Album Review – Ancesttral / Web Of Lies (2016)

A top of the line Thrash Metal album by a passionate and all fired up quartet that wants to show the entire world Brazil has a lot more to offer than just samba and MPB.

ancesttral_frontcoverWhen my good friend Jorge Diaz, host of the awesome Brazilian radio show Timão Metal, asked me if I wanted to write a review for Web Of Lies, the brand new album by Brazilian Thrash/Heavy Metal band Ancesttral, I obviously accepted the task right away. First and foremost, it’s always a pleasure to show the world that “terra brasilis” has a lot more to offer than just samba and MPB in regards to music. Furthermore, Jorge brought to my attention that two members of Ancesttral are huge supporters of our favorite soccer team (and obviously the team that inspired the creation of Timão Metal), the almighty Sport Club Corinthians Paulista. And do you want to know how Web Of Lies sounds? Well, let me tell you it’s goddamn good, just like scoring a beautiful and pivotal goal against your worst archenemies in a decisive soccer match.

Formed in 2003 in the city of São Paulo, Brazil, Ancesttral have been on an exciting upward spiral of success since the band’s inception, having already released an EP named Helleluiah in 2005, their debut full-length album The Famous Unknown in 2007, and more recently another EP entitled Bloodshed and Violence in 2012. Now in Web Of Lies not only the band’s old school influences the likes of Metallica, Anthrax, Pantera, Slayer and Testament continue to shine in their music, but there’s also the addition of modern elements from artists such as Godsmack, Disturbed and Rob Zombie, contributing to a fresher sounding while remaining loyal to our good old Thrash Metal, their biggest passion in life (together with Corinthians, of course).

There’s a lot of electricity flowing from the very first second in the opening track, the fantastic What Will You Do?, which sounds like an awesome fusion of Fight, Metallica and Anthrax. Even before lead singer and guitarist Alexandre Grunheidt (who’s by the way absolutely nuts for Corinthians) joins the music with his blazing vocals, lead guitarist Leonardo Brito already fires a flammable mini-solo as the band’s welcome card, leading up to a difficult question: can it get any better than this? The solid and sharp headbanging composition Massacre, inspired by the Carandiru massacre, one of the most hideous slaughters in Brazil’s history, answers that question with its endless aggressiveness and dark lyrics (enhanced by an enfuriated Alexandre on vocal), sounding like a hybrid between some of the classics by Fight and the heaviest tunes by Disturbed; followed by Threat to Society, more modern than the two previous tracks due to the additional elements from bands such as Godsmack and System Of A Down. Furthermore, drummer Denis Grunheidt blasts groovier-than-usual beats, providing the perfect atmosphere for Alexandre and Leonardo to bring forth also more contemporary riffs and solos.

Megadeth-like riffs by Leonardo and more tuneful growls by Alexandre are the main ingredients in the well-crafted chant (and a good choice for their live performances) named You Should Be Dead, where its backing vocals are very effective in increasing the song’s impact on the listener, whereas in the excellent Fight a somber intro led by the obscure bass sounding by Renato Canonico suddenly becomes a merciless neck-breaking tune, presenting elements from old school Thrash Metal as well as from Alternative Metal. Not only that, albeit the vocal lines get more melodious (and consequently less violent), Ancesttral do not give up their usual brutality, being driven in this case by their heavier than hell riffs. And in Nice Day to Die, a Speed Metal composition with hints of Alternative and Nu Metal, the band definitely puts the pedal to the metal in terms of pugnacity, in special the demented vocals by Alexandre (and all backing vocals as well) and the frantic drumming by Denis.

After such amazing devastation, it’s time to slow things down in Pathetic Little Liars, focusing on a darker sounding, something that could have been recorded by Metallica in any of their albums after the 90’s (except of course for the horrendous St. Anger). The only minor issue with this song is that, in my opinion, nothing changes in its four minutes, being quite repetitive after a while. Also groovy and as heavy as hell, Subhuman is another high-quality composition with highlights to the burning riffs and solos by Leonardo, its nonstop beats and an awesome Rob Zombie-inspired performance by Alexandre, all translating into modernized metal music tailored for old school metallers.

ancesttral_2016Then we have one of the most thrilling songs of the album, the title-track Web of Lies, another awesome tune where hints of the sonority by Disturbed become manifest one more time, showcasing how much Ancesttral looks into the future when composing their material, and despite being less thrashy than their customary sounding it’s still awesomely vibrant and resonant. Before the wondrous sonic extravaganza in Web Of Lies is over, Ancesttral show us what happens when Pantera meet Anthrax in the deranged Fire, where metallic riffs build the necessary ambience for Alexandre to spit fire through his incandescent vocals. In addition to that, I bet you’ll start screaming “FIRE!” together with the band while slamming into the pit to the sound of this belligerent tune, and that says it all when the music in question is Thrash Metal. As a bonus, What Will You Do? returns with the same punch as its original version, but this time with a special alternate solo by guest guitarist Rodrigo Flausino, concluding the album almost exactly like it started, which is evidently on a very high note.

The guys from Ancesttral are true workhorses, having invested a shitload of money, time and energy into the making of the album, and playing exhaustively everywhere in Brazil where first-class Heavy Metal is demanded. For instance, take a look at their outstanding performance at Manifesto Rock Bar, in São Paulo, on August 23, 2014 playing three of the new songs (“What Will You Do”, “Threat to Society” and “Web of Lies”) before they were even launched, and you’ll be able to notice how much they nurture a profound passion for all things metal. And in order to provide your honest support to this sensational Brazilian band, go check their Facebook, YouTube, ReverbNation and SoundCloud, and buy your copy of Web Of lies through their online store, the Shinigami Records’ webshop, CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon and many other locations. Just like Ancesttral do, simply respect your past, live the present, look into the future… E VAI CORINTHIANS!

Best moments of the album: What Will You Do?, Massacre, Fight and Web of Lies.

Worst moments of the album: Pathetic Little Liars.

Released in 2016 Shinigami Records

Track listing
1. What Will You Do? 5:23
2. Massacre 5:10
3. Threat to Society 3:52
4. You Should Be Dead 3:50
5. Fight 5:32
6. Nice Day to Die 2:38
7. Pathetic Little Liars 4:06
8. Subhuman 3:42
9. Web of Lies 3:14
10. Fire 2:52
11. What Will You Do? (Alternate Solo Version) 5:23

Band members
Alexandre Grunheidt – vocals, guitars
Leonardo Brito – lead guitars
Renato Canonico – bass
Denis Grunheidt – drums

Guest musician
Rodrigo Flausino – guitar solo on “What Will You Do? (Alternate Solo Version)”

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Concert Review – Judas Priest (Casino Rama, Rama, ON, 10/07/2014)

The Metal Gods descended from the sky to assault all of us with their magnificent Heavy Metal in a land far, far away.

INTRODUCTION: The Lost Civilization of Casino Rama

Judas-Priest-Redeemer-of-Souls-Tour-2014If you want to stay away from any type of civilization in this world, I suggest you go to a place called Casino Rama, located around two and a half ENDLESS hours from Toronto. In theory it should be a lot faster than that, but if you take into account the 5pm traffic to leave the city on a Tuesday (right in the middle of the week, by the way) and an annoying dose of heavy rain, the hassle of getting there is horribly extended and becomes a real torture. Who the hell decided Casino Rama on a tuesday night were the best venue and date for Judas Priest to perform in Ontario? I swear to God, Odin, Buddha and any other deity that I’ll NEVER return to that place again if not for Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. No other band can make me go there again, not even Slayer or Megadeth.

Not only that, I truly hate Heavy Metal concerts with pre-assigned seats. Why not leaving the floor section without those fuckin’ chairs? Just create a general floor area, and whoever wants to sit down while Judas Priest are playing Hell Bent For Leather (if that’s humanly possible), simply take one of the seats at the back. As simple as that, but it seems the very “knowledgeable” organizers were expecting Judas Priest to be as smooth as Kenny G or any other shit like that. Anyway, let’s try to always look on the bright side of life: at least the venue was nice and clean, parking was free, and the sound quality was beyond perfect. And of course, if you’re addicted to gambling, that’s also a good place to be.

OPENING ACT: Steel Panther

IMG_2955When the opening act are Hard Rock/Glam Metal jesters STEEL PANTHER, you know it’s going to be a memorable night. Although they’re truly funny even with 99.9% of their sexist jokes being really stupid, I believe their superb skills as musicians are what make them so awesome to watch, especially vocalist Michael Starr. In my opinion, he’s a much better singer than all hard rockers from the 80’s. Well, maybe only singer Ralph Saenz (ex-L.A. Guns) can be compared to him. Got it?

Their setlist might have been a little shorter than usual, but still full of classics such as Asian Hooker, Gold-Digging Whore, and Death To All But Metal, plus some songs from their new album All You Can Eat like the good Gloryhole, all perfectly complemented by their jokes about the age of the attendees (especially those screaming ladies in their 40’s and 50’s), their debate about Michael Starr being a fat version of Bret Michaels or a skinny version of Vince Neil, among many other “pearls of wisdom”. There couldn’t have been a better warm-up than that for the Metal Gods.

Before I talk about the Priest, I just wanted to say that it might be really cool and a huge honour for Russ Parrish to be on the road with the Metal God Rob Halford once again, even if they’re in different bands now. If you don’t get it, click HERE and you’ll understand why I mentioned that.

Band members
Michael Starr – lead vocals
Satchel – lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars
Lexxi Foxxx – bass guitar
Stix Zadinia – drums, percussion, piano

JUDAS PRIEST

IMG_2973It was around 9:30pm when Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton & Co. hit the Casino Rama stage for another flawless performance. Right after Black Sabbath’s War Pigs and the intro for Priest’s own new song Battle Cry, thunders roared, the curtain was dropped and there they were with the excellent new song Dragonaut assaulting our bodies and souls with the purest Heavy Metal in the whole universe. What can I say about those guys that hasn’t been said yet? Rob Halford is not human: he is and will always be the METAL GOD, with his unique voice being absolutely perfect for both heavy stuff and smoother ballads; Scott and Glenn were as precise and heavy as usual; Richie injected some new oxygen to the band and proves with each concert why he was an amazing choice to replace K. K. Downing; and for the first time in my life, due to the sound quality of the venue, I could listen to Ian Hill’s bass lines.

Perhaps the most curious detail of their performance at Casino Rama (and during this whole tour so far) is the total absence of any songs from the masterpiece Painkiller, including its title-track, as well as other classics like “Electric Eye” and “Rapid Fire”, from the setlist. Instead, they opted for other types of classics, a little bit more underground but just as great as any of those songs, such as Devil’s Child, Jawbreaker, Love Bites, and Defenders of the Faith (which could have been complemented with “Heavy Duty” right before it like in the studio album, but that was awesome anyway), kind of celebrating 30 years of their classic album Defenders of the Faith.

And as we’re talking about the mighty Judas Priest, there’s a lot more to enjoy than “just” their unparalleled Heavy Metal: each and every song had a different background, with highlights to the fun and exciting images of the cult movie Nosferatu (1922) during Love Bites; Halford’s famous “robot walk” during Metal Gods; their badass Harley-Davidson in Hell Bent For Leather; and Halford letting the crowd sing Breaking the Law on their own, just like he did with his solo band during his Rock In Rio III concert in 1999.

IMG_2967One thing I truly loved during this concert was the fact that all new songs from Redeemer Of Souls sounded awesome live and were perfectly blended with their old classics, especially the magnificent Halls Of Valhalla. What an outstanding performance by the whole band during this powerful song, especially, of course, Mr. Rob Halford. Just as I mentioned in my review of the new album in regards to this song, “… which I’m sure will become a fan-favourite especially due to its lyrics and chorus and will also sound superb when played live”, and I was totally right!

The encore, with anthems like You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ and Living After Midnight, was a sonic orgasm to all Heavy Metal lovers that attended the show, but in my opinion the most memorable moment of their entire performance happened a little before that, when they played the all-time classic Beyond The Realms Of Death. Honestly, Rob Halford almost made me cry so beautiful and emotive his performance was. It was one of those moments you know why you love heavy music so much, and fully understand why he is entitled the Metal God.

I must admit the long and boring journey back from Casino Rama to Toronto on the same night (I got home at around 2am) was a lot easier thanks to the adrenaline running through my veins after such a stunning concert by the Priest. Although the band members are visibly aging (Rob, Glenn and Ian are all in their mid-60’s already), does that mean it’s the “beginning of the end” for the band? I don’t think so. As far as I could see, they’re better than ever, very excited to craft new powerful music, and playing their old classics with so much passion they look like they’re just starting their careers. And, of course, I cannot wait to see the Metal Gods kicking some serious ass live again with their unique jaw-dropping Heavy Metal. JUDAS FUCKIN’ PRIEST!

Band members
Rob Halford – vocals
Glenn Tipton – guitar
Richie Faulkner – guitar
Ian Hill – bass guitar
Scott Travis – drums

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Album Review – Fight / War of Words (1993)

An amazing Heavy Metal album from a totally awesome band that unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore.

Rating3

Fight_-_War_of_WordsWhen the Metal God Rob Halford (the best Heavy Metal singer of all time) left Judas Priest back in 1992, no one knew what was going to happen to him or to the band. Fortunately for most of his fans all around the world, he formed the amazing band Fight in 1993 and recorded one of the most underrated Metal albums of the 90’s, War of Words.

How can someone not get completely addicted to an album that starts with two masterpieces such as Into the Pit and Nailed to the Gun? These two songs are more than perfect, with the Metal God reaching his famous powerful screams and the rest of the band simply kickin’ some serious ass. In my opinion, they’re better than almost anything Halford or even the Priest have produced since then, except for Resurrection (which might be a good topic for a future post).

After this incredible start, War of Words keeps delivering some excellent material: Life in Black is a very nice slow and heavy tune, while Immortal Sin is another instant classic with its great riff and chorus; the title-track, War of Words, has another great performance by Halford, while Laid to Rest can be considered the darkest track of the whole album. Then we have one of the least memorable tracks, For All Eternity, which is not bad but becomes boring after two minutes, and the hit single Little Crazy that made even people that knew nothing about Halford or didn’t enjoy Metal at all sing along with our Metal God.

fightThe last part of the album is a little weird if compared to anything Halford had previously recorded in his career, with a sonority that reminds me of some more modern Thrash Metal (something that didn’t even exist in the beginning of the 90’s). If you listen to the songs Contortion, Kill It and Vicious today, you’ll think they’re from a brand new band, not from a group from the 90’s which had one of the most iconic classic Metal singers of all time. My favorite one from these three tracks is undoubtedly Kill It, especially due to its pretty simple but cool chorus. Reality, A New Beginning closes the album, and I personally don’t understand what the band wanted with this song. It is extremely boring compared to the rest of the songs.

Maybe the front cover is the weakest part of the album, because even a 5-year old kid can do something better using only pen and paper, but in this case I don’t care about it due to the high quality of the music. And of course, great songs can only come from real musicians: Halford is the Metal God, there’s nothing else any mere mortal like me can say about him; Russ Parrish (or if you prefer, Satchel from Steel Panther) is a very talented guitar player, as well as Brian Tilse, and they both produced awesome riffs and solos in this album; Jay Jay also delivers some great bass lines;  and Scott Travis, the drummer that has been giving more speed and power to all Priest songs since joining the band in Painkiller, does an amazing job here too.

In summary, if you have never listened to War of Words, you have no idea of what an amazing Metal album you’re missing. Fight might be a long-gone band today, but the music they produced during their short life was pure fuckin’ Metal.

Best moments of the album: Into the Pit, Nailed to the Gun, Immortal Sin and Laid to Rest.

Worst moments of the album: For All Eternity and Reality, A New Beginning.

Released in 1993 Epic Records

Track listing
1. Into the Pit 4:13
2. Nailed to the Gun 3:38
3. Life in Black 4:34
4. Immortal Sin 4:39
5. War of Words 4:29
6. Laid to Rest 4:40
7. For All Eternity 4:42
8. Little Crazy 3:49
9. Contortion 4:35
10. Kill It 3:30
11. Vicious 3:11
12. Reality, A New Beginning (includes hidden track “Jesus Saves”) 13:18

Band members
Rob Halford – vocals
Brian Tilse – guitars
Russ Parrish – guitars
Jay Jay – bass
Scott Travis – drums