”), a headbanging mass led by the crawling, gloomy beats by Datel. Hence, this amazing composition will elevate your senses with its potent sonority, not to mention how the entire band is capable of sounding so devilish and gentle at the same time. Lastly we have In Paradisum (“in paradise”), a 10-minute voyage through the realms of Existential Doom where its first part is pure old school Doom Metal, until anguished lamentations permeate the air in one of the most obscure and hypnotizing metal masses I’ve ever listened to in my life. In addition, the song’s sluggish drums, serene guitars and epic keys will penetrate deep inside your soul, with an ethereal feminine voice ending this top-notch album of Atmospheric Doom Metal majestically.

Et Moriemur are one of those bands you won’t listen to anywhere but only during your moments of introspection and melancholy, with Epigrammata representing everything the band stands for in terms of music and lyrical themes. And in order to show your support to such distinguished band, go follow them on Facebook and grab your copy of Epigrammata directly from their BandCamp page or from the Transcending Obscurity Records webstore in a Digipak CD + sticker bundle, as well as from iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby and Discogs. However, if you prefer an exclusive and more stylish version of the album, I highly recommend you go after the Epigrammata Gold-embossed and UV-laminated Box Set, containing the digipak CD with booklet, an A3 size poster having a special artwork, a fridge magnet having the album artwork, two stickers of the album artwork + emblem artwork, and an individual hand-numbered certificate of ownership for your copy. It can’t get any better, more doomed and more obscure than this, and I’m sure you’re going to love it.

Best moments of the album: Agnus Dei, Libera Me and Sanctus.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Transcending Obscurity Records

Track listing
1. Introitus 1:41
2. Requiem Aeternam 5:15
3. Agnus Dei 5:14
4. Dies Irae 4:12
5. Offertorium 5:44
6. Communio 6:14
7. Libera Me 5:18
8. Absolve Domine 2:47
9. Sanctus 6:05
10. In Paradisum 10:41

Band members
Zdeněk Nevělík – vocals, piano, keyboards
Aleš Vilingr – guitar
Pavel Janouškovec – guitar
Karel Kovářík – bass
Michal “Datel” Rak – drums

Guest musicians
Kostas Panagiotou – vocals on “Introitus”
Nikos Vlachakis – vocals on “Agnus Dei”
Labrini Karousou & Vangelis Mertzanis – recitation on “Agnus Dei”
Jaroslav Klvaňa, Karel Russ & Lukáš Pavlovský – choir
Andrea Michálková – cello
Zuzana Králová – violin
Jindřich Bešťák – trombone
Honza Kapák – acoustic guitar

Concert Review – Boonsdale Fest 2018 & Wacken Metal Battle Canada Final (The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018)

After a year of silence, Wacken Metal Battle Canada returned in full force in a unique partnership with Boonsdale Fest to decide which underground band would raise the flag of Canadian metal high on “The Holy Land” of heavy music.

INTRODUCTION: BOONSDALE FEST AND WACKEN METAL BATTLE CANADA UNITED

There’s nothing better than a night of ass-kicking heavy music in the always fun month of June in the city of Toronto, and to make things even better how about uniting at The Opera House the 2nd annual Boonsdale Fest, organized by Boonsdale Records and featuring the bands MokomokaiOperus and Borealis, with the 2018 edition of Wacken Metal Battle Canada, where the Best from the West Hammerdrone battled the Best from the East Centuries of Decay for a place alongside the greatest names in the history heavy music at Wacken Open Air later this year. As there was no Wacken Metal Battle Canada in 2017 (each year Wacken allocates 28 slots at W.O.A. for the Metal Battle winners from 28 different countries, and due to the increasing number of countries some are asked to pause for a year to give the chance to others to participate, which was what happened to Canada last year), this year several Canadian independent and underground bands were more than eager to participate in the competition again, with qualifying rounds happening all over the country starting January 12,  until Calgary’s Hammerdrone and Toronto’s Centuries of Decay reached the desired final round in Toronto this Saturday.

In 2016, Wacken Metal Battle Canada crowned Death/Thrash Metal band Profaner as champions, who then by the way advanced to be 2nd place at the international Metal Battle at W.O.A. that same year, so who would be granted the chance to represent Canada at the biggest metal festival in the world in 2018? Well, it’s time to rumble to the heavy music by Centuries of Decay, Hammerdrone, Mokomokai, Operus and Borealis, and wait for guest judges Gustavo Valderrama (Navaja Music, Electric Flow), Tim Henderson (Bravewords.com), Andrew Epstein (Zombitrol Productions, Alan Cross’ A Journal of Musical Things), Chris Gonda (PureGrainAudio.com), Charlie Felix (Sound & Noise, Live Talent), Oscar Rangel (Operus, Ex-Annihilator), Wojtek Sokolowski (Operus) and Luc Lainé (CFLX 95,5 FM) to decide which band would rule them all!

CENTURIES OF DECAY

Centuries of Decay @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

Precisely at 9pm Toronto’s own Progressive/Atmospheric Death Metal act Centuries of Decay hit the stage at The Opera House showing why they were chosen Eastern Canadian Metal Battle champions, led by the deep and very melodic growls by vocalist and guitarist Devin Doucette. Formed in 2014, the quartet released in 2017 their debut self-titled album, available for a listen (and obviously for purchase) at their own BandCamp page, and that album was basically what the metalheads at the venue had the pleasure to witness them playing live. With songs getting close to or even breaking the 10-minute mark, something unimaginable for any artist or band from most non-metal styles that are in pursuit of stardom, Centuries of Decay inspired everyone in the crowd to bang their heads nonstop and feel embraced by their atmospheric music, generating a very nice and interesting feeling in all of us. That’s how exciting progressive and atmospheric heavy music can be, and if these are just the initial steps in the promising career of Centuries of Decay, I can’t wait to see what those four metallers will bring next.

Band members
Devin Doucette – vocals, rhythm guitar
Rob McAllister – lead guitar, backing vocals
Matt Hems – bass
Derrick Doucette – drums

HAMMERDRONE

Hammerdrone @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

After a quick bathroom/beer break, it was time for the winners of the West Hammerdrone to make a lot of noise and crush us with their unrelenting Melodic Death Metal, opening their performance with the violent Dark Harvest, the title-track from their 2017 opus Dark Harvest, which you can buy directly from their BandCamp page, a concept album inspired by the real life but obscure tale of the Scottish terrorist organization the Dark Harvest Commando. Frontman Grahma Harris was on fire during the entire concert, growling and roaring (and also making faces) like a beast, while his bandmates Rick Cardellini (lead guitars), Curtis Beardy (rhythm guitars), Teran Wyer (bass) and Vince Cardellini (drums) delivered a well-balanced fusion of the more harmonious lines from Melodic Death Metal with the sheer heaviness and aggressiveness of old school Death Metal. As a matter of fact, you can download for free a live EP by Hammerdrone titled Rituals of Battle from their BandCamp page, just to give you an idea of how awesome their music sounds live. And after Hammerdrone’s concert was over, I knew the judges were going to have a very difficult time deciding who should be crowned the 2018 champions. Well, at least they had a few more excellent concerts to go until then.

Band members
Graham Harris – vocals
Rick Cardellini – lead guitars
Curtis Beardy – rhythm guitars, backing vocals
Teran Wyer – bass, vocals
Vince Cardellini – drums

MOKOMOKAI

Mokomokai @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

When Peterborough-based four-piece band Mokomokai began blasting their electrifying blend of old school Heavy Metal and Hard Rock, I guess we could say it was the “official” start of Boonsdale Fest, and let me tell you it looked like their Rock N’ Roll party had no time to end. Formed in 2011, and having a distinct name inspired by the preserved heads of Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, the quartet formed by John Ellis on vocals and guitar, Bobby Deuce on the guitar, Jeremy Pastic on bass and J J Tartaglia on drums put everyone at the venue to dance with their flammable music, playing songs from their 2017 album The Poison Whiptail, like the excellent Heavy Metal Sky, as well as a cover version for the classic The Wizard, by Black Sabbath (check out the original version HERE), taken from their 1970 masterpiece Black Sabbath, with John even playing the song’s traditional harmonica. After such high level of adrenaline, I have only one thing to say about Mokomokai: if they visit your hometown, don’t miss the chance to see them kicking some serious ass live.

Band members
John Ellis – vocals, guitar
Bobby Deuce – lead & rhythm guitar
Jeremy Pastic – bass
J.J. Tartaglia – drums 

OPERUS

Operus @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

Perhaps the performance by the following band of the night, Toronto-based Epic Symphonic Metal squad Operus, was the most peculiar of the entire event due to all the unique elements found during their concert (and one of them was definitely not on purpose). Formed in 2005, this six-piece act put on an extremely entertaining and atmospheric show still promoting their 2017 album Cenotaph, featuring Oscar Rangel (ex-Annihilator) on the guitar, cellist Robin Howe adding an extra touch of epicness to the band’s music, masked-frontman David Michael Moote with his passionate and theatrical performance, J.J. Tartaglia back on drums to play a completely different style from Mokomokai, and an injured bassist Wojtek Sokolowski who twisted his ankle right at the beginning of the show, but who refused to stop and managed to play their full set before going to ER (and that’s what I call a true metalhead!). That’s another band I highly recommend you go watch live if they’re scheduled to play at a venue near you, and you can find their latest album available on different platforms such as iTunes if epic and symphonic music is your cup of tea.

Band members
David Michael Moote – lead vocals
Rob Holden – guitar
Oscar Rangel – guitar, backing vocals, growls
Robin Howe – cello, backing vocals
Wojtek Sokolowski – bass, backing vocals
J.J. Tartaglia – drums 

BOREALIS

Borealis @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

Last but not least, the festival ended with another very progressive and melodic band named Borealis, formed in 2005 in the Ontarian city of Orangeville, who also delivered a solid and delightful performance playing songs from all of their five full-length albums, such as Revelation, from their 2015 album Purgatory, and The Awakening, from their brand new opus The Offering, released earlier this year. Comprised of lead singer and guitarist Matt Marinelli (who had his bottle of water wisely placed on his mic stand looking like he was going to deliver some “wah wah’s” with his guitar when he was actually just thirsty as hell), guitarist Ken Fobert, bassist Trevor McBride, keyboardist Sean Werlick and drummer Sean Dowell, Borealis did not disappoint their fans, filling all empty spaces in the air with their classy Melodic and Power Metal and keeping everyone pumped up even with the clock getting close to 2am. That’s another band I highly recommend you go check them live as well as go after their discography, because it’s not only top-tier metal music, but the overall production of their albums is also outstanding.

Band members
Matt Marinelli – vocals, guitars
Ken Fobert – guitars
Trevor McBride – bass
Sean Werlick – keyboards
Sean Dowell – drums

AND THE WINNER IS…

Centuries of Decay – 2018 Wacken Metal Battle Canada Winner

…Toronto’s own Progressive/Atmospheric Death Metal squad CENTURIES OF DECAY! It was indeed an amazing concert, and I’m sure they will proudly carry the flag of Canadian metal high during their journey through the holy land of Wacken. Actually, I really wish Wacken Metal Battle Canada could send two bands to the festival, because Hammerdrone were just as demolishing and professional as the Metal Battle winners. At least now more people will get to know Hammerdrone and all other bands of the night, which in the end is the ultimate goal of the Metal Battle and of festivals like Boonsdale Fest, keeping the fire of metal alive by always presenting to us fans new incredible bands from the underground scene. For instance, there was this old school, diehard metalhead (drinking beer at an insane speed of “two tall boys every five minutes”, but who was still able to walk, talk and headbang as if he was having just water) who asked me right after Operus if there was still more to come, and when I said there was still one more band he showed a huge and honest smile and said “this is great, eh?”, and if independent bands can still extract that type of reaction from a veteran like that guy, well, that’s another proof that metal music will never die. Now let’s wait until next year to see which new name will represent Canada at W.O.A. 2019, and if you already have your tickets for the festival this year, don’t forget to go say “hi” and raise your horns to the guys from Centuries of Decay.

Album Review – Burial in the Sky / Persistence of Thought (2016)

An album that effectively unites the devastation of Death Metal with the intricacy of Progressive Metal, brought into being by an American band that knows exactly how to create beautiful extreme music in a compelling and atmospheric way.

Rating5

burial-in-the-sky-album-artI guess I sometimes tend to overuse the word “atmospheric” in some of the reviews done here at The Headbanging Moose, but in the case of Persistence of Thought, the first full-length album by American Atmospheric Tech-Death Metal act Burial in the Sky, there’s no better word to describe the technical and whimsical assault of extreme music brought forth by the band, always interspersed between tranquil and at times psychedelic passages. And although you’ll find hints of the musicality by bands such as Nihil and Fallujah spread all over the creations by Burial in the Sky, they’re far from being a copy of either.

Formed by multi-instrumentalists William Okronglis and James Tomedi in the year of 2013 in Mount Carmel, a small city located in the state of Pennsylvania, United States, Burial in the Sky already released two EP’s prior to Persistence of Thought, those being Psychosis (2013) and Transcendence (2014). Joining them on Persistence of Thought is world class drummer Samus Paulicelli (Decrepit Birth, Abigail Wiliams), whose expert skills perfectly complement each song created by the duo. Add to that recipe the otherworldly album art by American artist Nathan Lee, and there you have an excellent option for lovers of the aggression found in Death Metal with the subtlety and finesse of progressive music.

In the opening track, entitled Entry I, serenity invades our ears and smooth piano notes bring peace to our souls, but suddenly all that calmness turns into an avalanche of Technical Death Metal led by the intricate drumming by Samus, changing completely the course of action in a very solid way. The band blends sheer brutality with melodious lines and a beautiful ambiance, going from total devastation to psychedelic passages (like what happens for instance at around four minutes) and back to their Dream Theater-sish extreme music, captivating the listener from start to finish. The second part of what can be called their “Entry Trilogy”, Entry II, follows a similar pattern, with William providing deep growls and interesting riffs while James fires his soulful guitar solos. Furthermore, the last part of the song is an outstanding sonic onslaught led by the unstoppable Samus on drums, including even hints of Black Metal in his beats and, therefore, increasing the album’s musical range. And closing the trilogy we have Entry III, a dark tune transpiring melancholy, where delicacy is found in the form of subtle guitar lines amidst all desperate screams and hellish drums blasted by the band, with highlights to the pleasant guitar duo at the end of the song.

burial-in-the-skyThe second part of the album begins with Anchors, where Burial in the Sky hypnotize us with a whimsical rhythm and a touch of finesse before charging our minds with their brutal musicality, with James delivering more of his amazing solos whereas Samus continues to display a high level of complexity on drums. This is a song highly recommended for banging your head with your eyes closed to properly enjoy the sound from every single instrument, until it reaches its climatic ending. Galaxy of Ghosts is the first song of the album to start in full force, already exhibiting the violence and anger found in the music by Burial in the Sky from the very first second. Not only this is a very technical composition presenting interesting tempo changes and guitar lines, but also pay attention to the awesome synchronicity between guitars and drums, and to how the band gradually increases the song’s electricity before ending it in a pensive way. And Dimensions Divide, the last blast of technical and furious Death Metal in Persistence of Thought, maintains the overall quality of the album really high, with its blazing guitars and top-notch drumming guiding the musicality, which once again fades into atmospheric sounds and pure melancholy.

In a nutshell, Persistence of Thought might not be an album for the masses due to the intricacy and heaviness of the music present in each one of its tracks, but that doesn’t mean all types of fans of heavy music can’t have a good time listening to it. Simply sit down, relax and absorb the music by Burial in the Sky, or you can also stand up and slam into the pit if that’s your cup of tea. You can purchase Persistence of Thought at their BandCamp page, on iTunes, on Amazon and other different locations, and by doing that you will show your support to this up-and-coming band that knows exactly how to unite the realms of devastation and complexity in a compelling and atmospheric way.

Best moments of the album: Anchors and Galaxy of Ghosts.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Independent

Track listing
1. Entry I 6:02
2. Entry II 5:47
3. Entry III 4:40
4. Anchors 7:29
5. Galaxy of Ghosts 5:52
6. Dimensions Divide 4:42

Band members
William Okronglis – vocals, rhythm guitar, bass, keys, percussion
James Tomedi – lead guitar, bass, keys, mandolin, slide guitar, percussion
Samus Paulicelli – drums (session)

Guest musician
Danny Greene – additional synths

Interview – Fractal Generator

In this exclusive must-read interview to The Headbanging Moose, Canadian death metallers Fractal Generator translate into “numbers” their music, their admiration for all things science, the burdens of being an independent metal band in Canada, the end of the world and more!

Fractal Generator band pictureThe Headbanging Moose: Could you please introduce us to Fractal Generator, telling your story from the inception of the band until today? What’s the core factor that keeps the machine moving for the band, I mean, what’s the main reason for the band to exist? And where did you take those eccentric “names” (040118180514, 102119200914 and 040114090512) from?

102119200914: Fractal Generator is 040118180514 (Bass, Vocals), 040114090512 (Drums) & 102119200914 (Guitar, Vocals). The band formed sometime in 2007 as a death metal outlet for a few of the members of Wolven Ancestry. A demo entitled “The Cannibalism of Objects” was released in 2008. The project lay dormant until 2013, when the current incarnation of Fractal Generator was conceived by 040118180514 and 102119200914. We wanted to create a type of dark and atmospheric death metal sound that we hadn’t heard before, with lyrics inspired by various science and science fiction ideas. As for our “names”, they are a numerical representation of our actual first names.

THM: What’s the feeling of having your first full-length album finally released, the excellent Apotheosynthesis, and how did the whole writing, composing and recording process go? What are your goals and expectations now after Apotheosynthesis became a reality?

102119200914: It definitely feels great having finally released Apotheosythesis. We wrote the songs over a six month period in 2013 and refined the album through rehearsal before beginning to record at the end of 2014. 040118180514 has his own recording studio and has a lot of experience recording and mixing. This enabled us to complete the entire album “in-house” while still achieving the level of quality we wanted. Now that Apotheosynthesis is released, our main goal is to play a few shows and start working on our next album. I don’t have many expectations, mostly hope that it will reach the ears of the people who would appreciate it.

THM:  As mentioned in our review for the album, one of the most remarkable aspects of it is witnessing the very positive evolution in your compositions from your 2008 demo The Cannibalism of Objects to Apotheosynthesis. Can you share more details with us on how that change has impacted you as a band? What’s different today from when the band started back in 2008?

040118180514: When we did “The Cannibalism of Objects,” Fractal Generator was nothing more than a curious side project, and the album is composed mostly of improvised material. The drums were completely improvised and guitar was added overtop in an improvised fashion. “Apotheosynthesis” retains the spirit of improvisation in that we wrote the riffs using the improvisational method, but the songs were carefully crafted afterward to create full, meaningful compositions with a cathartic feel. I’d say the main difference between the band now and then is the addition of 102119200914, because we work really well together and can generate a lot more ideas when we are bouncing them off each other. The fact that we have 6 more years of experience as musicians under our belts certainly doesn’t hurt either.

Fractal Generator logoTHM:  It’s always a huge pleasure to see thoughtful and meaningful lyrics in heavy music, which in your case is represented by the addition of science and technology-related topics such as the chaos theory to your music, therefore enhancing its impact and density. Why did you choose to follow that specific path of science and space, mixing it with Progressive and Death Metal? And how unique do you think your music is if compared to the other bands available?

102119200914: We chose to follow this path out of a common interest in science fiction, science, the cosmos and technology. Our style is a combination of all of our favorite elements of death metal and black metal, with an experimental approach. I think our music is unique; we may have similar elements to some but I feel that our general sound is different from anything I’ve come across.

THM:  Talking about one of my favorite songs of the album, Face of the Apocalypse, I love the veracity of its lyrics (“Endless replication / A cancerous mutation / Of the mother earth / Merciless consumption / An unprecedented emergency”) in regards to what mankind is doing to the world. Is this indeed your vision of society? What was going through your mind when you wrote the lyrics for this exceptional tune?

040118180514: We knew we wanted to write a song about the human race being forced to leave Earth. As we all know, its a very real scenario that we could face as a species. However, the potential reasons for this happening are many: nuclear fallout, pandemics, environmental/climate change effects, asteroid collision, etc. It could even be something completely unforeseeable. I couldn’t decide on a single scenario I wanted to use, but I did want to focus on scenarios that are fueled by human activity. In this way the song could be seen as a warning against our current destructive ways. In the end I just kinda mixed several of these scenarios together into one crazy pandemonium, and the idea for “Face of the Apocalypse” was born.

THM: In the introspective and melancholic Reflections, it really feels like Fractal Generator wanted to add a conclusion to the story told during the whole album. How important was it for the entire band to have that type of aftermath in Apotheosynthesis? Do you consider it a concept album, and what reactions do you expect from your fans after listening to the entire record?

102119200914: Apotheosynthesis takes influence from a lot of science fiction stories and concepts. In a way it’s sort of a concept album. The songs all follow a loose futuristic storyline in a universe where humans have destroyed their home planet and have to look to space for a new home. The album explores their journey to Mars and beyond. For the track “Reflections” we wanted to shift the spectrum, focusing on the atmospheric and ambient elements more than the speed/ guitar driven approach we have on the rest of the album. We wanted to create the feeling of floating aimlessly in the cold, dark void of space, gasping for breath in a space suit slowly running out of oxygen while contemplating existence/fate. We felt this was a good way to end the album as it might provoke imagination in the listeners.

THM: Who are your main influences in music and anywhere else? I suspect you’re huge fans of the progressiveness and aggressiveness by Death, the futuristic concept by Fear Factory, the darkness by Behemoth, and of course,  you’re probably also into the works by renowned scientists such as Carl Sagan and Edward Lorenz. What else makes you want to write music? And do you have any other hobbies that also inspire you in your songwriting?

102119200914: My main musical influences are Myrkskog, Zyklon, Morbid Angel, Death and Hypocrisy. I also draw a lot of influence from science fiction shows/movies, i.e. Tron, Star Trek, Stargate, Babylon 5. As well as story-driven video games like Mass Effect, Deus Ex, The Dig, Half-life, etc. I also find inspiration in reading about new technologies, theories and scientific studies.

artworks-000128879347-sel0f7-t500x500

Album Review – Fractal Generator / Apotheosynthesis (2015)

040118180514: I have always been a big fan of Scandinavian black metal and it’s been a huge influence. In terms of death metal, I am mostly influenced by the more progressive/experimental Canadian bands, such as Gorguts and Augury. Other than music, I’m very interested in learning about science and technology and how they can be used to make the world a better place. I am also interested in philosophy and the nature of consciousness, which is probably where some of my interest in chaos theory comes from. Sagan and Lorenz, as you mentioned, are of course highly influential in these fields.

THM: Let’s talk about the current Heavy Metal scene in Canada. I’ve had the satisfaction of reviewing some amazing Canadian bands lately the likes of id., Phantom, Display of Decay, Reanimator, Valknacht, Viathyn, Kafirun, among many others. However, it seems that day after day heavy music in Canada is becoming more and more underground, preventing a much wider audience to get in contact with most bands no matter how good they are. What’s your opinion about that, and what can or should be done to change that uncomfortable situation?

040118180514: If you want to talk about why the Canadian metal scene doesn’t get the credit it deserves, I think there are a lot of factors. For one thing, metal isn’t terribly popular among the general population in Canada for whatever reason. I’ve toured the country and you get the sense that metal is mostly met by common people with contempt, or at best, confusion. The people going to shows are mostly only the die-hard metal enthusiasts that we all know and love. The other main factor I would say, is that Canada’s geography and sparse population make it almost unfeasible to tour. Without the ability to tour, our bands are left in their hometowns to stagnate. Our government isn’t exactly helpful with arts funding either, unless you live in Quebec. I suppose one thing we could do to remedy the situation is to keep the conservative party out of Ottawa.

THM: How have your scheduling of live performances and your search for a record label been since the release of Apotheosynthesis? What other big challenges have Fractal Generator faced so far as a heavy band in a not-so-heavy world?

040118180514: We’ve played a handful of shows so far and they’ve been great. We haven’t really searched for a record label yet. I think that you mostly have to wait for a label to come to you. However, the entire structure of the music industry has changed so much, I sometimes wonder if labels might soon become the redundant middle-man in between the bands themselves and the media outlets that promote them. The revenue just isn’t there anymore to be able to feed that many mouths. Bands are going to have to take on a lot more responsibility, and I think it’s something we can pull off.

THM: A big thank you for your time, we at The Headbanging Moose really appreciate that. Do you have any final words to all headbangers in Canada and all over the world reading this interview?

102119200914: Thanks for the interview and thanks for supporting underground metal!!

Links
Fractal Generator Facebook | YouTube | BandCamp

Album Review – Fractal Generator / Apotheosynthesis (2015)

A chaotic and thrilling Death Metal album in perfect harmony with human ambition, representing in an apocalyptical way what lies ahead for our unbalanced world.

Rating4

“The universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human ambition.” – Carl Sagan

Those thoughtful words by American astronomer Carl Sagan are not only bang on to describe all the ravaging chaos and disorder caused by mankind that’s leading our world to a dreadful end, but also extremely accurate in depicting the insane music found in Apotheosynthesis, the debut full-length album by Canadian Atmospheric Death Metal act Fractal Generator.

According to this Sudbury-based band, who by the way are located at the specific coordinates 46.471716, -81.186792, the word “apotheosynthesis” means “to distill something to the essence of perfection”, and that’s what this power trio proposes during the entire album with their solid blend of extreme music, science, space, the chaos theory, a sci-fi ambience, technology and synthetic feelings. Moreover, it’s interesting to notice the evolution in their compositions from their 2008 demo The Cannibalism of Objects to Apotheosynthesis, as if the band progressed at the same roaring pace as our society, which ends up adding an extra layer of veracity to the new album.

The sonic devastation Cycle kicks off this intricate album offering a mix of the most brutal Death Metal with progressiveness and harmonious passages, without stopping or slowing down for a single second, and with the growls by lead singer/bassist 040118180514 (whose real name is Darren Favot) sounding like an ominous cosmic creature behind all the chaotic havoc generated by all instruments; followed by the magnificent Face Of The Apocalypse, where its futuristic intro, blast beats and harsh vocal lines generate a dense and dark atmosphere. While drummer 040114090512 (aka Dan Favot) sounds like a hammering machine, the bass lines by 040118180514 keep punching you in the head mercilessly, leaving you completely disoriented after this amazing display of extreme music ends. In addition, its lyrics couldn’t be more realistic in regards to what mankind is doing to the entire planet (“Endless replication / A cancerous mutation / Of the mother earth / Merciless consumption / An unprecedented emergency”).

Fractal Generator band pictureAbandon Earth has a very suggestive (and true) name perfectly represented in the music (which contains elements from the best Death Metal bands in history such as Deicide, Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel) as the hopeless state we’re living in, with highlights to the sinister riffs by guitarist 102119200914 (aka Justin Rienguette) and the furious experimentation crafted by the band. Then we have a fuckin’ massacre entitled Into The Unknown, a very solid tune from start to finish where drummer 040114090512 sounds like a heartless beast while its riffs give a sense of despair and madness; and Paragon, more inclined to traditional Death Metal with hints of Blackened Death Metal (which is always a good thing) and even Black Metal. It’s one of the best of all tracks, very technical and organic (representing the band’s essence), especially due to the sound of its bass guitar which kind of makes us bang our heads like crazy to this evil chant.

The following tune, Human, should have its name changed to “inhuman” due to its infernal rhythm, because no regular human being is capable of crafting such brutish musicality. Its bass and riffs are highly influenced by the unique sounding of Death Metal giants Cannibal Corpse, and I’m certain no one can survive the live performances by Fractal Generator with wicked songs like this one being played. And if you think the band will slow down anytime you’re absolutely wrong, as they keep firing insane riffs, beats and fills in The Singularity, showcasing an outstanding performance by 040114090512 behind his drum kit and an old school vibe with the welcome addition of elements from modern extreme music, while in Synthetic Symbiosis they somehow managed to deliver an even darker sounding where violence is taken to the highest possible level. Besides, the synchronicity between riffs and drumming is what makes this song so enjoyable and full-bodied, and just in case you survive this wonderful onslaught get ready for the aftermath in the creepy tune Reflections, the perfect soundtrack for the end of the world, focusing on its dense instrumental rather than on vocals or lyrics (which are barely existent in this case) before the music fades away, being replaced by a melancholic ambience. I might be wrong, but it seems there’s a trend for Death Metal bands who rely on specific themes on their albums to always craft a climatic ending to their releases, which ends up augmenting the value and dynamism of the overall result.

In order to get a hold of this cosmic battle developed by Fractal Generator, go check the band’s Facebook page, YouTube channel and ReverbNation page. And after all is said and done, we all must agree with Carl Sagan that the universe is not required to be in perfect harmony with human ambition, but also that this talented Canadian act makes sure their chaotic and thrilling music is, representing in an apocalyptical way what lies ahead for our unbalanced world.

Best moments of the album: Face Of The Apocalypse, Paragon and Synthetic Symbiosis.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2015 Independent

Track listing
1. Cycle 4:09
2. Face Of The Apocalypse 4:18
3. Abandon Earth 5:43
4. Into The Unknown 4:47
5. Paragon 4:25
6. Human 4:54
7. The Singularity 4:19
8. Synthetic Symbiosis 4:08
9. Reflections 8:54

Band members
040118180514 – vocals, bass
102119200914 – guitar, backing vocals
040114090512 – drums