Concert Review –Testament (Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 04/27/2017)

When you have two of the best and most iconic Thrash Metal bands of all time playing together in the city, you know exactly where you have to be.

OPENING ACTS: Prong and Sepultura

As much as I enjoy the Phoenix Concert Theatre and obviously the bands that were going to play last night, I truly and deeply hate the weekdays rush hour traffic to get from my town, the suburban Oakville, to Toronto whenever there’s a good metal concert I want to attend. At least the weather was fantastic (even with a short storm that happened at around 7pm), with the temperature being above 20 degrees, which means no one had to carry their burdensome jackets like what always happens when a concert is in the middle of the winter.

Anyway, due to traffic (and because I had to eat something before heading to the venue), I completely missed the performance by American Crossover Thrash power trio PRONG. I have absolutely no idea if it was a good concert or not. Well, probably yes as the group spearheaded by Tommy Victor has all it takes to deliver great music to the audience, but unfortunately I can’t say a word about what they did last night, not even write down their setlist.

Band members
Tommy Victor – lead vocals, guitar
Jason Christopher – bass guitar, backing vocals
Art Cruz – drums

Fortunately, I got to the Phoenix Concert Theatre just in time to see the always amazing show by Brazilian Thrash/Groove Metal masters SEPULTURA, who are currently promoting their latest album, the very experimental and exciting Machine Messiah.  Derrick Green, Andreas Kisser, Paulo Jr. and Eloy Casagrande put on an electrified performance on stage from start to finish, blending several songs of their new album like the excellent Phantom Self and Sworn Oath with all-time classics such as Desperate Cry, Inner Self (my favorite of the night) and Refuse/Resist, and of course the song most fans at the venue wanted to hear, their ritualistic hymn Roots Bloody Roots. The sound was very clear, cohesive and powerful, just like what the band offers us in their studio albums, proving Sepultura are a band that always provides their fans the same high level of quality found in their studio versions when they transport those compositions to the stage. As usual, the highlights of their performance were the insane riffs, solos and other awesome tricks done by Andreas with his guitar. That guy is one of the most gifted guitarists in the history of heavy music, which means if you’ve never seen him playing live, don’t miss that chance the next time “Sepultura do Brasil” visit your city.

Setlist
I Am the Enemy
Phantom Self
Choke
Desperate Cry
Sworn Oath
Inner Self
Alethea
Resistant Parasites
Refuse/Resist
Ratamahatta
Roots Bloody Roots

Band members
Derrick Green – lead vocals
Andreas Kisser – guitars
Paulo Jr. – bass
Eloy Casagrande – drums, percussion

TESTAMENT

After a short bathroom and beer break, it was time for American Thrash Metal behemoths TESTAMENT to create a sonic Armageddon in Toronto with their unparalleled aggression and refined technique. I guess I always say the same thing about Testament, but all band members are extremely talented and way above average, in special the guitar virtuoso Alex Skolnick and the human earthquake Gene Hoglan. Those two are not simple musicians, they’re demonic beasts when armed with their instruments, delivering the best of the best when it comes to heavy music.

Blasting some of their newest creations from the best metal album of 2016, the superb Brotherhood Of The Snake, especially the kick-ass tunes Brotherhood of the Snake, The Pale King and Stronghold, with old school songs and newer classics, they delivered a flawless performance for the delight of all metalheads at the venue. A few songs from their setlist deserve some special attention, like the brutal and sensational Rise Up for its enhanced mighty power when played live, the high-octane Centuries of Suffering for the insanely intricate magic Gene does behind his drums, and Electric Crown for the amount of groove and feeling flowing from the band’s instruments.

My only complaint about the concert was the excessive amount of solos, one for each band member. As much as I love each guy from the band, I personally prefer regular songs than solos. If they replaced those solos with newer songs like “The Number Game” or “Native Blood”, or with classic like “D.N.R. (Do Not Resuscitate)” or “Burnt Offerings”, it would have been just perfect, but that’s just my opinion. The whole concert was fuckin’ awesome anyway; not even all those solos were able to cool down the audience, mainly because whenever there was a solo there was also a demolishing classic right after it, like when they played the circle pit-generator First Strike Is Deadly after Gene’s drum solo.

Before playing the encore, the iconic Chuck Billy, who by the way is singing better and better as time goes by, therefore being able to perfectly replicate his sensational deep growls live without making any extra effort, told the fans a story about when they were in Texas hanging out with the guys from one of the most respected, energized and violent bands of all time, the one and only Pantera, drinking Jack Daniel’s (and probably taking other stuff as well) with them. Can you imagine that? Testament and Pantera together? The 90’s were definitely the best period for Thrash Metal, no doubt about that. Chuck said that after a lot of drinking, something hit his head (maybe a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, or maybe it was the alcohol itself) and he told the other guys he had the name for their new album. It was going to be called Practice What you Preach, one of their biggest hits, and one of the best of the night as well.

There was still time for one last sick mosh pit with Over the Wall, and after all was said and done you could see how happy all fans of Testament were with their amazing performance. As Chuck said, I hope all promoters in Canada turn their eyes to Testament more often aiming at having more concerts all over the country, not only two or three cities. Let’s hope that those promoters listen to the deep voice by Chuck and we have more of the brotherhood of Thrash Metal in our currently not-so-cold country, because after such brilliant performance last night I’m sure all Torontonian fans of Testament are eager for more of their music.

Setlist
Brotherhood of the Snake
Rise Up
The Pale King
Centuries of Suffering
Alex Skolnick’s Guitar Solo
Electric Crown
Into the Pit
Low
Throne of Thorns
Stronghold
Eric Peterson’s Guitar Solo
Eyes of Wrath
Gene Hoglan’s Drum Solo
First Strike Is Deadly
Steve DiGiorgio’s Bass Solo
Urotsukidôji
Souls of Black
Seven Seals
The New Order

Encore:
Practice What You Preach
Over the Wall

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

Album Review – Sepultura / Machine Messiah (2017)

“Sepultura do Brasil” are back with an exciting, multilayered journey through countless music genres and styles, proving there’s still room for innovation in heavy music.

Rating4

sepultura_machine_messiahIf you’re one of those diehard fans of Brazilian Thrash/Groove Metal icons Sepultura that doesn’t accept anything the band has done after the departure of Max Cavalera, you can stop reading this review right now as that version of Sepultura is long gone. Machine Messiah, the fourteenth studio album by the most important band in the history of Brazilian Metal, is not only their best release since their 1998 album Against, but also (and more important than that) their most experimental album since their 1996 classic Roots, completely different from that basic Thrash Metal formula from their early days, therefore offering admirers of innovative music an exciting, multilayered journey through countless music genres and styles.

Machine Messiah, which features a stylish artwork designed by visual artist Camille Della Rosa that feels like a play with the cover art from their 1991 cult album Arise, is also the band’s first studio album in over three years since The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart, from 2013, marking the longest gap between two studio albums in their career. In addition, this is the second album with Eloy Casagrande on drums, who’s definitely a lot more comfortable now with the band and, consequently, he ends up adding a lot more intricacy, electricity and groove to the music by Sepultura. And regarding Mr. Andreas Kisser, well, nothing I write in this review will be enough to describe what he did in Machine Messiah with his superb technique.

Venturing on new lands never before explored by Sepultura, the title-track Machine Messiah is a dark, slow and atmospheric tune where we have Derrick’s clean and somber vocals complemented by Andreas’ unique riffs and soulful solos, showcasing elements from Doom and Stoner Metal that increase the song’s obscurity; whereas I Am the Enemy, with its rebellious lyrics (“Powered by thoughts of revolution / Building all bridges of error / Search and destroy my sick innerself / To realize I’m not a fraud”), gets closer to the brutal Hardcore found in albums like Against, with Eloy smashing his drums while Andreas and Derrick emanate sheer violence in this excellent high-octane hymn. And in Phantom Self, an experimental Groove Metal composition with hints of Alternative Metal, regional elements from the Brazilian and Middle-Eastern cultures are nicely added to the musicality, enhanced by the song’s thoughtful lyrics (“The crash. Flash backs. Carnage the blood keeps on flowing / Killing me. Trapped inside this tragedy / Can’t see the road in front of me / Replay this nightmare over and over”).

Alethea is another distinct composition in such diverse album, albeit not as crisp and exciting as the previous songs despite its progressiveness and experimentations. Once again, it’s Andreas who delivers the best pieces of the song with his flammable guitar, which also happens in Iceberg Dances, a kick-ass instrumental extravaganza where Andreas, Paulo and Eloy are in perfect sync, firing powerful riffs, thunderous bass lines and groovy beats. It reminds me a lot of the music by Mastodon, which means it’s at the same time insane and harmonious, with its Deep Purple-inspired keyboards and Flamenco acoustic guitar lines bringing even more awesomeness to the overall result. The symphonic and sometimes epic Sworn Oath, the longest of all songs, is not just another good surprise in Machine Messiah, but also in my humble opinion the best sonority for Derrick’s voice when he’s not singing fast-paced Hardcore. Moreover, if played live with a proper orchestra, it should sound simply astounding.

sepultura_2017In the dark Resistant Parasites, Paulo delivers sheer heaviness with his bass lines, taking the song’s modern Groove Metal to the extreme, exhibiting a powerful and innovative vibe without losing the band’s characteristic aggressiveness, followed by Silent Violence, another track that reminds me of the craziness blasted by Mastodon. It’s fuckin’ heavy and complex at the same time, a tune to break your neck where Derrick fires madness and anger with his growls while Andreas continues to deliver pure creativity and feeling through his riffs and solos. Eloy and Andreas speed things up in the thrilling mosh pit-generator hymn Vandals Nest, bringing forward tons of creativity, complexity and groove (needless to say, I can’t wait to feel this song played live), before Cyber God gets back to the doomed sonority found in many parts of the album. This is a beautiful, somber ending to the regular version of the album, displaying low-tuned bass punches and piercing guitars, and blending elements from several styles such as Industrial, Groove, Gothic and Doom Metal, among many others, being extremely hard to define its style. And of course, if you go for the special edition of Machine Messiah, you’ll be treated to two top-notch bonus tracks, in special their cover version for Ultraseven no Uta from the cult tokusatsu science fiction TV series Ultra Seven, originally recorded by The Echoes & Misuzu Children’s Choral Group, not to mention the version that comes with a DVD with the making of Machine Messiah available at the Nuclear Blast webstore.

After Machine Messiah, I wonder where Andreas, Paulo, Derrick and Eloy will go next with their music. It’s such an experimental, intense and elaborate album it’s hard to imagine those four guys will be able to top it in terms of complexity with their future releases. But who am I to doubt what the iconic Sepultura will offer the world in the future? Andreas keeps getting better and better in what he does, putting his heart and soul into his music and uniting with his guitar in the most perfect way imaginable, with the other band members supporting him with precision and stamina. Sepultura are and will always be Brazil’s most prominent metal band no matter what, and with Machine Messiah they’re sending a solid message to the world there’s still room for innovation in heavy music, always keeping their core essence heavy and electrifying.

Best moments of the album: I Am the Enemy, Iceberg Dances and Vandals Nest.

Worst moments of the album: Alethea.

Released in 2017 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Machine Messiah 5:54
2. I Am the Enemy 2:27
3. Phantom Self 5:30
4. Alethea 4:31
5. Iceberg Dances 4:41
6. Sworn Oath 6:09
7. Resistant Parasites 4:58
8. Silent Violence 3:46
9. Vandals Nest 2:47
10. Cyber God 5:22

Special Edition bonus tracks
11. Chosen Skin 3:17
12. Ultraseven no Uta (The Echoes & Misuzu Children’s Choral Group cover) 1:18

Band members
Derrick Green – lead vocals
Andreas Kisser – guitars
Paulo Jr. – bass
Eloy Casagrande – drums, percussion