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

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Concert Review – Volbeat (General Motors Centre, Oshawa, ON, 05/12/2015)

Awesome bands playing awesome music don’t always translate into an awesome experience.

OPENING ACTS: Crobot and Anthrax

volbeat_na2015I have to start this review by grunting some really unpleasant words about the whole organization of what was supposed to be a great event at the General Motors Centre in Oshawa, Ontario on the night of May 12. First of all, whoever thought Oshawa was a better city for Volbeat and Anthrax to play instead of Toronto made a huge mistake, and I’m not complaining about the distance to Oshawa, as a 1 or 2-hour drive is nothing to worry about. The huge issue was the lack of information and the complete nonsense regarding the sales of the general admission (floor) tickets. I swear to Ronnie James Dio that I tried to purchase those tickets a hundred times online and all I could get were some stupid seats far from the stage. I thought it was going to be a sold out event because of that, but guess what? The floor was not even half full, nor were the seats closer to the stage, which makes me wonder if scalpers had all the remaining tickets for the floor area, or if the venue system is a lame piece of garbage worse than Windows Millenium Edition.

Not only that, the price for the floor or the seats was the exact same shit, so why couldn’t they allow some people that wanted to access the floor area (who most probably had the same issue I had buying their tickets) to actually change their seats for the floor if the price was not a single penny off? That also caused lots of minor incidents between fans and the organization, some even involving physical interactions. Well, that’s what happens when amateurs avid for some easy money try to organize a mini-festival that shouldn’t be held at a venue like that. Shame on you, whoever had the “brilliant” idea of taking such awesome bands as Volbeat and Anthrax to a shithole like that, weakening the performance of the bands to the point it looked like a lackluster and uninspired concert.

The guys in charge of opening the night were American Rock band CROBOT, from Pottsville, Pennsylvania. I’ll be honest with you, this is definitely not my type of music, but the band tried as much as they could to stimulate a very passive crowd, especially the nonstop frontman Brandon Yeagley and the “crazy-frog-legs” bassist Jake Figueroa. If you love Psychedelic Rock, go after their music: they’re very talented musicians who have the energy of the 70’s ingrown inside their spirit and are more than capable of delivering that energy through each of their songs.

Setlist
1. The Legend of the Spaceborne Killer
2. Skull of Geronimo
3. Night of the Sacrifice
4. La Mano de Lucifer
5. Nowhere To Hide
6. The Necromancer
7. Chupacabra
8. Fly on the Wall

Band members
Brandon Yeagley – lead vocals, harmonica
|Bishop – guitar, vocals
Jake Figueroa – bass
Paul Figueroa – drums

IMG_0280When you see a guy with a huge Anthax tattoo on his arm AND wearing an Anthrax T-shirt watching an ANTHRAX concert so passively, barely moving to the point I almost called the paramedics to check if he was still breathing, you know there’s something very wrong going on. The “humongous” space between my seat and the front one was killing me, as well as the somnolence of one of the worst crowds I’ve ever seen in my life. However, even with all those issues, Anthrax kicked ass once again, of course, thanks to their flawlessly executed frantic Thrash Metal. I just wish I could be together with some real fans who were having a good time when they were caught in the rare but exciting mosh pits on the floor area. Well, if people are capable of standing still while Joey, Scott & Co. play masterpieces like Caught in a Mosh, Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t and the best song of the night in my opinion, the heavy and furious I Am the Law, they should rethink paying 50 bucks for a ticket and almost 9 bucks for a beer. Damn, and people keep complaining they do not have money. Stay home and watch a DVD, right?

Setlist
1. Worship
2. Caught in a Mosh
3. Got the Time (Joe Jackson cover)
4. Madhouse
5. Antisocial (Trust cover)
6. Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t
7. Soror Irrumator
8. Hymn 1
9. In the End

Encore:
10. I Am the Law
11. Indians

Band members
Joey Belladonna – lead vocals
Jonathan Donais – lead guitar
Scott Ian – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Frank Bello – bass guitar, backing vocals
Charlie Benante – drums, percussion

VOLBEAT

IMG_0300Every single word used above for describing the Anthrax concert can be replicated to Danish Heavy/Hard Rock band VOLBEAT. I cannot believe I witnessed one of the best heavy bands of the modern era playing tons of awesome songs to a crowd that looked like they were at the funeral of their grandmothers. Except for random groups and couples that were truly enjoying the electrifying music by Volbeat, the rest of the “fans” were falling asleep and some even left the venue BEFORE the band played half of their setlist. Again, I don’t care it was on a Tuesday night and you had to work on the next morning, why don’t you just save some money and stay home watching a DVD if you thought it was getting late? At least I was able to move to a better location, as more than half of the seats were empty just like the floor area, and could stand up and dance with my lady to classic such as A New Day, Danny & Lucy (11 pm), Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood and The Mirror and the Ripper.

IMG_0304The badass kids that went on stage during 16 Dollars and banged their heads like most adults at the venue couldn’t do were a breath of fresh air amidst the audience’s stagnant attitude, but the incidents during one of my top Volbeat songs, The Garden’s Tale, with a woman having to be carried out of the arena due to her stupid behaviour (including hitting the poor security guys many times), could pretty much summarized my feeling during the entire night. Not even when Volbeat played part of a brand new still-nameless song of their upcoming new album, which by the way sounded superb, the fans reacted properly. I guess even the band felt the same way, with Michael Poulsen and Rob Caggiano making a lot of mistakes during many songs like if they were “who cares, this audience is shit anyway.”

When Volbeat returns to Canada, let’s pray to the Metal Gods that they come to Toronto instead of Oshawa, and to a much better venue with a professional organization, so that I can purchase my floor tickets and really feel the heat of the music by those rockers. Sorry, Oshawa people, nothing against you. The problem is that you had your chance to show those amazing bands you’re worth their visit, but you screw it up pretty bad. Next time, come to Toronto and you’ll see how you should behave when Anthrax and Volbeat are kicking ass on stage.

Setlist
1. Hallelujah Goat
2. A New Day
3. Dead but Rising
4. Lola Montez
5. Danny & Lucy (11 pm)
6. Sad Man’s Tongue
7. The Nameless One
8. Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood
9. Ecotone
10. The Human Instrument
11. The Garden’s Tale
12. Heaven nor Hell / A Warrior’s Call
13. Doc Holliday
14. The Mirror and the Ripper
15. 16 Dollars

Encore:
16. Pool of Booze, Booze, Booza
17. The Hangman’s Body Count
18. The Lonesome Rider
19. Fallen
20. Still Counting

Band members
Michael Poulsen – vocals, guitar
Rob Caggiano – guitar
Anders Kjølholm – bass
Jon Larsen – drums