Album Review – Augury / Illusive Golden Age (2018)

Following the same path of extreme pounding riffing mixed to the sci-fi and historical concept of their first two albums, this Canadian four-piece act returns with a brand new (and crushing) opus.

Hailing from Montreal, “La Métropole du Québec”, Canadian Progressive Death Metal squad Augury began their journey in 2001 from the ashes of many local acts such as Foreshadow, Kralizec, Atheretic, Quo Vadis, Disembarkation and Neuraxis, with an intent from the start to deliver an extreme dose of Death-Black-Progressive Metal along with an intriguing scientific and esoteric lyrical concept. Comprised of lead singer and guitarist Patrick Loisel, guitarist Mathieu Marcotte (Humanoid), bassist Dominic “Forest” Lapointe (First Fragment, Teramobil, Beyond Creation), and newcomer Antoine Baril (Contemplator) on drums, Augury are back in action with their third full-length installment, titled Illusive Golden Age, following the same path of extreme pounding riffing mixed to the sci-fi and historical concept of their first two albums Concealed and Fragmentary Evidence.

Featuring a somber artwork by Canadian musician Filip Ivanović, from Flat Bathtub, Illusive Golden Age will please all fans of progressive and extreme music who are also in constant pursuit of a good background story or meaningful content, making the entire band really proud of the final result achieved. “It took us quite a long time to concretize so we’re eager to see people’s reaction to our new music. Illusive Golden Age is a poetic tale about the recurrence of downfall and a glance at some factors that bring down societies, influenced by lost civilizations and their enigmas”, said those talented Canadian metallers about their brand new spawn.

Thnigs can’t get any more progressive than the title-track Illusive Golden Age, an epitome of modern Progressive Death Metal where Patrick together with Mathieu and Dominic give a lesson in how to treat your strings with respect, delivering beautiful riffs and solos while Antoine demolishes his drums; and Antoine and Dominic ignite the furious The Living Vault in a groovy and captivating way, before Patrick vociferates deeply like an uncanny beast. Furthermore, the song evolves to a very intricate and exciting musicality, with its slashing riffs blending flawlessly with its insanely complex drums until its wicked grand finale. It’s certainly impressive how they blend Progressive and Death Metal so perfectly, which is exactly the case in another lesson in creativity and fury by the quartet titled Carrion Tide, presenting lyrics fans of the genre will definitely love (“They swarm the clouds / Seeded with the morgellon plague / Falling like manna / Tapeworms weave through your brains / Witness the parasite becoming a host / Witness the anthill getting boiled down / Setting to sail / The carrion tide”), whereas in Mater Dolorosa the band takes their ferocity and madness to a whole new level in a feast of crushing riffs, demented drums and deep, cavernous roars (not to mention how the bass punches by Dominic will make your skull tremble), resulting in one of the best and most pulverizing of all songs.

Then if you love demented metal music you’ll have a blast with Maritime, where the band’s guitar duo is not only in total sync, but they complement Antoine’s bestial drumming in a precise manner, setting the stage for Kevin and his berserk gnarls. Message Sonore leans towards more traditional Progressive Metal, with the metallic sounds emanating from their riffs being the core element in this intricate instrumental exhibit (and I should say it would be extremely nice to see them jamming like this live), while Parallel Biospheres carries a classy name for another frantic onrush of Progressive Death Metal led by Antoine and his phenomenal drumming. Put differently, this is a total delight for lovers of the most insane side of progressive music, with Kevin sounding beyond demonic on vocals. And last but not least, their most complex creation, entitled Anchorite, is also their longest one, presenting utterly melodious guitar lines, rhythmic drums and an enfolding atmosphere, with the brutish growls by Kevin effectively bringing an extra dosage of aggressiveness to the overall musicality, culminating in a true musical journey through the wicked universe ruled by Augury until everything comes to a tempestuous and awesome ending.

You can listen to Illusive Golden Age in full on YouTube, and follow Augury on Facebook for news, tour dates and all other updates by the band. And in case Progressive Death Metal is your cup of tea and you’re eager to put your hands on this thunderous and very progressive album, you can find it on sale at the band’s own BandCamp page, at The Artisan Era’s webstore, on iTunes or on Amazon. In a nutshell, the third full-length opus by Augury not only cements their name as one of the most exciting new groups of the underground extreme scene, but it also points to a bright future for a band that’s not afraid at all to experiment with sounds while at the same time being as aggressive and heavy as they can be.

Best moments of the album: The Living Vault, Mater Dolorosa and Maritime.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 The Artisan Era Records

Track listing
1. Illusive Golden Age 5:49
2. The Living Vault 6:07
3. Carrion Tide 5:03
4. Mater Dolorosa 6:50
5. Maritime 4:31
6. Message Sonore 3:22
7. Parallel Biospheres 4:31
8. Anchorite 8:07

Band members
Patrick Loisel – vocals, guitars
Mathieu Marcotte – guitars
Dominic “Forest” Lapointe – bass
Antoine Baril – drums

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Album Review – Altars of Grief / Iris (2018)

Highly influenced by the desolate landscapes and the solitude of long, prairie winters, here comes one of the biggest names in Canadian Blackened Doom with a superb new album narrating a tragic story of a deeply flawed man and his dying daughter.

Formed in November 2013 in Regina, the capital city of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, Blackened Doom act Altars of Grief has worked over the years to develop a weighty concoction of Death Metal, Sludge Metal, Funeral Doom and Atmospheric Black Metal along with a strong focus on storytelling and the desire to convey authentic emotion, highly influenced by the desolate landscapes and the solitude of long, prairie winters that inspired the moniker of “Prairie Doom Metal”. After the release of their 2014 debut fill-length album This Shameful Burden, the band returns in full force with the bold and multi-layered Iris, narrating a tragic story of a deeply flawed man and his dying daughter, named Iris.

Featuring a stunning artwork by Travis Smith from Seempieces, brilliantly depicting Iris’ final moments as she kneels before the winter beset church and embraces her fate, and the mesmerizing cello by Raphael Weinroth-Browne (who by the way played cello for Canadian Folk/Melodic Black Metal band Thrawsunblat on their amazing 2016 opus Metachthonia), Iris is not just an album of heavy music, but an amalgamation of emotions that will transport your mind and soul to the desolation of the prairies. “The story of Iris is very much rooted in our prairie surroundings and deals with the struggles of addiction, sickness and religion. A father finds himself unable to connect with and care for his young daughter, Iris, who has fallen seriously ill. Spiraling deeper and deeper into his vices, and feeling rejected by Iris’ new found and unwavering faith, he gets into his car and decides to leave her behind. Somewhere along the icy road, he loses control of his vehicle and perishes. His purgatory is to watch helplessly as Iris slowly succumbs to her illness without him”, comments the band’s lead singer Damian Smith.

Melancholy and grief permeate the air in the opening track Isolation, a masterpiece of darkness led by the strident and somber guitars by Erik Labossiere and Evan Paulson, while Damian obscurely declaims the song’s lyrics through his anguished gnarls, proving why he’s a poet of the underworld. Hence, the music flows majestically until its grand finale, setting the tone for Desolation, where a Stygian atmosphere is suddenly joined by heavy-as-hell riffs and the crushing Black Metal beats by Zack Bellina, also presenting introspective and touching words (“I opened my eyes / To the night sky / The unending storm / Revealed itself before me / Weightless in my resolve / But, still a burden remains / With this final breath / Please, forgive me”). Moreover, it’s simply impressive how Altars of Grief can sound so distinct from one song to another, also bringing forth a perfect balance between harsh growls and deep clean vocals.

The title-track Iris brings forward more of the band’s enfolding musicality, blending the aggressiveness of Atmospheric Black Metal with the obscurity of Doom Metal, also presenting very subtle nuances of Melodic Black Metal. In addition, Erik and Evan once again fire a mix of rage and harmony through their flammable strings, enhancing the taste of this very complete and bold composition. Then we have Child of Light, where an epic and melancholic intro evolves into a full-bodied sound, and with Zack together with bassist Donny Pinay building a massive, atmospheric wall of sounds with their instruments, generating the perfect ambience for all vocal styles used by the band; followed by Broken Hymns, another captivating, neck-breaking tune where Raphael is truly outstanding with his cello, adding a marvelous touch of delicacy and melancholy to the overall musicality. In other words, this is a song tailored for closing your eyes and letting the band guide your mind and soul to their dark and mournful world.

And Altars of Grief personify the grievous, obscure voices of the bitterly cold winds of winter in the Atmospheric Black Metal extravaganza titled Voices of Winter, with Damian’s growls being delicately complemented by Raphael’s stunning cello sounds and the whimsical guitars by Erik and Evan, whereas in Becoming Intangible the sound of the cello and the acoustic guitars walk hand in hand in the smoothest way possible before morphing into contemporary extreme music, sounding very atmospheric, gripping and bold until its beyond piercing ending. Zack is once again a beast on drums, not to mention the latent poetry found in the song’s lyrics (“I can barely see the sun / I guess this path was truly flawed / Judgement comes with revelation / And, I’ve never felt so close to God”), flowing into one of the most beautiful outros in underground extreme music, titled Epilogue, performed by Raphael and his always astounding cello.

You can listen to Iris in its entirety on YouTube, follow Altars of Grief on Facebook, and purchase your copy of this masterpiece of the underworld from the band’s own BandCamp page, from the Hypnotic Dirge Records’ BandCamp or webstore in distinct bundles (Iris CD, Iris CD + Nachtterror / Altars of Grief – Of Ash and Dying Light vinyl split, Iris CD + shirt + patch, and Iris CD + Nachtterror / Altars of Grief vinyl split + shirt + patch), as well as from iTunes or from Amazon. If you were not familiar with “Prairie Doom Metal” before listening to Iris, now you have a very good reason to get to know more about such distinct sub-genre of extreme music. But if Altars of Grief are already a recurrent part of your playlist, the emotional story told in Iris will simply make you even more addicted to their desolate and imposing sounds.

Best moments of the album: Isolation, Iris and Broken Hymns.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Hypnotic Dirge Records

Track listing
1. Isolation 9:19
2. Desolation 6:15
3. Iris 6:20
4. Child of Light 7:02
5. Broken Hymns 8:11
6. Voices of Winter 7:26
7. Becoming Intangible 9:17
8. Epilogue 2:05

Band members
Damian Smith – vocals
Erik Labossiere – guitars, vocals
Evan Paulson – guitars, vocals, programming
Donny Pinay – bass, vocals
Zack Bellina – drums, vocals on “Broken Hymns”

Guest musician
Raphael Weinroth-Browne – cello on “Isolation”, “Child of Light”, “Broken Hymns”, “Voices of Winter” and “Becoming Intangible”, all instruments on “Epilogue”

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 – North Hammer / Stormcaller (2018)

Armed with his debut album and a strong passion for all things Viking and Folk Metal, here comes a dauntless one-warrior metal machine from the winterly lands of Canada.

“Thou camest near the next, O warrior Thor!
Shouldering thy hammer, in thy chariot drawn,
Swaying the long-hair’d goats with silver’d rein.” – from ‘Balder Dead’

Inspired by the Viking and folk music played by renowned acts such as Wintersun, Ensiferum, Amon Amarth and Blind Guardian, and in special by Swedish multi-instrumentalist Tomas Börje Forsberg, the iconic Quorthon (1966 – 2004) from Black Metal institution Bathory, who’s also credited with creating the Viking Metal style, here comes Folk/Viking Metal one-man army (or one-warrior metal machine, as he prefers) North Hammer armed with his debut full-length album, Stormcaller, a 21st century continuation of the work of Norse bards who inspired the ancient poem above.

Formed in 2017 in the northern lands of Edmonton, in the province of Alberta, Canada by multi-instrumentalist Andrew James (Eye of Horus, Shotgunner), North Hammer is the representation of the common theme winter that comes up in metal music and a reference to Canada (the “north”), and Andrew’s personal tribute to Mjolnir, or Thor’s Hammer. Andrew wrote and recorded the vocals, guitars, bass and orchestration in Stormcaller, along with drums done by Doug Helcaraxë Nunez and a classic artwork by Mark Erskine (Erskine Designs), and his goal with North Hammer and his new album is simple but powerful. “The experience I’m trying to give the listeners is that of a fellow fan. I want people to be euphoric for other bands that mean something to them like Ensiferum, Wintersun and Amon Amarth. To connect personally with my music and realize that I love and worship these bands.”

Epicness takes over the atmosphere in the opening track Avatar, filling every empty space before Andrew begins his growling attack, also bringing heavy and traditional riffs while Doug keeps the music at a vibrant pace. In other words, this is a beyond solid “welcome card” by North Hammer, setting the tone for Wanderer, and let me tell you it can’t get any more Folk Metal than this, as our minds and souls are treated to a strong and vibrant tune where Doug takes care of the song’s inspiring pace while Andrew continues to impress with all instruments and his harsh vocals. And presenting an introspective, catchy intro, Written in the Stars evolves into modern-day Folk Metal with Melodic Death Metal nuances, with Andrew’s vocals getting more intense and enraged, effectively accompanying the heaviness and melody of the guitars.

Magic Mead is one of those songs tailored for fans of the dancing heavy music by Ensiferum, showcasing more rhythmic, epic moments intertwined with sheer speed and progressiveness while its lyrics exhale Folk and Viking Metal (“Soilent earth sewn with blood / The enemy lays in the mud / A victory not to forget / And celebrate the worthy dead / In his eyes unrest subsides / For dreams of destiny he strides / Through the day and through the night / To behold this astral sight”); followed by an inspiring speech that ignites a feast of heavy and fast sounds titled Tip of the Spear, presenting the duo Andrew and Doug in perfect sync while they head together into the battlefield, with its classic guitar riffs and solos helping enhance its overall impact. Then it’s time to bang your head and raise your horns to all soldiers in the world to the flammable Folk Metal hymn A Soldier’s Song, led by the aggressive and potent growls by Andrew, keeping the album at a truly epic level.

Black Forest Rain is a serene, introspective instrumental bridge, with the sound of the acoustic guitars guiding us to the world of Spellbinder, where a soulful guitar solo by Andrew kicks things off before all hell breaks loose in another blast of classic Viking Metal perfect for singing along with Andrew and for slamming into the pit. Then we have the song that carries the name of the band, North Hammer, an Epic Metal extravaganza with all elements we love in the genre such as powerful vocal lines, gripping guitars, pounding drums and poetic lyrics (“Crack through the ice / Swim through the depths / Pulsing through your veins / Forget all the rest / High into the Skies / Relic of Old / North Hammer”), resulting into one of the best moments of the album without a shadow of a doubt; and North Hammer’s final breath of fire and thunder comes in the form of a song named Lion’s Winter, a demolishing Folk Metal chant where Doug is bestial on drums while Andrew takes his growling to a deeper and more violent level, flowing smoothly until its melodic finale.

One thing I’m only going to mention now about Stormcaller (which is available for a full listen HERE) is that this is a concept album describing the trials of a hero in a Nordic fantasy setting. The album has been rearranged in order to place appeal to the broader audience, but the actual progression of the story line is Written in the Stars, A Soldier’s Song, Magic Mead, Black Forest Rain, Wanderer, North Hammer, Tip of the Spear, Avatar, Spellbinder, and Lion’s Winter, which means if you buy the album from the band’s own BandCamp page, from Amazon or from CD Baby, you’ll be able to rearrange the tracks yourself and follow the story as it’s supposed to be. In addition, while North Hammer is a studio project at the moment, Andrew plans to put together a band of top-notch like-minded musicians in a not-so-distant future, and if you want to show your support for such brave metal warrior go check what he’s up to on Facebook, on SoundCloud and on ReverbNation. And of course, don’t forget to praise the Norse Gods whenever you’re about to enter the battlefield, inspired by the music by North Hammer and by all renowned Viking and folk bands Andrew loves so much.

Best moments of the album: Wanderer, Magic Mead and North Hammer.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Avatar 4:46
2. Wanderer 3:42
3. Written in the Stars 3:27
4. Magic Mead 4:11
5. Tip of the Spear 3:49
6. A Soldier’s Song 4:34
7. Black Forest Rain (Instrumental) 2:10
8. Spellbinder 3:36
9. North Hammer 3:26
10. Lion’s Winter 3:34

Band members
Andrew James – vocals, guitars, bass, orchestration

Guest musician
Doug Helcaraxë Nunez – drums

Concert Review – Slayer (Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON, 05/29/2018)

And Slayer said goodbye to Toronto in the most pulverizing (and best) way you can imagine.

OPENING ACTS: Testament, Behemoth, Anthrax and Lamb Of God

I don’t know what to say about the absolute devastation that happened at the always perfect (and I dare you to name one place in this planet that’s better than that for a live concert) Budweiser Stage yesterday in Toronto. When it was announced that there was going to be a Slayer Farewell Tour, I guess they forgot to say it was going to be a farewell to their diehard fans, brave people who lost their lives while crushing their heads and spines into the nonstop, infernal mosh pits that took over the entire venue (and I believe I saw some smaller ones even in the seated areas) during the more than SIX HOURS of brutal Thrash and Death Metal blasted by some of the best bands in the history of heavy music. As a matter of fact, whoever had the initial idea of putting together on the same day/night the great Testament, Behemoth, Anthrax, Lamb Of God and Slayer deserves a huge prize and our utmost respect forever. It was totally and amazingly insane from start to finish, on a beyond beautiful and sunny day in the city. My neck hurts and I’m as tired as hell, so I’ll try to be brief in writing a little about what was supposed to be the last fulminating performance by the almighty Slayer in Toronto (and I really, really hope it was not the last time we saw those guys here).

It was past 4pm when the gates finally opened and the fans could enter the venue for some beer, for getting a little shade away from the scorching sun, and for a few curious ones to enjoy the official pre-show party with Canadian Black Metal horde Panzerfaust at the River Bar at 4:30pm. As I was dying for a beer and pumped up already for TESTAMENT at 5pm, I unfortunately couldn’t attend that mini-gig, but I guess the band won’t be mad at us for doing that, right? Anyway, at 5 o’clock high there they were Chuck Billy, Eric Peterson, Alex Skolnick, Steve Di Giorgio and the demonic stone crusher Gene Hoglan for a short and demolishing lecture in Thrash Metal, still promoting their latest installment, the flawless Brotherhood Of The Snake, from 2016. It was insanity in the form of seven faster-than-a-bullet songs (who doesn’t love the thrashing classic Into the Pit?), with the bestial drums by Gene sounding like he was hired by TTC to help with the excavations for a new subway station, making our chests and even hats tremble with his beats. Yes, as awesome as that.

Setlist
Brotherhood of the Snake
Rise Up
Practice What You Preach
The Pale King
Into the Pit
The New Order
Disciples of the Watch

Band members
Chuck Billy – vocals
Eric Peterson – guitar
Alex Skolnick – guitar
Steve Di Giorgio – bass
Gene Hoglan – drums

After a short bathroom break, it was time for Poland’s most iconic metal band of all time to darken the stage with their blasphemous and sulfuric music. Polish Blackened Death Metal institution BEHEMOTH lived up to the expectations even playing a shorter setlist than usual (and at daylight, something they might not be used to), mixing classics with kick-ass songs from their latest album, their 2014 opus The Satanist, plus a brand new song named Wolves ov Siberia. Mr. Adam “Nergal” Darski was on fire throughout the entire performance, proving why he’s one of the most respected metal artists of the past decade, leaving the fans eager for more of their obscure music in a not-so-distant future. One funny thing is that Behemoth were the only band to not throw to the fans any guitar picks or drumsticks, but instead they were spitting blood on the people at the front row. If that doesn’t tell you how dark their music is, I don’t know what would.

Setlist
Ov Fire and the Void
Demigod
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
Wolves ov Siberia
Chant for Eschaton 2000
O Father O Satan O Sun!

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

Another bathroom break, another beer, and at 6:55pm sharp (don’t you feel amazed with how punctual all events are in Toronto?) it was time for the old school, slamming, riff-oriented Thrash Metal by the one and only ANTHRAX, who (guess what?) delivered a sequence of seven ass-kicking, frantic songs, including Evil Twin, from their 2016 album For All Kings, and beautiful classics such as I Am the Law, Madhouse and Indians. Scott Ian and Frank Bello were in their usual “I’m playing on stage but I’m also moshing up here together with you guys in the pit” mode, while Joey Belladonna was beyond happy with the warm reaction of the fans to each one of their songs. The low point of the show was that unfortunately Charlie Benante couldn’t play with the band as a result of an ongoing battle with carpal tunnel in his wrists, but the good thing is that he was replaced by the monstrous Gene Hoglan. Do I need to say more? In addition, Mr. Belladonna said that the concert yesterday was Anthrax’s biggest crowd ever in Toronto, and I’m sure everyone who was there banging their heads to their music was more than happy to have been part of such important day to the band.

Setlist
Caught in a Mosh
Got the Time (Joe Jackson cover)
I Am the Law
Madhouse
Evil Twin
Antisocial (Trust cover)
Indians

Band members
Joey Belladonna – lead vocals
Jon Donais – lead guitar
Scott Ian – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Frank Bello – bass guitar, backing vocals
Gene Hoglan – drums*

*Replaced Charlie Benante due to illness.

After all the havoc generated by Testament, Behemoth and Anthrax, there was still more to come with Groove Metal titans LAMB OF GOD, still promoting their 2015 album VII: Sturm und Drang, and let me tell you the show was so heavy and insane I think some people went missing after the demented circle pits ignited by Mr. Randy Blythe and his henchmen. Playing a solid mix of songs from all of their albums, with all of them of course being as brutal as hell, Lamb Of God put a huge smile on the faces of their diehard fans, with Randy also praising all the bands of the “mini-festival”, requesting everyone to pay a humble tribute to the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair with a few WOOOOO’s, and jumping up and down like a maniac on stage nonstop. Well, everything a Redneck loves in life, right? And please correct me if I’m wrong, but was Randy wearing some sort of ankle monitor still due to the manslaughter case he was involved and arrested for a few years ago? If that’s the case, well, that’s what I call a badass frontman, ladies and gentlemen.

Setlist
Omerta
Ruin
Walk With Me in Hell
Now You’ve Got Something to Die For
512
Engage the Fear Machine
Blacken the Cursed Sun
Laid to Rest
Redneck

Band members
Randy Blythe – vocals
Willie Adler – guitar
Mark Morton – guitar
John Campbell – bass
Chris Adler – drums

SLAYER

“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” It’s with these classic words that I want to introduce you to the end of all days in the form of the Satanic Thrash Metal blasted by the heaviest, the most awesome and the most destructive band in the world, the all-powerful SLAYER. Actually, I should say FUCKIN’ SLAYER, or even SLAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRR, as this is the right way to refer to the unrelenting Tom Araya, Kerry King, Gary Holt and the second stone crusher of the night, the barbaric Paul Bostaph (another guy that probably got some money from TTC to speed up the subway excavations yesterday). Playing at least one song from each one of their crushing albums, from their 1983 masterpiece Show No Mercy to their 2015 opus Repentless (with the exception of their 1998 controversial album Diabolus in Musica), Slayer put on a flammable performance (and I’m not using the word flammable in vain, as there was A LOT of fire during the whole concert), turning the entire floor section into one supreme, hot-as-hell, motherfuckin’ savage circle pit.

And that mix of classic Slayer with their more contemporary albums workd extremely well, creating a hellish balance of sounds for the total delectation of all admirers of their undisputed Thrash Metal. It was fantastic watching them performing faster, newer tunes like Repentless, Disciple, Hate Worldwide and Jihad, while at the same time delivering their classic infernal melodies in Mandatory Suicide, Postmortem and Black Magic. For instance, in my humble opinion the sequence comprised of Payback (one of the most pulverizing songs of the night), Seasons in the Abyss, Dittohead and Dead Skin Mask simply proves how timeless their music is, and how important they’ll always be to the world of heavy music. Then from Hell Awaits until the grand finale with the all-time classic Angel of Death it was an absolute chaos, with the circle pit getting bigger and bigger, people screaming at the top of their lungs and crowd surfing nonstop like if there was no tomorrow, and sweat and beer flowing everywhere. And I’m not going to say how cataclysmic the metal hymn Raining Blood was. If you were not there, you don’t deserve to know.

One thing I’ll never understand is how Mr. Paul Bostaph managed to play drums at that insane speed and intensity with all those blistering hot fires burning almost all the time all around his drum set. I think that proves he’s not human, as none of the guys from Slayer are. As a matter of fact, Slayer are a four-headed, rabid beast that would make even the “hound of Hades” Cerberus put his tail between his legs and run away, and if this was in fact their farewell tour, well, they’ll be beyond missed by all of us, diehard Slayer fans who consider Dead Skin Mask one of the best “ballads” ever composed by any band. Let’s wait and see if we’ll be treated to at least one more Slayer apocalypse in Toronto in the coming years as a second, third or whatever leg of their farewell tour, I don’t care, as long as they return. Now it’s time to take some rest from all madness from yesterday, do the body count (and maybe there are even some bodies floating in Lake Ontario near the venue), take a deep breath and keep doing what we all know how to at home, at school, at work or anywhere else where some good and reverberating screaming in required. And you know what word you need to burst your lungs screaming, right?

Setlist
Delusions of Saviour
Repentless
Blood Red
Disciple
Mandatory Suicide
Hate Worldwide
War Ensemble
Jihad
When the Stillness Comes
Postmortem
Black Magic
Payback
Seasons in the Abyss
Dittohead
Dead Skin Mask
Hell Awaits
South of Heaven
Raining Blood
Chemical Warfare
Angel of Death

Band members
Tom Araya – vocals, bass guitar
Kerry King – guitar
Gary Holt – guitar
Paul Bostaph – drums

Concert Review – Cradle of Filth (The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 04/11/2018)

Four American boys, four Ukrainian metallers, a multi-cultural Extreme Metal institution and endless mosh pits. That’s what Toronto got in another memorable night of heavy music.

OPENING ACTS: Uncured and Jinjer

My neck and back still hurt today, and I don’t think it’s (just) because of my age, but because the three bands that hit the stage at the small but flammable The Opera House this Wednesday night in Toronto kicked some serious ass from start to finish, igniting nonstop circle pits during the whole night and, as a consequence, making every single fan at the venue more than happy to have spent a few good bucks on their concert tickets. It might be taking a while for the weather in Toronto to warm up in this beginning of spring, but the temperature inside The Opera House on Wednesday was definitely as hot as the fires from the depths of hell for another night of the CRYPTORIANA WORLD TOUR NORTH AMERICA 2018 with the bands Uncured, Jinjer and, above all, the majestic Cradle of Filth.

Photos by Laura Springall – https://www.instagram.com/lspringallphoto/

After having two slices of pizza in order to properly face the hurricane of metal music that was about to come, I headed to The Opera House (which by the way seemed to be sold out) to enjoy the first band of the night, the technical and heavy American Progressive Death/Groove Metal UNCURED. Formed in 2014 in New York City, the quartet comprised of brothers Rex and Zak Cox sharing the vocals and guitar duties (and before you ask, they’re not twins), Jon Kita on bass, and Liam Manley on drums delivered a very solid performance on stage, still promoting their latest album Medusa, released in 2017 (which you can listen in its entirety HERE). Those boys didn’t stop headbanging and shredding not even for a single second, receiving a very positive feedback from the crowd already jammed in the floor section. This is the second time I saw Uncured live and they’re just getting better and better, pointing to a bright future ahead of them. From their setlist I highly recommend the songs Stygian Valley and Myopic (both from Medusa), and their brand new song Terminal, the best of their concert in my opinion. And lastly, I just want to send a quick message to the guy from the crowd that called them “Backstreet Boys”: they might be boys, but they’re talented metalheads, so shut up and try doing something useful for society like what Uncured are doing with their first-class metal music, right?

Setlist
Stygian Valley
Petrified
Myopic
Dilate
Persia (Spontaneous Regeneration alternative version)
Terminal

Band members
Rex Cox – vocals, guitars
Zak Cox – vocals, guitars
Jon Kita – bass
Liam Manley – drums 

Photos by Laura Springall – https://www.instagram.com/lspringallphoto/

After a short break it was time for an explosion of Metalcore made in Ukraine, courtesy of the sexy frontwoman Tatiana Shmaylyuk and her interesting band JINJER. If you’ve never heard of Jinjer, the band was brought into being in 2009 in the city of Horlivka, having already released a few interesting studio albums, like their 2014 opus Cloud Factory (reissued now in 2018, only a couple of years after its original release for reasons beyond my comprehension). Their concert was energetic and straight to the point, with Tatiana leading her henchmen and having a very good interaction with the fans. The only issue for me was the quality of the sound coming from the drums, which sounded during most of their set like the annoying “frying pan beating” sound from Lars’ drums in Metallica’s hideous St. Anger, but nothing that could stop the band and their fans from having a very good time. As I enjoy Tatiana’s deep, enraged growls a lot more than her clean vocals, my top moments of their concert were for sure Who Is Gonna Be the One (from their 2014 album Cloud Factory) and Captain Clock (from their 2016 album King Of Everything), not only warming up the fans at the venue for the main attraction of the night, but also urging everyone to jump up and down and break their necks just like what we always expect from a good Metalcore band.

Setlist
Prologue
Who Is Gonna Be the One
Words of Wisdom
Sit Stay Roll Over
I Speak Astronomy
Just Another
Pisces
Captain Clock
Outlander
No Hoard of Value
Bad Water
Beggars’ Dance

Band members
Tatiana Shmaylyuk – vocals
Roman Ibramhalilov – guitar
Eugene Kostyuk – bass
Vlad Ulasevich – drums 

CRADLE OF FILTH

Photos by Laura Springall – https://www.instagram.com/lspringallphoto/

One thing that always impresses me at The Opera House is the insane speed and very little amount of time the bands and their crew take to switch the whole equipment from one band to another, which is why we didn’t have to wait for too long for another superb, violent and blackened performance by British Extreme Metal institution CRADLE OF FILTH. Spearheaded by the iconic Dani Filth and promoting their latest opus, the excellent Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay, released in 2017, the band didn’t show any mercy on our souls, blasting some of their most visceral, complex and beautiful compositions from their unparalleled career that already lasts for impressive 27 years (and please don’t ask me how Dani can still growl and scream flawlessly like a demon after almost three decades). Well, when you open the show with songs like the aggressive Gilded Cunt and one of my favorite songs of all time, the masterpiece Beneath the Howling Stars, you know the whole concert will be brutal.

The rest of the band was also on fire, providing the perfect instrumental for Dani to thrive on vocals, in special the bestial drummer Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka behind his glass cage (not sure if that cage is for sound or security purposes), and Oshawa-own beauty Lindsay Schoolcraft, who once again could not hide her happiness for playing with Cradle of Filth in front of her very own people. She was fantastic throughout the entire concert, and didn’t even know how to thank the fans for such warm reception. Actually, it’s us fans who have to thank her for such awesome performance, embellishing classic tunes like The Death of Love, Nymphetamine and Her Ghost in the Fog with her powerful voice.

One of the highlights of the night was undoubtedly the execution of the 11-minute extravaganza Bathory Aria, a marvelous and intricate song I honestly never thought I would be able to witness them playing live. Dani explained they’re playing it as the start of the celebrations of 20 years of what’s in my opinion the best Cradle of Filth album of all time, their 1998 concept opus Cruelty And The Beast (and get ready, because Dani mentioned already they’re planning to release a very special 20th anniversary edition of the album). The brand new songs from Cryptoriana also worked really well, with Heartbreak and Séance sounding simply astounding live, proving once again that Cradle of Filth are a band that don’t just defy time, they kick it in the ass and keep delivering awesomeness album after album, year after year, for our total delectation.

Photos by Laura Springall – https://www.instagram.com/lspringallphoto/

One thing I really enjoy about Dani is how fun and somehow cryptic he always sounds when interacting with the crowd (and he knows we love that). When he’s in town, he always makes sure he praises his Canadian fans, he shows his respect for his supporting acts (demanding a huge ovation for Uncured and Jinjer for their excellent performances), and always finds time to make a peculiar joke about something very Canadian. I remember a few years ago when he said he loved getting to Canada during winter, as our Canadian winter is truly unique, and this time he mentioned a lot of times his admiration for Canadian professional tennis player Eugenie Bouchard. I have absolutely no idea why he mentioned “Genie” Bouchard and dedicated so many songs to her, as she has pretty much no connection to heavy music as far as I know. Apart from being a bombshell and for having lots of serious issues in her tennis career, I don’t see why Dani loves her so much. Well, maybe those are the two reasons why, right?

Anyway, after the classic From the Cradle to Enslave, and after almost two hours of nonstop, electrifying mosh pits (even during a dark ballad like Nymphetamine there were people crushing their skulls inside the pit like wild beats), the concert was over and fans could head home, have another beer, take pictures with the guys from Uncured and Jinjer, and start thinking how they would be able to work the following day after a true avalanche of high-quality extreme music, courtesy of four American boys, four Ukrainian metallers, and a multi-cultural outfit that knows better than anyone else in the world how to perfectly blend Extreme Metal with a theatrical performance, fantastic lyrics and endless energy and pleasure for being able to be on stage for all of us fans.

Setlist
ACT I
Ave Satani (Intro)
Gilded Cunt
Beneath the Howling Stars
Blackest Magick in Practice
Heartbreak and Séance
Bathory Aria: Benighted Like Usher / A Murder of Ravens in Fugue / Eyes That
Witnessed Madness
Dusk and Her Embrace
The Death of Love
You Will Know the Lion by His Claw
Creatures That Kissed in Cold Mirrors (Interlude)

ACT II
A Bruise Upon the Silent Moon (Intro)
The Promise of Fever
Nymphetamine (Fix)
Her Ghost in the Fog
Born in a Burial Gown
From the Cradle to Enslave
Blooding the Hounds of Hell (Outro)

Band members
Dani Filth – lead vocals
Richard Shaw – guitars
Marek “Ashok” Šmerda – guitars
Daniel Firth – bass
Lindsay Schoolcraft – female vocals, keyboards
Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka – drums

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Concert Review – Judas Priest (Tribute Communities Centre, Oshawa, ON, 03/28/2018)

A night of celebration of the purest form of British Heavy Metal in the Ontarian city of Oshawa, spearheaded by the unparalleled Judas Priest.

OPENING ACTS: Black Star Riders and Saxon

Getting from Oakville to Oshawa for a concert is always a nightmare due to the humongous distance (almost 100km) and the fact I have to drive there exactly during the peak of rush hour. However, for my total delight, it was fairly quick to get to the Tribute Communities Centre in Oshawa yesterday where the mighty Judas Priest was going to play their unparalleled classics, supported by the ass-kicking Black Star Riders and Saxon as the opening acts. After a Tuesday of rain and fog, the day yesterday was beyond perfect, being totally clean and dry, and with the temperatures reaching almost the positive double digit mark. I guess the weather knew it shouldn’t mess with the Metal Gods, right?

One thing I highly recommend if you ever attend a concert or a sports event at the Tribute Communities Centre is to grab a bite before (or maybe even during) the event at the Prospects Bar & Grill, the pub that’s right inside the venue. Good food, cold and crisp beer, and all for a very decent price, helping you to properly get ready for the event. Actually, because I arrived there right when BLACK STAR RIDERS, a band formed by members and ex-members of renowned acts like Thin Lizzy and Alice Cooper, started their concert, I couldn’t really watch them perform, but I was listening to their music from the pub with attention and they sounded solid and entertaining with their old school Rock N’ Roll, with their cover song for Thin Lizzy’s Jailbreak and their own song Bound for Glory being the highlights of their performance.

Setlist
All Hell Breaks Loose
Jailbreak (Thin Lizzy cover)
Before the War
Heavy Fire
Who Rides the Tiger
Kingdom of the Lost
When the Night Comes In
Bound for Glory

Band members
Ricky Warwick – vocals, guitar
Scott Gorham – guitars
Damon Johnson – guitars
Robert Crane – bass
Chad Szeliga – drums

After a short break (and now already sitting in my proper place in the floor section), it was time for Biff Byford and his Heavy Metal institution SAXON to begin their sonic attack on stage, delivering pure metal from the NWOBHM, with songs like Power and the Glory, Motorcycle Man, Denim and Leather and Heavy Metal Thunder inciting all fans at the venue to start banging their heads nonstop to their classic Heavy Metal. The band was on fire from start to finish promoting their brand new album Thunderbolt, not giving any time for the crowd to breathe or take a bathroom break, with Mr. Byford being a true beast on vocals. My favorite tune played from their new album was by far They Played Rock and Roll, introduced by the band as their personal and honest tribute to the greatest Rock N’ Roll band of all time, the glorious Motörhead. And let’s face it, any tribute to the one and only Lemmy Kilmister is never enough, right? He always deserves more and more, and when that comes from such an amazing band like Saxon, the homage paid is even more powerful.

Setlist
Olympus Rising
Thunderbolt
Power and the Glory
The Secret of Flight
Motorcycle Man
Nosferatu (The Vampires Waltz)
Dallas 1 PM
They Played Rock and Roll
Denim and Leather
Princess of the Night
Wheels of Steel
Never Surrender
Heavy Metal Thunder

Band members
Biff Byford – vocals
Paul Quinn – guitars
Doug Scarratt – guitars
Nibbs Carter – bass
Nigel Glockler – drums

JUDAS PRIEST

The intensity of the metal played by Saxon was exactly what everyone needed to get really warmed up for the main attraction of the night, the iconic metal behemoths JUDAS PRIEST. It was already past 9pm when Black Sabbath’s War Pigs started playing on the speakers, followed by the intro Guardians, before the band spearheaded by the Metal God Rob Halford hit the stage to the sound of their newborn classic Firepower, the opening track of their majestic new opus Firepower, putting a smile on everyone’s faces and showing everyone at the venue that the Metal Gods still got it no matter what happens to them. Of course I missed seeing the guitar hero Glenn Tipton (who’s not touring with the band due to the complications of his recently diagnosed case of Parkinson’s disease) slashing our senses with his riffs and solos on stage, but Andy Sneap did a pretty good job replacing him. And what to say about Richie Faulkner? The guy is undoubtedly a core piece of Judas Priest now, showcasing all his skills as a great guitarist that he is and also having an excellent performance on stage.

Nothing I can say about the setlist will represent its true beauty, as the Priest played a mix of some of the best songs of the new album, such as Lightning Strike and Evil Never Dies, with amazing classics from almost all of their albums, including really old school material such as Running Wild, The Ripper, Some Heads Are Gonna Roll and especially Saints in Hell, from Stained Class, and album that turned 40 years old this past February 10. After watching them playing that stunning song live, I once again must say their music is definitely like wine, getting better and better as time goes by. Furthermore, the video they played on their background screen during Saints in Hell was superb, with all the dark and red imagery of Christ, demons and wild beats being mesmerizing, and I wonder if one day they’ll upload it somewhere like YouTube as an alternative video for this beyond classic metal hymn.

My only complaint about their setlist was replacing one of the most touching metal ballads of all time, the absolutely beautiful Angel (which they were playing until their concert at The Anthem in Washington, D.C. on March 18), with the good-but-not-fantastic The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown). This song feels like when Iron Maiden play “Wrathchild” on their live concerts, as we all certainly enjoy it but we also know deep down inside there are far better options to be part of their setlist. Anyway, the last part of their setlist, including the encore, was a true feast of pure Heavy Metal, working like a tribute to the Rock N’ Roll lifestyle, with metallic hymns like Breaking the Law, Hell Bent for Leather and Living After Midnight being some sort of “motto” or “guide” to anyone who lives and breathes rock music 24/7. I was honestly hoping that Glenn would hit the stage out of nowhere to play the last batch of songs with the band last night, just like what he did at The Prudential in Newark, New Jersey on March 20, but unfortunately that did not happen in Oshawa. Well, I can’t complain at all, as seeing Judas Priest live once again was truly amazing and memorable, making even my 90km drive back a lot easier and smoother than I thought, and I can’t wait to see them again in a not-so-distant future, hopefully with Glenn back in action.

Setlist
War Pigs (Black Sabbath song)
Guardians
Firepower
Running Wild
Grinder
Sinner
The Ripper
Lightning Strike
Bloodstone
Saints in Hell
Turbo Lover
The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown) (Fleetwood Mac cover)
Evil Never Dies
Some Heads Are Gonna Roll
Breaking the Law
Hell Bent for Leather
Painkiller

Encore:
The Hellion
Electric Eye
Metal Gods
You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’
Living After Midnight
We Are the Champions (Queen song)

Band members
Rob Halford – vocals
Richie Faulkner – guitar
Andy Sneap – guitar
Ian Hill – bass guitar
Scott Travis – drums

Beverage Review – Megadeth’s À Tout Le Monde Beer

A superb beer that tastes smooth and fresh without losing the core punch and energy of a good brew, just like its beyond-classic eponymous Heavy Metal ballad.

“À tout le monde, à tous mes amis
Je vous aime, je dois partir
These are the last words I’ll ever speak
And they’ll set me free”

À Tout Le Monde, which gained a revamped version titled À Tout Le Monde (Set Me Free) in 2007 featuring Cristina Scabbia, is not only one of the biggest hits by Thrash/Speed Metal titans Megadeth, but also one of the most touching, most recognizable and most powerful metal ballads of all time without a shadow of doubt. However, in 2016 À Tout Le Monde also became a synonym to a new beer by Unibroue, a brewery located in Chambly, Quebec, Canada that was started by Serge Racine and Quebec native André Dion in 1990, and known for some of the most admired craft beers in Quebec and in the rest of Canada such as Blanche de Chambly (Witbier), Don de Dieu (Tripel Wheat Ale), Maudite (Strong Red Ale), and Unibroue’s flagship beer La Fin du Monde (Tripel).

Born of the friendship between Unibroue’s brewmaster Jerry Vietz and the one and only Dave Mustaine, À Tout Le Monde is a flavorful Belgian-style, dry-hopped saison with hoppy and spicy notes, a clean, fresh taste and a crisp dry finish, dedicated to all fans of Heavy Metal and Belgian-style ales from around the world, using a dry hopping technique and, to date, having the lowest alcohol content of any Unibroue beer at 4.5%. Furthermore, À Tout Le Monde is not the first strike into the business of alcoholic beverages by “Megadave”, as back in 2014 he teamed up with Fallbrook Winery winemaker Vernon Kindred to create the Mustaine Vineyards. Although I haven’t tried any of the wines by the Mustaine Vineyards yet (and I do enjoy a good wine), as a beer guy I’m absolutely certain none of their wines can beat À Tout Le Monde, nor any of the several beers brewed by any other band in the world. And don’t worry, as I won’t be cheesy by jesting with you guys saying À Tout Le Monde is a beer “for everyone”. Or will I?

If you access the official Unibroue page for À Tout Le Monde, you’ll see their beer and food pairings list includes very distinct options such as  grilled steak, charcuteries, nachos, mussels and comté-style cooked pressed cheese, but to be honest I think you can pair this outstanding beer even with marshmallows, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a slice of watermelon so good and fresh it tastes. Displaying a yellow color, slightly golden with hazy appearance, and tasting slightly spicy and astringent with notes of tropical fruits and citrus like mango and litchi, À Tout Le Monde can usually be found in Canada as 341 ml or 750 ml bottles, as a 30,000 ml keg, or as draft beer, being sold at The Beer Store or at LCBO with prices going from CAD$ 14.95 for a pack of 6 bottles of 341 ml to CAD$ 222.15 for the keg. As a matter of fact, it actually took a long time for the closet The Beer Store to where I live to start selling À Tout Le Monde, which means if you do not live in Quebec your pursuit for À Tout Le Monde can get a little tedious, frustrating and time-consuming (unless you have some extra money to buy it directly online and deal with the delivery fees, of course).

The idea for the beer came about when Megadeth headlined the Festival d’été de Québec, playing their kick-ass Thrash and Speed Metal in front of eighty thousand people in 2015. “We had pulled up in the middle of the day and went to the hotel with this guy named Jerry Vietz from Unibroue. And we both had a lot of stuff in common and we hit it off right away. I was kind of sampling some of the different beverages that he had. And I told him, ‘I like this. I like this about this one. I like this about that one.’ And we made a second round, brought the liquid down to Nashville and tried it again. And I said, ‘Okay, so it’s getting really close. I like this about this, and I like this about that.’ And then I got to taste the final product for the first time in Orlando”, said Mustaine, who also had a few interesting words to say about the boom of music-inspired beers from other bands. “It’s funny, because I’ve spoken with a couple of beer magazines now — I didn’t know they had beer magazines, but evidently they do — and they said, ‘Have you tried the Iron Maiden beer?’ ‘Oh, yeah, of course.’ ‘Have you tried the AC/DC beer?’ ‘No. How is it?’ ‘Oh, it’s terrible.’ ‘Have you tried the Motörhead beer?’ ‘No. How is it?’ ‘Well, it’s okay.’ And they told me that Mastodon has a beer, I think, and then New Order has a beer too”, Mustaine said. “And it’s, like, okay, well, maybe these dudes got into it just to kind of slap their name on a can of beer or something like that. I did this because when we did the wine… In April of 2014, we made wine [to coincide with Mustaine’s performance with the San Diego Symphony], so that there was something really cool that would be like a social lubricant with everybody, but also be like an adhesive where everybody would come together with the two worlds colliding.”

Of course, as any other beer inspired or crafted by a Heavy Metal band, there are a lot of “extras” available for diehard fans of Megadeth who loved the beer like myself, some of those being free like the YouTube videos with Bernard Johnson, a Regional Sales Manager from Unibroue, talking about À Tout Le Monde, and Dave Mustaine himself talking about making his own beer and wishing us all Happy Holidays (in 2016, when the beer was launched); and if you have some spare cash to invest on some À Tout Le Monde merch you can go to the official Megadeth webstore and select whatever suits you best from the options available. I’ll personally save my money for the beer itself, buying at least the pack with 6 bottles whenever I find it here in Ontario or when I visit Quebec, and not only because I’m a longtime fan of the music by Dave Mustaine & Co., but because À Tout Le Monde is indeed a superb beer, tasting smooth and fresh without losing the core punch and energy of a good brew, just like its beyond-classic eponymous Heavy Metal ballad.

Beer details
Country: Canada
Brewer: Unibroue
Fermentation: Top
Style: Belgian Style Dry, Hopped Saison
Alcohol Content (ABV): 4.5%
Color: Yellow, slightly golden with hazy appearance
SRM: 5,5
Clarity: Slightly cloudy
Head: Egg whites
Bubbles: Fine
Effervescence: Medium and sustained
IBU: 22
Body: Medium
Aftertaste: Medium
Price: CAD$ 14.95 (6 × Bottle 341 ml), CAD$ 26.95 (12 × Bottle 341 ml), CAD$ 50.95 (24 × Bottle 341 ml), CAD$ 222.15 (1 × Keg 30000 ml)

Album Review – Vile Creature / Cast of Static and Smoke (2018)

A dystopian science fiction taking place well after civilization has been destroyed by its own nuclear ambitions in the form of 44 minutes of suffering and austere Doom Metal.

Formed in 2014 in Saint Catharines, the largest city in Canada’s Niagara Region and the sixth largest urban area in the province of Ontario, Sludge/Doom Metal duo Vile Creature is more than ready to release their brand new full-length album titled Cast of Static and Smoke, a logical progression from their previous releases both in sound and content. While in their 2015 debut album A Steady Descent into the Soil they mirrored Blackened Doom with equally melancholy stories of growing up queer, and in their 2016 EP A Pessimistic Doomsayer they explored escaping your demons by forging relationships with works of fiction, now with Cast of Static and Smoke the band have delved into building a world of their own while writing a compelling 44 minutes of  what they like to call “suffering metal”.

In order to properly translate all that melancholy and suffering into metal music, the duo comprised of Vic on vocals and drums and KW on vocals, guitar and percussion recorded the core of the album live with only one guitar and one drum kit. Furthermore, Cast of Static and Smoke is a record and a short story at the same time, a dystopian science fiction taking place well after civilization has been destroyed by its own nuclear ambitions. Displaying an eerie artwork by artist Stephen Wilson (Unknown Relic) and featuring a few interesting guest musicians who end up bringing extra layers of complexity to the music, the album presents four songs that embody emotions felt by characters and moments that take place within the story, sounding less chronological and more a response to certain instances. Musically the band is as heavy as they have ever been, weaving through different paces and influences with ease while maintaining their foundation in Doom Metal.

Wicked, somber sounds kick off the 10-minute Doom metal aria Water, Tinted Gold & Tainted Copper, with guest Erin Severson talking about all that’s wrong in our society before the sluggish beats and distorted guitars by Vic and KW invade our ears, paving the path for the song’s austere lyrics (“Blinded by visions of the elements of life / Leading to a scorched earth / A crows nest shrouded in metal and rust / Even scraps fear nothingness / I’ve seen blackened, deserted shores / Calling me, whispering lore”). Furthermore, guest vocalist Chris Colohan effectively provides his share of anguished growling, taking the song’s acidity to a whole new level before everything ends in the most visceral way possible. Then we have the absolutely grim Circuits, Bending & Breaking, an excellent hybrid of Doom Metal, Blackened Doom, Drone and Ambient with a violent twist where Vic keeps blasting Stygian, slow-paced beast while KW gnarls desperately and rabidly amidst a high level of distortions and rough noises perfect for disturbing our thoughts.

Forest, Subsists as a Tomb starts as dark and downbeat as the two initial compositions of the album, becoming another feast of devilish sounds and tones led by the lingering drums by Vic, with KW firing some enraged growls and slashing guitar noises. Once again, Erin’s narration feels as creepy as the previous one, with another guest musician, James Claypool, bringing forward a good amount of wickedness to the overall musicality with his flammable guitar. And lastly we have Sky, in Descending Pieces, a song that doesn’t bring any joy or happiness to our hearts and souls; quite the contrary, it follows the same somber path crafted by Vile Creature throughout the entire album, resulting in a solid display of modern-day Doom and Sludge Metal with the duo’s deranged screams and perturbing riffs and beats setting the stage for the final unsettling message by Erin.

In summary, although Cast of Static and Smoke is definitely not an easy listen for newcomers to the world of depressive and suffering Doom Metal by Vile Creature, it’s indeed an album that will grow on you as the music and the story progress together, gradually making your ears and senses more familiar with the band’s eccentric type of music. The album can be purchased through the band’s own BandCamp page, as well as through the Halo of Flies’ BandCamp page or webstore and the Dry Cough Records’ webstore. Furthemrore, if you buy Cast of Static and Smoke you’re not just buying over 40 minutes of high-quality extreme music, but the physical copy is also accompanied by a 16-page booklet that includes lyrics, credits, the full story itself (which you can read HERE), and an audio recording of the entire story scored by Vile Creature for those who have a hard time reading small print or just want another way to experience it. Having said that, don’t waste your time and go show your support to Vile Creature by visiting their Facebook page and buying their new album, and consequently immersing yourself in the bitter and melancholic post-apocalyptic reality proposed by this persevering Canadian duo.

Best moments of the album: Circuits, Bending & Breaking.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Halo of Flies

Track listing  
1. Water, Tinted Gold & Tainted Copper 10:20
2. Circuits, Bending & Breaking 9:16
3. Forest, Subsists as a Tomb 13:36
4. Sky, in Descending Pieces 8:52

Band member
Vic – drums, vocals
KW – guitar, vocals, percussion

Guest musicians
Chris Colohan – vocals on “Water, Tinted Gold & Tainted Copper”
James Claypool – guitar on “Forest, Subsists as a Tomb”
Erin Severson – the narrator on “Water, Tinted Gold & Tainted Copper”, “Forest, Subsists as a Tomb” and “Sky, in Descending Pieces”
George Zhen – piano

Album Review – At Dawn’s Edge / Through Glass Eyes (2017)

An excellent debut album by a Canadian trinity that loves to experiment with several aspects from distinct music styles, incorporating all those nuances and vibes into their core Melodic Metal.

Hailing from Mississauga, a city of around 800,000 people that’s part of the culturally diverse Greater Toronto Area in Ontario, Canada, here comes Melodic Metal trinity At Dawn’s Edge, a band that, albeit being rooted in the more aggressive qualities of metal, especially the core elements found in Melodic, Symphonic and Groove Metal, loves to explore new grounds and experiment with several aspects from distinct styles such as Flamenco, Electronic and Middle-Eastern sounds, incorporating all those nuances and vibes into one cohesive piece of music. That amalgamation of metal and non-metal genres culminated now in 2017 with the release of their debut full-length album, entitled Through Glass Eyes, highly recommended for fans of the music by bands like Epica, Evanescence and Nightwish, among many others.

The trio comprised of newcomer Tamara Filipovic as the band’s frontwoman and founding members Alexandru Oprea and Matt Ozzy on guitars were joined in Through Glass Eyes by a respectful group of guest musicians, with Spencer Creaghan taking care of the orchestral arrangements found throughout the entire album, Chris McConnell making a passionate vocal duo with Tamara on “Amorina”, and James Hayes adding an extra touch of delicacy to the songs “Cálida Brisa”, “Utter” and “Forgotten Isle” with his incredible violin solos, not to mention the talented drummer Marcus Sisk, who has been supporting the band during their live performances. In addition, three tracks in Through Glass Eyes (those being “Venus’s Rapture,” “Utter” and “From the Ashes”) were part of the band’s 2015 EP named First Contact, still with vocalist Ashavari Anna Joshi, but completely re-recorded with Tamara on vocals and boosted by a sharper and more thunderous production.

Where Do I Begin? Well, that’s the question proposed by the band in this instrumental intro led by potent bass sounds blended with electronic elements, building the stage for the groovy and melodic riffs by Alex and Matt in If Ghosts Were Men, with Tamara bringing epicness to the music with her mesmerizing voice, inviting the listener to the world of passion, adventure and high-end Heavy Metal brought forth by At Dawn’s Edge. In Sightless, rumbling sounds keep flowing from guitars and bass while Tamara keeps thriving on vocals, with the song’s pounding drums fusing perfectly with all orchestrations and electronic vibes. Moreover, it’s quite impressive how At Dawn’s Edge can sound extremely metallic but also commercially approachable at the same time, which is also the case in Venus’s Rapture, where the band speeds up their pace considerably, reminding me of the melodic sonority by Epica and Nightwish but presenting the band’s own twist and groove. In other words, this is a perfect choice for their live setlists, setting the crowd on fire with the exciting contrast between Alex and Matt’s slashing riffs with Tamara’s gentle voice.

Dangerous Excuses brings a hybrid of Progressive and Melodic Metal, as if Epica went Dream Theater, a more traditional approach to modern music by At Dawn’s Edge (despite losing its grip after a while) where guitars and orchestral elements take turns in leading the musicality; followed by Cálida Brisa (Interlude), an interesting instrumental bridge featuring elements from Mother Nature blended with hints of Flamenco, topped off with a beautiful violin solo by James, and Amorina, a song that presents elements from Folk Metal blended with Middle-Eastern nuances, flowing smoothly form start to finish while Tamara and Chris have their “beauty and the beast” moments. Then showcasing their most metallic vein we have Nightmare Reality, one of the heaviest and most intricate of all songs, bringing elements from Alternative Metal the likes of Evanescence fused together with the more symphonic sounds from Epica, with the strings by both Alex and Matt sounding sharper than ever.

Utter is another elegant display of modern and vibrant Symphonic Metal infused with hints of several other metal and non-metal styles as well as some orchestrations, also offering more of the band’s solid guitar solos and again featuring a classy violin solo by James, whereas in From The Ashes we’re treated to an epic vibe with tons of modernity and progressiveness thanks to the amazing job done by Matt and Alex on guitars, setting the tone for Tamara to steal the spotlight with her stunning vocals once again. And there’s still a lot more to go in Through Glass Eyes, starting with Evil Flamingo, one of the darkest compositions of the album where Tamara sets fire to the musicality with her powerful performance, enhanced by the crisp solos by Matt and Alex and a puissant wall of sounds created by both bass and drums. In Forgotten Isle, James’ violin strikes again in another feast of symphonic, progressive and groovy tones and reverberations, before the bonus track Dead Ashore We Lay concludes the album by offering the listener almost 9 minutes of the band’s sophisticated music, exhaling inventiveness, romance and electricity.

In a nutshell, as previously mentioned it’s simply amazing how At Dawn’s Edge were capable of drawing influences from so many distinct types of music, putting all of them together and creating fresh and captivating metal in Through Glass Eyes without sounding cheesy, convoluted or over the top. Hence, you can get more details on the band, their music and why and how their creative process works so well by following them on Facebook, listening to their music on YouTube and on Spotify, and obviously by purchasing Through Glass Eyes through their BandCamp page, on iTunes or on Amazon. I believe the band’s next steps will be to spread their music all over the world, touring as much as possible not only in the Greater Toronto Area but also in the rest of Canada, in the US and even overseas, and Through Glass Eyes is certainly the right type of fuel they need to reach all those places and succeed in their career, having what it takes to please all types of fans of heavy music.

Best moments of the album: If Ghosts Were Men, Venus’s Rapture, Nightmare Reality and Evil Flamingo.

Worst moments of the album: Dangerous Excuses.

Released in 2017 Independent

Track listing
1. Where Do I Begin? (Intro) 0:51
2. If Ghosts Were Men 4:43
3. Sightless 3:36
4. Venus’s Rapture 3:35
5. Dangerous Excuses 6:17
6. Cálida Brisa (Interlude) 2:37
7. Amorina 4:17
8. Nightmare Reality 3:51
9. Utter 5:55
10. From The Ashes 6:25
11. Evil Flamingo 5:13
12. Forgotten Isle 6:25

Bonus track
13. Dead Ashore We Lay 8:49

Band members
Tamara Filipovic – vocals
Alexandru Oprea – guitars
Matt Ozzy – guitars

Guest musicians
Spencer Creaghan – orchestral arrangements
Chris McConnell – male vocals on “Amorina”
James Hayes – violin solo on “Cálida Brisa”, “Utter” and “Forgotten Isle”
Marcus Sisk – drums (live)