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 – Exodus & Testament (Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 04/15/2015)

A magnificent lesson in Thrash Metal, directly from the dark roots of Toronto.

OPENING ACT: Shattered Sun

Testament-Exodus-2015It’s somehow ridiculous that there was ONLY ONE CONCERT scheduled from the Dark Roots of Thrash II Tour in Canada. Fortunately for me, but not as much for most of our headbanging brothers in B.C., Alberta and other distant locations, the city chosen was Toronto, Ontario, more specifically the Phoenix Concert Theatre. Well, at least for the first time in months we didn’t have any snow, rain, bitterly cold temperatures or any other of the wonders of the winter on a concert night in the city. Quite the contrary, the weather was beyond perfect for a lesson in Thrash Metal.

The attraction responsible for warming up all thrash metallers at the venue was American Metalcore band SHATTERED SUN, who by the way are managed by Chuck Billy’s own company Breaking Bands LLC. Although Metalcore is not among the most reasonable options for pumping up a crowd avid for brutal old school Bay Area Thrash Metal, they had a good performance and didn’t disappoint the crowd with their mix of heavy and melodic music, with the addition of keyboards being a fresh element to the night. I can’t tell much about their setlist, only that they’re promoting their soon-to-be-released new album entitled Hope Within Hatred, which should be available within a few days. If you’re a fan of the genre, here’s a good choice for your collection.

Band members
Marcos Leal – vocals
Daniel Trejo – guitar
Jessie Santos – guitar
Joseph Guajardo – bass
Henry Garza – keyboards, samples
Robert Garza – drums

EXODUS

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Exodus @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 04/15/2015

Holy. Fuckin’. Shit. EXODUS do not only kick fuckin’ ass when they’re on stage, they ALWAYS teach us motherfuckers a lesson in fuckin’ violence. It’s incredible how such an old band (in a good way, of course) still sounds so fresh and captivating until today, and that’s in my opinion mainly due to the fact they keep releasing awesome albums like their latest installment, the absurdly excellent Blood In, Blood Out. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the madness started, with two of the best songs from the new album: the insane Black 13 and the mosh pit-anthem title-track Blood In, Blood Out, which worked so well live to the point if they had left the stage after only two songs it would have been awesome anyway.

Right after that frantic start, Exodus offered us a sequence of Thrash Metal classics to drive all fans crazy into the circle pits (adding some bruises to our personal collections), with highlights to masterpieces such as A Lesson in Violence, The Last Act of Defiance and my favorite Exodus songs of all time, the impeccable Blacklist (“You’d better start runnin’ / Cause you know that I’m comin’ / Cocked and loaded and I never miss / I’m onto your game / And I’m layin’ the blame / And I’m addin’ your name to my blacklist”), The Toxic Waltz and Strike of the Beast, the latter including a smaller version of the infamous wall of death for our total delight. However, I was truly happy to see they didn’t “forget” about the Rob Dukes-era and added two of the most exciting songs of that period, Iconoclasm and Children of a Worthless God. Maybe next time they can play even other songs from that era, such as “Hammer and Life” and “Deathamphetamine”?

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Kill the Kardashians, Gary!

In regards to the band members, there were tons of highs, but one significant low. Actually, the low was not the band’s fault, as bassist Jack Gibson wasn’t allowed to enter Canada due to issues with the law. We accept Justin Bieber living here doing all the shit he does, and I don’t care he’s Canadian, but we cannot let good old Jack into the country? That’s ridiculous. Anyway, the dude that replaced him (sorry, I forgot his name, but he also helps Exodus when Gary Holt is with that “other Thrash Metal band”, and Gary even played an excerpt of “Raining Blood” just to remind the crowd about that) did a pretty good job supporting Gary Holt, Steve “Zetro” Souza & Co. during the entire concert. Talking about Zetro and Gary, I guess they can be considered the “new” dynamic duo of old school Thrash Metal so in sync they’ve been since Zetro’s return last year. While Zetro leads the fans into the mosh pits with his raspy voice (is it true it was his first time in Toronto in 10 years?), Gary simply delivers the most motherfuckin’ extraordinary riffs and solos in the world of heavy music. I’m not going to extend my speech about how great Gary is, as I believe I’ve already said enough in previous album and concert reviews, but there’s one thing that must be mentioned that enhanced his performance even more last night: who didn’t love his KILL THE KARDASHIANS T-shirt?

As Zetro said immediately after Exodus played the classic Bonded by Blood, we are all bonded not only by blood, but by our passion for Heavy Metal, and he’s 100% right. We love metal music, we love Exodus, and we cannot wait for them to get back to Toronto to teach us another lesson in Thrash Metal. Remember we are all part of Exodus’ “blacklist”, which means it shouldn’t take long for that to happen, I hope.

Setlist
1. Black 13
2. Blood In, Blood Out
3. Iconoclasm
4. Children of a Worthless God
5. A Lesson in Violence
6. Salt the Wound
7. The Last Act of Defiance
8. Blacklist
9. Bonded by Blood
10. War Is My Shepherd
11. The Toxic Waltz
12. Strike of the Beast

Band members
Steve “Zetro” Souza – vocals
Gary Holt – lead and rhythm guitars
Lee Altus – lead and rhythm guitars
Jack Gibson – bass*
Tom Hunting – drums, percussion

*Missed the concert for not being allowed to enter Canada due to issues with the law.

TESTAMENT

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Testament @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 04/15/2015

There was an essential short break between concerts for recovering our energies and enjoying a cold beer, and I’m being serious when I say “essential” because what TESTAMENT did during their flawless concert was inhuman. Playing only songs from their first three albums, The Legacy (1987), The New Order (1988) and Practice What You Preach (1989), Chuck Billy and his crew showed no mercy on our bodies and souls with an avalanche of old school Thrash Metal classics. How not to go wild with songs like Over the Wall, Do or Die or The New Order? Although their latest albums (The Formation of Damnation and Dark Roots of Earth) are Heavy Metal masterpieces, being able to witness a tour only composed by old classics is always interesting.

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Testament @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 04/15/2015

From all songs in their setlist, I would say my favorites were Eerie Inhabitants, C.O.T.L.O.D., Practice What You Preach, and especially the devastating tunes Disciples of the Watch and Into the Pit. The song already has “pit” in its name, but it was when Chuck demanded we all slammed into the fuckin’ pit that things got pretty serious. In summary, it was an amazing setlist, which ignited some nonstop headbanging and lots of smiles among the fans who answered Chuck’s call and were having a great time into the circle pit.

Moreover, there’s one thing that amazes me in Testament, and that’s the musicians involved. All five are superb with their instruments, delivering top-notch Heavy Metal, which always makes me wonder why there are metalheads in the world that still don’t know who Testament are. Chuck’s voice is unique (as thunderous as it can be), Gene Hoglan redefines the meaning of the word “stone crusher”, and I have no words to describe Alex Skolnick. Honestly, I didn’t know if I slammed into the pit or if I stayed there just watching him play his guitar so jaw-dropping his technique is (not even when he suffered from technical difficulties he looked less incredible). Watching Gary Holt AND Alex Skolnick delivering the most awesome Thrash Metal riffs and solos you can imagine on the same night was a true blessing. Those guys definitely practice what they preach.

Setlist
1. Over the Wall
2. The Haunting
3. Burnt Offerings
4. Raging Waters
5. The Preacher
6. Do or Die
7. First Strike Is Deadly
8. A Day of Reckoning
9. Apocalyptic City
10. Eerie Inhabitants
11. The New Order
12. Trial by Fire
13. Into the Pit
14. Alone in the Dark
15. C.O.T.L.O.D.

Encore:
16. Practice What You Preach
17. Disciples of the Watch

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

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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