Concert Review – Striker & Unleash The Archers (The Velvet Underground, Toronto, ON, 10/01/2018)

Do you want to know how to easily brave a cold and rainy Monday in Toronto? Striker and Unleash The Archers had the perfect recipe for that last night when they took our beloved city by storm.

OPENING ACT: Lutharö

Not only last night in Toronto was cold and rainy, but it was also a Monday, the day of the week all of us usually feel like doing absolutely nothing. However, when that same Monday offers us a night of pure Canadian Metal with the amazing bands Lutharö, Striker and Unleash The Archers at the small and very cozy The Velvet Underground, why not facing that shitty weather (I know it could have been a lot worse like what they’re having in Calgary now, but it’s still shitty) to meet some friends, enjoy a few beers and bang our fuckin’ heads to the best metal music you’ll find in the entire country? That, my friends, is the recipe for a packed (and hot) concert on what was supposed to be another boring Monday night, as simple as that.

Photos by Aline Cavalheiro – https://www.instagram.com/aline.cavalheiro81/

The first band of the night was Hamilton-based female-fronted squad LUTHARÖ, playing an extremely fun, crisp and pleasant fusion of 80’s Heavy Metal with modern-day Melodic Death Metal the likes of The Agonist and Arch Enemy. Spearheaded by the talented she-wolf Krista Shipperbottom, whose vocal style, hair and looks remind me of The Agonist’s stunning frontwoman Vicky Psarakis, the band delivered a solid performance for the fans at the venue who probably had zero knowledge of the band before the concert. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the names of all songs they played last night, but I do remember the names of my two favorite ones, I of the Axe and their newborn tune Unleash the Beast, and in both cases all band members kicked some serious ass. Having said that, don’t waste your time and go check their music out on YouTube and on BandCamp, and keep an eye on their Facebook page for news and tour dates, because you never know when Krista and her henchmen will mercilessly attack your hometown.

Band members
Krista Shipperbottom – lead vocals
Victor Bucur – lead guitars, backing vocals
John Raposo – guitar
Ruslan Lypovsky – bass
Cory Hofing – drums 

STRIKER

Photos by Aline Cavalheiro – https://www.instagram.com/aline.cavalheiro81/

After a short break, where fans either went to the washroom, got another beer or checked out the merch from the bands, it was time for my favorite Canadian band of the past decade to show everyone at the venue that Canada is indeed a land of first-class Heavy Metal. When award-winning Edmonto-based act STRIKER hit the stage, we all knew it was going to be a heavy, melodic and utterly entertaining performance, kicking things off with the opening track from their 2016 album Stand in the Fire, the electrifying Phoenix Lights, followed by two of my favorite tracks from their latest albums, Born to Lose, from their 2017 self-titled masterpiece Striker, and Heart of Lies, from their brand new opus Play To Win (to be officially released later this month). Needless to say, after such action-packed start, the game was already won by Striker.

And the quintet comprised of frontman Dan Cleary (what a voice, ladies and gentlemen!), guitarists Tim Brown and Chris Segger, bassist William Wallace and drummer Adam Brown kept blasting their fusion of old school Heavy Metal and Hard rock with contemporary Power Metal without giving a single second for us to breathe, impressing us all with their level of energy, professionalism and passion for what they do, with incendiary songs like Former Glory and Pass Me By (both from their 2017 self-titled album), and especially the high-octane Full Speed or No Speed (from their 2010 album Eyes in the Night) and the metal hymn Fight for Your Life (from their 2012 album Armed to the Teeth), representing to perfection what the music by Striker is all about. At a given moment of the show, when Dan was introducing us to the next song to be played (I don’t remember which one he was talking about, but it was of course amazing), he asked the crowd if there were any fans in the house of the music by metal giants like Iron Maiden, Saxon, and Anvil, complementing his joke by saying they were not going to play any of that, but “some old school Striker shit”. Well, who said we were expecting them to play any cover songs? When the band in question is a fantastic one like Striker, we want to listen to their own songs, and I can’t wait to do that again when they return to Toronto in a not-so-distant future.

Setlist
Phoenix Lights
Born to Lose
Heart of Lies
Lethal Force
Crossroads
Former Glory
Too Late
Out for Blood
Pass Me By
Locked In
Full Speed or No Speed
The White Knight
Fight for Your Life

Band members
Dan Cleary – lead vocals
Tim Brown – lead and rhythm guitar
Chris Segger – lead and rhythm guitar
William Wallace – bass
Adam Brown – drums

UNLEASH THE ARCHERS

Photos by Aline Cavalheiro – https://www.instagram.com/aline.cavalheiro81/

I was so entertained and electrified by the concert by Striker that I completely lost track of time, not knowing exactly what time their concert ended and what time the main attraction of the night, the unstoppable Vancouver-based metal warriors known as UNLEASH THE ARCHERS, hit the stage at The Velvet Underground. And keep in mind it was a Monday night, which means most people would be checking their watches all the time counting every minute to go home. Just like Striker delivered a flawless performance, the band led by the warrior princess Brittney Slayes was absolutely on fire on stage from start to finish, inspiring the fans to ignite some mosh pits (all pretty good except for a silly moron with a moustache that was either too drunk, too high or way too stupid to respect everyone else, to the point Brittney had to call his attention to stop acting like a jerk), to do some crowd surfing, to raise our fists in the air and to sing along every single song with them.

Still promoting their 2017 opus Apex, the quintet formed by the skillful, humble and sympathetic Brittney Slayes on vocals (sending hearts with her hands to the fans during the entire show), Grant Truesdell on the guitar, Andrew Kingsley on the  guitar and harsh growls, newcomer Nick Miller on bass and Scott Buchanan on drums returned to the city after three long years, proving how hard it is to travel and tour inside Canada, but that excruciating wait was definitely worth it. Firing the most awesome songs from Apex such as Awakening, The Matriarch and Cleanse the Bloodlines, mixed with battle hymns from their previous albums like Time Stands Still, Tonight We Ride and my favorite of all, Test Your Metal, from their 2015 opus Time Stands Still, Unleash The Archers fully captivated our senses during their whole concert, also showing their awe for the amount of fans that gathered at the venue on a rainy Monday night (and yes, I have to repeat that again) to celebrate metal with them (and to sing A-Ha’s Take On Me which was coming out of the speakers after all was said and done).

Today is Tuesday, most of us might have been really tired the entire day and probably bored at work (as Brittney herself said, fuck work!), but happy to have witnessed a true feast of the best Heavy Metal made in Canada you can think of. As already mentioned, let’s hope none of the bands take too long to return to the city, and that they play at a bigger venue so that a lot more metal maniacs from Toronto and from other parts of the province are able to enjoy the lesson in heavy music given by such distinct bands, even if they play on a snowy Monday night in the middle of the winter, with chilling temperatures and bitterly cold winds. Do you think you have what it takes to ride with Striker and Unleash The Archers under such adverse conditions? If you love metal music as much as I do, I’m sure you’ll be there with us.

Setlist
Intro
Awakening
The Matriarch
Cleanse the Bloodlines
Test Your Metal
Dreamcrusher
Time Stands Still
General of the Dark Army
Tonight We Ride

Encore:
Apex

Band members
Brittney Slayes – vocals
Grant Truesdell – guitar
Andrew Kingsley –  guitar, harsh growls
Nick Miller – bass
Scott Buchanan – drums

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Album Review – Van Canto / Dawn of the Brave (2014)

This a capella Power Metal band from Germany proves why the human voice is the most powerful music instrument of all.

Rating5

vancanto_dotbWhen German Power Metal band Van Canto presented their a capella Heavy Metal to the world for the first time back in 2006, especially their cover version for Metallica’s Battery, I thought it was a fantastic and unique idea, but I wasn’t sure if that project was going to make it through the years. As we all know, the absence of music instruments implies many limitations to the sound a band can produce. However, here we are many years later with Van Canto’s brand new studio album, named Dawn of the Brave, the fifth in their career and another prove that the human voice is much more powerful and versatile than we think.

There’s nothing new when comparing Dawn of the Brave with their previous albums, but it’s still a lot of fun to listen to their own compositions, as well as their always much-anticipated versions for different classics from all types of artists and bands.

The intro Dawn of the Brave sounds like they’re just warming up their voices for what’s about to come, and it’s already a good sign of the overall quality of the album. One thing I really enjoy about Van Canto is their “made for battle” lyrics, mainly because they don’t let us forget that despite the absence of real guitars, they’re still a Power Metal band, and that’s exactly what happens in the heroic song Fight for Your Live, which could have easily been recorded by Manowar (“We are at your side / Day by day, and night by night / Fill your soul with pride / Reminding you to fight for your life / Fight!”). It’s one of the top moments of the album, with a great performance by all members.

To the Mountains focuses on Inga’s powerful voice, with a more melodic approach that sometimes reminds me of Within Temptation or Epica, and it will surely sound amazing when played live, while it’s impossible not to sing along with Badaboom, the first single of the album, with its strong rhythm and addictive chorus. The following track is the first cover version in Dawn of the Brave: thousands of bands have already recorded a cover version for Europe’s biggest classic of all time, The Final Countdown, but I’m pretty sure none was able to do it a capella as Van Canto, and believe me, the result is marvelous.

Dawn of the Brave goes on with Steel Breaker, an average Hard Rock song not as interesting as the previous tracks, and The Awakening, a faster and more melodic track that will surely be enjoyed by the fans of the band. Then come The Other Ones with its powerful atmosphere and strong lyrics, and the second cover song of the album, Holding Out for a Hero from Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler, another excellent heavy version for a song that’s not Heavy Metal at all.

vancantoTheir last two own compositions in the album are called Unholy, a song with good lyrics and a nice rhythm, and the sensational My Utopia, which sounds like a mix of Stratovarius and Iced Earth (without the real shredding, of course). And finally, the album ends with two excellent cover songs: Into the West, an Annie Lennox cover taken from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King soundtrack (which in my opinion is one of the best soundtracks ever), and the one and only  Paranoid, from Heavy Metal icons Black Sabbath, with Ross taking the lead on vocals. The limited mediabook edition includes interesting orchestral, acoustic and other versions for some of their own songs, while the earbook edition comes also with a bonus DVD containing some of their own songs and awesome versions for all-time classics from Nightwish, Grave Digger, Blind Guardian, Manowar and Iron Maiden.

Alright, they’re not 100% a capella: they use a full real drum kit, played by the good Bastian Emig, but that doesn’t make the final result less impressive. Sly and the beautiful brunette Inga do an amazing job on vocals, but it’s the sound of guitars and bass produced by the trio of Ross, Stefan and Ike that gives Van Canto that “it” factor, in other words, that makes them so unique when compared to all other Power Metal bands in the world. I still can’t believe those guys are able to do those fantastic guitar solos just by using their voices!

In summary, Dawn of the Brave is a very creative album that everybody who enjoys some good singing should listen to and appreciate. The band surely proves to us all that no music instrument in the world can be compared to the human voice, which is the idea of the album art, don’t you agree? It’s an instrument so powerful it can even turn calm and smooth a capella music into pure Power Metal.

Best moments of the album: Fight for Your Life, Badaboom and My Utopia. Among the cover songs, the best ones are definitely The Final Countdown and Paranoid.

Worst moments of the album: Steel Breaker and Unholy.

Released in 2014 Century Media

Track listing
1. Dawn of the Brave 1:08
2. Fight for Your Live 3:59
3. To the Mountains 4:05
4. Badaboom 3:31
5. The Final Countdown (Europe cover) 4:55
6. Steel Breaker 3:40
7. The Awakening 4:13
8. The Other Ones 4:18
9. Holding Out for a Hero (Bonnie Tyler cover) 3:51
10. Unholy 3:28
11. My Utopia 5:13
12. Into the West (Annie Lennox cover) 4:25
13. Paranoid (Black Sabbath cover) 3:04

Limited Mediabook Edition bonus tracks              
1. If I Die in Battle (Orchestral Version) 4:45
2. My Voice (Orchestral Version) 5:29
3. Take to the Sky (Orchestral Version) 4:24
4. Neuer Wind (Jovian Spin Remix) 3:48
5. Lost Forever (Acoustic Version) 5:01
6. Last Night of the Kings (Choir Version)  4:11

Band members
Dennis “Sly” Schunke – lead vocals
Inga Scharf – lead vocals
Ross Thompson – higher guitar vocals
Stefan Schmidt – lower guitar vocals, solo guitar vocals
Ingo “Ike” Sterzinger – bass vocals
Bastian Emig – drums