Concert Review – Megadeth & Scorpions (Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON, 09/22/2017)

The city of Toronto was beautifully taken by storm by two of the greatest bands in the history of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock on the last day of the summer, and the result was absolutely fantastic.

OPENING ACT: Megadeth

When this Crazy World Tour 2017 was announced a few months ago, I instantly thought about how amazing it would be to witness on the same night two of the greatest bands in the history of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock playing some of their biggest classics (as well as a few newer songs) at what’s in my humble opinion one of the best and most pleasant venues in the world to watch any type of concert (and I’ve been to several different ones in distinct parts of the world), the Torontonian amphitheater now known as Budweiser Stage. Well, it was even better than anyone could have expected, with the combination of two bands full of energy and excited to please the crowd, thousands of fans eager for some rockin’ music, and a weather that, for the very last day of summer, was beyond perfect, making the whole night truly memorable.

As the opening act, or maybe I should call them co-headliners as they’re not your average band, we had the absolute pleasure of enjoying American Thrash/Speed Metal heroes MEGADETH. Spearheaded by the unstoppable Mr. Dave Mustaine, Megadeth were still promoting their latest installment, the excellent Dystopia, released last year, but only one song from the album (its title-track) was played during the show. The setlist was pretty much a selection of their biggest hits with a huge focus on their 1990 masterpiece Rust In Piece, kicking off the concert with the blazing Hangar 18, and also featuring from that classic album the hits Take No Prisoners, Tornado of Souls (my favorite of the show) and, closing their performance, a song that needs no introduction, Holy Wars… The Punishment Due.

And obviously “Megadave” and his henchmen David Ellefson, Kiko Loureiro (who proved to be the guitarist Mustaine needed by his side) and Dirk Verbeuren played every song to perfection, with the background screen complementing the music in a fun and exciting manner. For instance, the Nascar images used as a background for Mechanix and the official video for Dystopia (another fantastic moment of the show) played while the band executed the song were spot-on to keep the fans mesmerized and in total sync with the band. In addition, everyone at the venue singing the power ballad A Tout Le Monde guided by Mustaine was just beautiful, and the smile on his face after that moment was awesome. Now, as usual, let’s patiently wait until we can see such distinct band performing live again in our beautiful Toronto.

Setlist
Prince of Darkness
Hangar 18
Mechanix
Take No Prisoners
Sweating Bullets
A Tout Le Monde
Tornado of Souls
Dystopia
Symphony of Destruction
Peace Sells

Encore:
Holy Wars… The Punishment Due

Band members
Dave Mustaine – lead vocals, lead guitars, rhythm guitars
Kiko Loureiro – lead guitars, rhythm guitars, backing vocals
David Ellefson – bass guitar, backing vocals
Dirk Verbeuren – drums

SCORPIONS

If the venue wasn’t fully packed during Megadeth’s kick-ass performance, things changed considerably a few minutes before German Hard Rock institution SCORPIONS hit the stage with their flawless setlist, but before the concert started I had the pleasure of exchanging a few words with other fans close to where I was (which was right in front of the stage), in special one father with his 13-year old son. The name of the boy is T Bone Bentley, he’s a very talented drummer who loves metal and rock, and you can check him smashing his drums on his official YouTube channel (together with his dad), playing songs like Iron Maiden’s all-time classic “Run to the Hills” and Judas Priest’s metal anthem “Breaking the Law”. When I see little fellas like T Bone and their passion for heavy music, my hope for a better future for mankind gets renovated, so don’t waste your time and go check his YouTube videos. They’re surely going to make your day a lot better.

Back to the concert, it was around 8:30pm when the iconic vocalist Klaus Meine, the flammable guitarists Matthias Jabs and Rudolf Schenker, the talented bassist Paweł Mąciwoda and the one and only drummer Mikkey Dee hit the stage with an avalanche of Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll hits, starting with a fantastic song from their 2015 album Return to Forever, the rockin’ Going Out With a Bang, already showing the night was going to be insanely fun. Let’s say that the first part of the show worked more like a “warm-up”, with the band jamming and rocking nonstop, generating a very good vibe and showing why they’re still alive and kicking after so many decades on the road. That first segment of the show had as its highlights the classic The Zoo, the fairly new but amazing We Built This House, and from their mini-acoustic set (including a weird but useful drum kit by Mikkey) I would say the touching ballad Send Me an Angel definitely stole the spotlight.

After that, Mr. Klaus Meine simply introduced one of the band’s biggest and most beautiful classics, Wind of Change, obviously hypnotizing all of us with the song’s renowned whistling, followed by another sensational new song titled Rock ‘n’ Roll Band and their awesome tribute to the most badass rocker that this world will ever see, Lemmy Kilmister, playing a cover version of Motörhead’s hit Overkill. Right after that, Mikkey offered us all an amazing drum solo (which put the little T Bone into a state of pure ecstasy), while the rest of the band was getting ready for a flawless Hard Rock attack comprised of nothing more, nothing less than Blackout, Big City Nights, No One Like You, Still Loving You (what a lovely moment of the show!) and Rock You Like a Hurricane. What else can you ask for, right?

Before this review of the show is over, I just wanted to mention two things that truly caught my attention during the concert, one in a very positive way, while the other was quite sad.  First, I was completely impressed with the fact that Mr. Rudolf Schenker is almost 70 years old and he keeps running frantically around the stage, screaming and interacting with the fans, and playing his guitar as if he was in his early 30’s. That was plain awesome, and definitely an inspiration for me and lots of other fans on how you can get old but remain young at heart, enjoying life until the end (just like Lemmy did, by the way). On the other hand, while Mr. Schenker was a role model to all of us, there were a few spoiled bi… I mean, girls, that thought that just because they’re (still) young and pretty they can do whatever they want, including being rude, disrespectful and annoying to anyone around them. One of them was so disrespectful to a guy next to me, elbowing him and pretending he was harassing her, to the point everyone close to that scene even stooped enjoying the concert for a few moments until security finally (and fortunately) took that stupid Barbie doll away. I hope when she gets old, and she will, she learns how to be a better person and how to respect other people. Well, Little T Bone is only 13 and he already knows how to behave in a rock and metal concert, as well as other kids that attended the show with their parents. It’s just a matter of learning what true respect is at home, right? And I hope that next time Scorpions take Toronto by storm with another faultless performance like that, that irksome girl is somewhere else, like at a Justin Bieber concert. Let the real bands for the real fans, lady.

Setlist
Intro
Going Out With a Bang
Make It Real
The Zoo
Coast to Coast
Top of the Bill / Steamrock Fever / Speedy’s Coming / Catch Your Train
We Built This House
Delicate Dance (with Ingo Powitzer)
Always Somewhere / Eye of the Storm / Send Me an Angel
Wind of Change
Rock ‘n’ Roll Band
Overkill (Motörhead cover)
Drum Solo
Blackout
Big City Nights

Encore:
No One Like You
Still Loving You
Rock You Like a Hurricane

Band members
Klaus Meine – lead vocals
Matthias Jabs – lead guitars, rhythm guitars, acoustic guitars
Rudolf Schenker – rhythm guitars, lead guitars, backing vocals
Paweł Mąciwoda – bass guitar
Mikkey Dee – drums

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Album Review – Eths / Ankaa (2016)

One of the most prominent and innovative French bands of all time returns with a true masterpiece of complexity, darkness and heaviness, shining brighter than the main star of the Phoenix constellation.

Rating2

CoverThere’s a thin line between change and evolution several bands worldwide can’t or simply just don’t know how to walk without losing their balance and, consequently, damaging their core essence. Fortunately, this is not the case with French Neo-Metal adventurers Eths, who in my humble opinion have just released their boldest and most innovative album to date, the splendid Ankaa, but still being the Eths we all learned to love. Although I had been preparing myself for quite a while for another blast of creativity by Mr. Staif Bihl and his bandmates, I must say I was blown away by the level of intricacy, darkness and heaviness found throughout the entire album. This beautiful work-of-art crafted by this distinguished group hailing from the city of Marseille, France is the perfect depiction of what evolution in music is all about, and it will surely help spread the electricity and emotions flowing from the music by Eths to the entire world.

Ankaa, which features a unique selection of guest musicians such as Björn “Speed” Strid (Soilwork), Sarah Layssac (Arkan), Jon Howard (Threat Signal), Faustine Berardo and session drummer Dirk Verbeuren (Soilwork), not to mention it is also Eths’ first full-length album with the stunning Rachel Aspe on vocals, shines brighter than the main star of the Phoenix constellation, which by the way was the inspiration for the album name. “This album is linked to the cosmos and the concept of rebirth for the band as well as personally”, said Staif, and that’s indeed what you’ll experience while listening to each one of its twelve jaw-dropping multi-layered songs, all beautifully and meticulously connected to tell a bigger story to the listener. Again, Eths might have changed their musicality in Ankaa considerably, but it was a change towards evolution that no one in their right mind should ever complain about.

One of the best compositions in the history of Eths, entitled Nefas (the Latin word for “atrocity” or “wrong”), kicks off Ankaa in a very impactful way, being insanely heavier, faster and darker than anything the band has ever done before. It’s a feast of Metalcore, Melodic Death Metal, Alternative Metal and many other subgenres of heavy music perfectly put together, and pay good attention to what our screaming diva Rachel does with her “voix incroyable”, it sounds beyond astonishing. Nihil Sine Causa (or “nothing happens without a cause”, from Latin), featuring Sarah Layssac and Jon Howard, is yet another obscure and thunderous composition where the band’s mastermind Staif showcases his always solid guitar lines, with the addition of the Arabic words by Sarah as well as the electronic effects during the song’s second half bringing a fresh taste to the music. And in Amaterasu, part of the Japanese myth cycle seen as the goddess of the Sun and the Universe, Dirk (who sounds like a beast behind his drums) makes a great duo with newcomer Damien Rivoal and his low-tuned and heavy as hell bass lines. Moreover, it’s impossible not to love this brutal Groove Metal aria, and I don’t recall coming across such a powerful triumvirate of songs like these starting an album in recent years.

eths 2016All the craziness, occultism and darkness found in Ankaa keep growing with each and every song, and in Seditio (or “rebellion”, from Latin) that couldn’t be any different. It amuses me how Rachel can sound like a beauty and a beast at the same time, showcasing all her vocal skills and contributing to the song being heavier than usual but still innovative and progressive, just like we expect from such a talented group of musicians. Then we have the startling Nixi Dii, a general term applied by the Romans to those divinities who were believed to assist women at the time when they were giving birth to a child, where its eerie background effects, demonic drumming, choir-like backing vocals and lots of breaks and variations, together with Rachel growling like an evil queen, are all the ingredients you need for awesomeness. In other words, it offers you eight minutes of the best modern metal music you can find in the entire world. And just when you think things couldn’t get more alternative we’re treated to Vae Victis (Latin for “woe to the vanquished”), with Staif providing an amazing piano base for Rachel to shine once again, this time with a mix of clean vocals and visceral growls. As a side note, the production of the album is so brilliant you can clearly hear every single note coming out of each instrument, enhancing the overall experience even more.

The next song, named HAR1 (the acronym for human accelerated region 1, a short DNA region identified recently to have evolved the most rapidly among highly constrained regions since the divergence from our common ancestor with chimpanzee) and featuring Björn “Speed” Strid, gets closer to traditional Melodic Death Metal thanks to the contribution of Björn, but of course with Eths’ own touch added to it; while in Sekhet Aaru, the Egyptian reed fields considered the heavenly paradise where Osiris rules in ancient Egyptian mythology, your soul will be transported to those fields in a flawless fusion of alternative and occult music. Sarah is back with her gorgeous voice as a guest vocalist in Kumari Kandam, which refers to a hypothetical lost continent with an ancient Tamil civilization (located south of present-day India, in the Indian Ocean), perhaps the closest song to Eths’ old musicality with Damien and Dirk providing all the uproar while Rachel takes care of the song’s tranquility, sorrow and anguish.

eths-ankaa-digibox

Ankaa Deluxe Digibox

Last but not least, Eths bring forward a spine-tingling trilogy inspired by the Orion constellation, accurately representing the idea of rebirth. The first piece of this trilogy is named Alnitak, a multiple star (also known as “Zeta Orionis”) that’s part of the famous Orion’s Belt, which Staif effectively translated into an epic and vibrant chant overflowing his deepest emotions. The second piece, entitled Alnilam, a large blue supergiant star also known as “Epsilon Orionis” estimated to be 275,000 to 537,000 times as luminous as the Sun and around 34 times as massive, is an extremely powerful and aggressive tune led by a relentless Rachel, with Dirk yet again pounding his drums mercilessly. And finally, the climatic end to this trilogy comes in the form of another violent chant with esoteric passages and a pleasant ambience named Mintaka, from منطقة (“manṭaqa”), which means “the belt” in Arabic.

As aforementioned, calling Ankaa simply as a “change” in the music direction by Eths is an understatement of the actual evolution Staif, Rachel and the others reached with their musicality, as well as of the brilliant destiny that lies ahead for them. Ankaa is not just another regular metal album, and I’m sure it will shortly become a reference in contemporary heavy music. Thus, if you want to join Eths in this exciting path they are taking towards the future of Heavy Metal, I suggest you go grab your copy of Ankaa (which can be listened to in its entirety HERE), in special its top-notch deluxe digibox including a CD and an exclusive DVD “Live at Hellfest 2015” in digisleeve with a 24 page booklet, an Eths metal key ring and a pyramid folding card, at the Season Of Mist webshop or at the Napalm Records webshop. After listening to such a masterpiece like Ankaa, you will quickly realize it is no wonder Eths are considered by many the most prominent and innovative French band of all time.

Best moments of the album: Nefas, Nihil Sine Causa, Amaterasu, Nixi Dii and, from the Orion-inspired trilogy, I would say Alnilam is the most entertaining composition.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Season Of Mist

Track listing
1. Nefas 3:50
2. Nihil Sine Causa (feat. Sarah Layssac and Jon Howard) 4:53
3. Amaterasu 3:57
4. Seditio 6:36
5. Nixi Dii 7:58
6. Vae Victis 5:05
7. HAR1 (feat. Björn “Speed” Strid) 4:04
8. Sekhet Aaru 4:09
9. Kumari Kandam (feat. Sarah Layssac and Faustine Berardo) 4:15
10. Alnitak 4:04
11. Alnilam 3:40
12. Mintaka 5:07

Band members
Rachel Aspe – lead vocals
Staif Bihl – guitars, keyboards, programming, vocals
Damien Rivoal – bass
R.U.L. – drums (live)

Guest musicians
Dirk Verbeuren – drums (studio recording)
Sarah Layssac – additional vocals on “Nihil Sine Causa” and “Kumari Kandam”
Jon Howard – additional vocals on “Nihil Sine Causa”
Björn “Speed” Strid – additional vocals on “HAR1”
Faustine Berardo – additional vocals on “Kumari Kandam”