Metal Chick of the Month – Annick Giroux

Emmène-moi dans ton monde… De lumière et d’ombre… Emmène-moi dans ton monde… Car ma nuit est longue…

Born in May 1986 in Orléans, a suburb of Canada’s national capital Ottawa, in the province of Ontario, our metal chick of the month of June is much more than just your average metalhead. Not only she’s the lead singer for Montreal-based Heavy/Doom Metal band Cauchemar, but she’s also a bass player, the author of a fantastic book entitled “Hellbent for Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook”, writer for UK’s Iron Fist magazine and for Morbid Tales fanzine, one of the promoters of the now defunct Wings of Metal festival in Montreal, and the co-founder of Temple of Mystery Records, not to mention she’s also a graphic designer who has already worked with the iconic Skyclad and countless underground bands. This might look overkill for any regular person, but not for the unstoppable Canadian superwoman Annick Giroux. Having said that, do you have what it takes to join Annick in her quest for metal music, good food and arts in general?

Annick’s life in metal and graphic design actually started when she was still a very young girl, at the age of 10, when her father brought home a floppy disk containing Paint Shop Pro 4.0, which she used with another software called Visual Page to make a primitive website about her favorite cartoon character. Almost at the same time, when she was 11 or 12 years old, she became pen-pals with a Vietnamese girl living in Belgium, who sent her some cassettes with the albums by Japanese Power Metal institution X-Japan. Annick immediately fell in love for their music, and that turned into an obsession to her to the point she even created an X-Japan fan site before eventually becoming a full metalhead. After that first contact with X-Japan, she started to properly explore the world of heavy music and to develop a deep passion for what she likes to call “Ancient Metal” (which includes Doom, Black, Speed, Thrash and NWOBHM), with bands such as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Pagan Altar, Saint Vitus, Pentagram, Anvil, Exciter, Mercyful Fate, Destruction, Sacrifice and Celtic Frost, among many, many others, changing the way she used to see music. She then started playing bass, joined a few different bands, designed their logos, demo layouts and flyers, ran the Morbid Tales fanzine for six issues, and even DJ’d weekly at a traditional Montreal metal/punk pub named Katacombes.

Owner of a potent voice, Annick founded the French-Canadian metal institution Cauchemar back in 2007 together with guitarist François Patry originally as a recording project, as performing live didn’t really appeal to them. Still, Cauchemar released in 2010 the five-track EP La Vierge Noire (which means “the black virgin” in English) and played live three Canadian shows before putting the band on hold in 2011 and embarking on an eighteen-month trip around the world. However, that plan lasted only until a friend of the band from Chile invited them to play in the country with local musicians, igniting their desire to keep the band alive and kicking and, consequently, taking them to the most distinct places like Peru, Japan, India and Thailand. All material they wrote during that insane trip ended up on their debut full-length album, entitled Tenebrario, released in 2013, and Annick even said in one of her interviews that trip was the richest and most inspiring experience of her life, as she had the unique pleasure of getting to know many different cultures, metal scenes, local cuisines, religions and social classes.

After Tenebrario, Cauchemar also released another full-length album, titled Chapelle Ardente (or “burning chapel” in English), in 2016, and as you might have already noticed Annick sings all songs from Cauchemar entirely in French, giving their music an extra touch of mysticism, delicacy and occultism. By the way, the name of the band, wihich means “nightmare” in English, stems from a series of violent nightmares Annick used to suffer, some described exactly like sleep paralysis. “I actually did some research into this in the past as some of my nightmares were rather troubling. In fact, the first meaning of the name Cauchemar, or cauquemaire, loosely translates to ‘ghost pressing down’, which surely derives from those very sleep paralyses. But I’m unsure if that’s what I experienced, I’ve been having dreams about dying ever since I was a child,” mentioned Annick in one of her interviews. If you want to feel that nightmare-sih vibe flowing from the music by Cauchemar and especially from Annick’s vocals, you should definitely take a listen at songs like Étoile D’Argent, Trois Mondes, Comme Un Poignard, Tête de Mort, and Le Fantôme, as well as several live performances by the band such as at the Nuclear War Now! Festival V in 2016, playing the song Sepolta Viva at the Magog, in Sherbrooke, in 2014 and the song L’Appel at Cafe Deckuf in Ottawa in 2013, and playing cover versions for Black Sabbath’s The Wizard at Montreal is Doomed in 2010 and Fleetwood Mac’s Green Manalishi in Montreal in 2016.

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Apart from her career with Cauchemar, you can also enjoy her bass punches and vocal lines in several other bands and projects from different parts of the world. For instance, in 2008 she played bass for Japanese Black/Thrash Metal act Barbatos during their live concerts, which ended up having Annick as their bass player in the 2008 Barbatos/Bastardator split live album Live in Montreal; you can also see her playing keyboards (yes, she can also play keyboards) on the introduction from the brand new album Destiny Calls, by Finnish Heavy/Speed Metal band Chevalier; and playing synths and/or doing female vocals on the songs Nordkarpatenland, Keď Svetlonosi Započnú V Močariskách Nazeleno Svícit, Nedlho Po Púlnoci Opacha Sa Doplazila Z Dzíry, and V Rujnovej Samote Pocichu Dumá Lovecký Zámek Zvlčilého Grófa, all from the album Nordkarpatenland, released in 2017 by Slovakian Black Metal horde Malokarpatan.

As you can see, Annick has already been involved in very distinct projects and bands in her career so far, and if you include in that mix her work as a graphic designer, then the list of bands and styles grows considerably. Having obtained a degree in Graphic Design before moving to Montreal with her then boyfriend (and now husband) François Patry, she mentioned in an interview that she actually earns a living as a freelance graphic designer, and as the co-owner of the aforementioned Temple of Mystery Records since 2016 she said she designs absolutely everything for the label’s releases. Furthermore, Annick said she has trouble listening to an album if the artwork is ugly, tasteless or uninspired, as in her opinion metal and graphic design have always been in symbiosis for her. Apart from the album design for Cauchemar’s Tenebrario and the artwork for their Chapelle Ardente album, you can also find Annick’s lines, colors and designs in the albums by tons of excellent underground bands like Anatomia, Venin, Night Demon, Metal Grave, Diabolic Force, Chevalier and Disforterror, just to name a few. For example, how not to enjoy the artwork she provided for the 2013 album Necheshirion, by Canadian Black Metal act Gevurah? When you listen to the music, it matches perfectly with the cryptic art by Annick, proving her point that the cover art is and will always be a crucial part of a metal album.

Despite being a talented musician and graphic designer, let’s say the metal community got to know Annick a lot better mainly due to her book entitled “Hellbent for Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook”, which she signed as Annick “The Morbid Chef” Giroux, featuring a varied menu of over a hundred recipes from thirty countries, including Yorkshire Pudding from England, Beer Pizza Crust from Germany, Spaghetti Barracuda from Italy, Fårikål from Norway, Country Lamb Exohiko from Greece, Churrasco from Brazil, and Mushroom Steak à la Jack Daniel’s from the United States, among numerous other appetizer, breakfast, lunch, dinner, vegetarian, seafood, dessert and drink recipes, all with contributions by worldwide famous musicians from metal bands like Accept, Gwar, Tankard, Anthrax, Electric Wizard, Rotting Christ, Sepultura, Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy, Doro, U.D.O., Obituary, Mayhem, Gorgoroth, Uriah Heep, Kreator, Nuclear Assault, and a lot of underground acts. In the beginning, Hellbent for Cooking was just a section of the 6th edition of her Morbid Tales fanzine released in 2009, containing only around 20 recipes. However, the idea (originally conceived in 2007) for a metal cookbook by Annick became a reality when her editor Ian Christe picked up the 2009 fanzine and asked her if she was interested in having all recipes published as a book. Then for the pro-looking color cookbook itself that was released by Bazillion Points her deadline was only six months, and she took it seriously by dedicating herself entirely to research, writing, cooking, photographing and laying out the recipe pages. Our dauntless singer, bassist and chef said she contacted about 400 bands in total, and that she could never imagine that bands like Sepultura or Mayhem would actually respond to her. She even ended up discovering new bands during her research period, as for example a Death/Thrash Metal band from Pakistan named Dusk. Moreover, as an avid reader, Annick recommends apart from her own book a few other interesting Bazillion Points publications like Swedish Death Metal, by Daniel Ekeroth, Murder in the Front Row, by Harald Oimoen and Brian Lew, and and Only Death Is Real, by Tom Gabriel Fischer with Martin Eric Ain.

It was after her trip to different parts of the world, especially when she was in Europe and was able to enjoy many underground metal fests, that she returned to Montreal with the idea of organizing a festival of her own, naming it Wings of Metal. She said that as there was no such thing as an underground metal festival mixing styles in Canada, her idea was to do it in the European spirit with a lot of bands from overseas, focusing on the quality of sound and experience, and although the festival only lasted for four editions she’s still proud of her accomplishment. Known as somewhat of an archaeologist of obscure Canadian metal, Annick said that in her opinion Canadian metal often has a touch of something eccentric, mentioning renowned bands like Rush and Voivod as being uniquely bizarre, while other like Slaughter and Exciter are extremely violent, also mentioning that Montreal hosted the first ever international metal festival in North America, named World War III Festival, in 1985, featuring Voivod, Destruction, Celtic Frost, Possessed and Nasty Savage. In addition, when asked about the apparent division between Anglo-Canadians and French-Canadians in Montreal, Annick said she was not even aware of which local Anglophone bands were around, since they have their own shows and separate venues. However, she said that there’s no animosity between those two fronts, it’s just that people tend to stay in their own neighborhoods and feel more comfortable listening to music in their first languages. Well, it doesn’t actually matter if you’re an Anglo-Canadian, a French-Canadian or a complete foreigner to Montreal, whenever visiting the city try to stay updated about all metal concerts going on because, you know, you might be able to witness nightmares in the form of old school Doom Metal spearheaded by our multi-talented Annick Giroux.

Annick Giroux’s Official Instagram
Cauchemar’s Official Facebook page
Cauchemar’s Official BandCamp

“Canadian metal often has a touch of something eccentric. Being so far removed from the traditional music centres like New York City, Chicago, and LA made Canadian bands want to work even harder in developing something exceptional that could bring attention to them.” – Annick Giroux

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Concert Review – Godsmack & Volbeat (Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa, ON, 05/10/2019)

And the city of Ottawa was more than ready to rumble with two of the best bands of the modern Hard Rock and Rock N’ Roll scene.

OPENING ACT: Stitched Up Heart

Although my drive from Toronto to Ottawa on Thursday was a complete shit due to the nasty rain and all the trucks spraying tons of water on my windshield, that didn’t turn my energy level down not even a bit for the concert that was about to happen on Friday. I was really pumped to see what’s probably the best modern Rock N’ Roll bands available out there, the almighty Volbeat and the incendiary Godsmack, kicking some serious ass on stage at Richcraft Live (I honestly have no idea what that name means) at the Canadian Tire Centre. It was my first time at that venue and I must say it’s indeed a great place to watch a concert or a sports event, but unfortunately getting there is not that easy unless you drive, take a taxi or Uber to the venue, which ends up inflating the parking costs considerably.

Anyway, fans were still arriving at the venue when Los Angeles-based Hard Rock act STITCHED UP HEART began their short but effective performance, spearheaded by the beautiful Mixi on vocals. If you have no idea about what type of music Stitched Up Heart play, let’s say it’s a fusion of the contemporary Hard Rock played by Godsmack with Evanescence and Marilyn Manson, and the final result is very entertaining. It was a beyond solid warm-up for the main attractions of the night, and a very good welcome card from the band to us fans of rock music here in Canada, as I don’t actually remember seeing them anywhere around here before this tour opening for Volbeat and Godsmack. In other words, go to their official website for more information about the band, where they’re playing, where to buy their music, and so on, as those guys (and girl, of course) are definitely worth a shot.

Setlist
This Skin
Warrior
Catch Me When I Fall
Darkness
Straightjacket
Finally Free
Lost (feat. Sully Erna)

Band members
Mixi – vocals
Merritt – guitar
Randy – bass
Decker – drums 

VOLBEAT

After a short break, and with the Canadian Tire Centre already occupied by thousands of fans from different parts of Canada and the United States, it was time for Danish rockers VOLBEAT to bring to Ottawa their undisputed Rock N’ Roll infused with Heavy Metal nuances, proving once again that Copenhagen-based quartet is not one of the biggest names in the current Rock N’ Roll scene in vain. Still promoting their 2016 album Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie, but just about to release a brand new album (for our total delight), the band comprised of Michael Poulsen on vocals and rhythm guitar, Rob Caggiano on lead guitar, Kaspar Boye Larsen on bass, and Jon Larsen on drums set the venue on fire with their fast and melodic riffs and beats, and of course, endless electricity (despite the fact that Mr. Poulsen was visibly fighting some sort of cold or flu).

From the first few notes from the excellent The Devil’s Bleeding Crown to the closing moments from the already classic Still Counting, Volbeat delivered what’s expected from them, inspiring all fans from the floor section to ignite some fun (and furious) circle pits, especially during their most metallic songs such as A Warrior’s Call, 16 Dollars, Doc Holliday and Seal the Deal. Also, I think I’ve already mentioned this before, but it’s always impressive to witness how powerful and precise Mr. Caggiano is on the guitar, elevating the band’s sonority to new heights since entering the band in 2013. In addition, one song that I was extremely happy they played was Hallelujah Goat, one of my favorite Volbeat songs of all time due to its energy and heaviness, potentialized by Rob’s amazing technique and feeling. And before I forget, the band also played a brand new song for the first time ever in Ottawa, the 40-second Punk Rock tune Parasite, which albeit being extremely short it was well received by all fans who were paying attention at the moment, because you know, 40 seconds are not enough not even for a quick bathroom break. In a nutshell, I know that I just saw Volbeat live and that I’ll see them again with Slipknot, Gojira and Behemoth soon here in Toronto, but they’re so good live I cannot wait, and besides, their concerts are never long enough for them to play all of their classics.

Setlist
The Devil’s Bleeding Crown
Lola Montez
Sad Man’s Tongue (with Ring of Fire intro)
A Warrior’s Call / I Only Want to Be With You
Let It Burn
Black Rose
Parasite
16 Dollars
Dead but Rising
Fallen
Hallelujah Goat
Marie Laveau
Doc Holliday
Seal the Deal
Still Counting

Band members
Michael Poulsen – vocals, rhythm guitar
Rob Caggiano – lead guitar
Kaspar Boye Larsen – bass guitar
Jon Larsen – drums

GODSMACK

It was close to 9:45pm when the lights went out, a fun mashup of classic rock songs started playing from the amps, and finally GODSMACK hit the stage with their unique mix of Alternative Rock and Heavy Metal. I confess I don’t think their 2018 album When Legends Rise is one of their best efforts to date; quite the contrary, it’s relatively weak compared for example to their previous album, the fantastic 1000hp, released in 2014, but Sully Erna and his henchmen are so amazing in what they do they managed to turn all of the songs they played from their new album, those being When Legends Rise, Say My Name, Unforgettable, Under Your Scars and Bulletproof, into truly amazing moments of their performance. By the way, as explained by Sully during the concert, inspired by their own song Under Your Scars, Godsmack have recently founded The Scars Foundation to help raise awareness of the mental health issues that so many are faced with today. Needless to say, donate and show your support to such important and noble cause.

Getting back to the concert, I have to say that even if they played bad music the whole thing would still have been at least great, as all the fire and other special effects on stage added a lot of energy to their performance. But, of course, Godsmack do not play bad music, and fantastic songs like 1000hp (my favorite of the night), Cryin’ Like a Bitch and Whatever put a huge smile on the faces of every single fan watching their concert. Furthermore, there were three very distinct moments that let’s say “surprised” most fans due to their uniqueness, those being their dark and enthralling performance of their all-time hit Voodoo, the interesting Batalla De Los Tambores (or “battle of the drums”, if you know nothing in Spanish) between Sully and the extremely talented drummer Shannon Larkin, and the Rock N’ Roll party established on stage when Rob Caggiano and the entire Stitched Up Heart joined them on stage for a cover version of AC/DC’s classic Highway to Hell.

In the end, after Godsmack played their heavier-than-hell hit I Stand Alone, all fans left the Canadian Tire Centre extremely satisfied, hoping the band doesn’t take another abysmal time to return to Canadian soil. On the other hand, if you live in Canada and missed Godsmack, I feel really sorry for your soul. A band like that is always busy, always touring the world, and they don’t have a lot of empty spot to fill out with Canadian dates. Well, don’t cry like a bitch if you missed it, simply stay tuned to their upcoming tours and do like the rockin’ citizens from Ottawa, whenever you hear the words “Volbeat” or “Godsmack”, put on your black shirt, you leather jacket and get ready to rumble like there’s no tomorrow with one of the best and most electrifying bands of the not-so-new generation of rock and metal music.

Setlist
When Legends Rise
1000hp
Say My Name
Keep Away (Moon Baby Outro)
Cryin’ Like a Bitch
Awake
Unforgettable
Something Different
Voodoo
Batalla De Los Tambores
Whatever

Encore:
Under Your Scars
Bulletproof
Highway to Hell (AC/DC cover)
I Stand Alone

Band members
Sully Erna – vocals, guitar
Tony Rombola – lead guitar
Robbie Merrill – bass
Shannon Larkin – drums

Album Review – Answer With Metal / Centralia (2019)

The answer to all your problems in life in the form of nine songs filled with speed, melody, powerful vocals and ear piercing solos, courtesy of one of the best names of the underground Canadian scene.

It’s time to return to Stouffville, a municipality in the Greater Toronto Area of Ontario, Canada, approximately 50 kilometers north of downtown Toronto, to raise our horns once again to the classic and exciting Heavy Metal blasted by a five-piece group known as Answer With Metal, who are releasing now in 2019 their fourth full-length album, entitled Centralia, a fantastic follow-up to the band’s latest releases Handling the Blade (2015) and Return to the Gates (2016). Comprised of pretty much the same lineup from their previous installments, which is Dan Nielsen on vocals, Andrew Jarvis on the guitar, Jon Stallan on bass and Alejandro Gonzalez on drums (with the exception of rhythm guitarist Matt Hadaway, who left the band in 2018 for personal reasons), Answer With Metal are back to prove there’s no better answer to all problems in life than our good old Heavy Metal, having Centralia as their powerful weapon of persuasion.

Featuring a futuristic, eye-catching artwork by Brazilian graphic designer Caio Caldas from Cadies Art (who has already worked with DragonForce, Raven Lord, Soulspell, Hammerdrone and Xenosis, among several other bands), and mixed and mastered by the band’s own guitarist Andrew Jarvis, Centralia offers the listener nine songs filled with speed, melody, powerful vocals and ear piercing solos, delivering a blend of 80’s traditional metal with heavier thrashing elements in order to give it a rawer  sound. As a matter of fact, the title of the album is a reference to Centralia, a city in Pennsylvania, in the United States, which became a near ghost town due to the Centralia mine fire, which has been burning underground since 1962, giving you a very good idea of how hot and incendiary the music found throughout the entire album can be.

Slashing riffs a la Judas Priest kick off the frantic and very traditional No One’s to Own, a true headbanger where Andrew and Jon are in absolute sync with their stringed weapons, before Dan begins firing his high-pitched, metallic vocal lines for our total delight. In other words, the album couldn’t have started in a better way, and the band puts the pedal to the metal to make things even more thrilling in the fantastic Wild Hunt, exhaling old school Heavy Metal with an additional and very welcome Thrash Metal touch. I’m quite sure this is Alejandro’s favorite song to play due to its speed and fury, while Andrew and Jon keep crushing their strings beautifully, not to mention its absolutely catchy lyrics (“The huntsmen ride strong / The hunt goes on and on / The hounds of hell lead the way / Black as night you’ll die today”). And blending elements from the music by renowned acts such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Helloween and Primal Fear (which obviously translates into awesomeness), Answer With Metal fire the excellent Stand and Fight, proving they do not need to play at the speed of light to sound amazing, with Dan stealing the spotlight with his strong voice.

Again focusing on heaviness instead of speed, the band delivers a powerful performance in Jenova, especially Andrew with his soulful riffs and solos, followed by the title-track Centralia, a marching/headbanging tune also inspired by the NWOBHM showcasing those old school lyrics we all love so much (“Fear not our fate rebirthed / Enter the reset – flood out the earth / Altered in restless dreams / Rise from the ashes of Centralia”) and a precise Ale on drums, effectively dictating the song’s rhythm. Then it’s time to speed things up once again just the way we like it in Power Metal with Don’t Know Why, perfect for hitting the highway (and get a ticket for over-speeding, of course), with Jon and Ale blasting thunderous and intricate roars from their respective instruments throughout the entire song.

And the Heavy Metal party has no time to end, as we’re treated to more of their classic musicality in Cry Wolf, where the entire band does a great job in what’s in my opinion the best song of the album, blasting sheer rage, speed and electricity, not to mention Andrew’s awesome shredding form start to finish. In No Heights a Home the band ventures through the realms of Thrash Metal one more time, which becomes even clearer in the vocal lines and riffs as the music progresses, also presenting a great chorus for singing along with the band, intricate bass punches by Jon and rabid beats by Ale, adding to the whole song tons of potency and stamina. Lastly, closing the album we have the mid-tempo, semi-ballad Last of You, a very good song but slightly below the rest of the album in terms of impact, creativity and feeling. There’s still a lot to enjoy though, such as Dan’s excellent vocal lines.

It’s time to join Answer With Metal in their journey to the obscure Centralia, and in order to do that simply grab your copy of the album (also available for a full listen on Spotify) from the band’s own BandCamp page or from iTunes. Also, don’t forget to follow them on Facebook for news, tour dates and other nice-to-know details, and to subscribe to their YouTube channel for more of their gripping music, showing your true support and admiration for this excellent Canadian band that has been proudly carrying the flag of traditional Heavy Metal since their inception, never giving up and always loyal to their foundations. And that’s how you make true heavy music, my friends.

Best moments of the album: Wild Hunt, Cry Wolf and No Heights a Home.

Worst moments of the album: Last of You.

Released in 2019 Independent

Track listing
1. No One’s to Own 4:06
2. Wild Hunt 4:55
3. Stand and Fight 4:40
4. Jenova 4:36
5. Centralia 3:59
6. Don’t Know Why 4:06
7. Cry Wolf 3:34
8. No Heights a Home 3:56
9. Last of You 4:57

Band members
Dan Nielsen – vocals
Andrew Jarvis – guitars
Jon Stallan – bass
Alejandro Gonzalez – drums

Concert Review – Cradle of Filth (The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 03/27/2019)

One year after storming Toronto with their Cryptoriana World Tour for the first time, the one and only Cradle of Filth returned for another fantastic round of blasphemy, darkness and seductiveness.

OPENING ACT: Raven Black

First of all, I would like to ask anyone to explain to me why WEDNESDAY 13, the Hollywood-based Gothic/Dark Metal band led by Murderdolls’ frontman Joseph Michael Poole (aka Wednesday 13), didn’t open for the almighty Cradle of Filth last night at The Opera House like they’ve been doing together with Los Angeles-based Gothic/Dark Metal unity RAVEN BLACK during this second round of the Cryptoriana North American tour, nicely named CRYPTORIANA WORLD TOUR 2019 – THE SECOND COMING OF VICE. All websites showed Raven Black scheduled for 7pm, Wednesday 13 for 7:45pm and Cradle of Filth for 8:55pm, but what actually happened last night in Toronto was a huge (and tedious) delay that ended up with Raven Black playing at 7:45pm and Cradle of Filth at 8:55pm, with no sign of Wednesday 13 at all nor any communication from the venue or the organizers. Unless they played at 5pm when no one was there to watch them, or if they wanted to make a very bad joke with their own name saying they were “late” two weeks (as yesterday was Wednesday 27), there’s no official reason for their absence. Can anyone out there explain to me what happened, please?

Anyway, without Wednesday 13, Raven Black was left with the always demanding duty of warming up the fans at The Opera house for another night of wicked, sulfurous and dark metal music. Comprised of the stunning, talented and very sympathetic Raven on lead vocals, The Doctor on lead guitar and backing vocals, Stitches on bass and Muppet on drums and harsh vocals (plus another mysterious, unnamed guitarist who would go on and off stage depending on the song played), Raven Black put on a great show, entertaining the fans avid for the more extreme music by Dani Filth and his horde. Still promoting their 2018 album 13, Raven Black played a fairly different setlist from the ones of this same tour, either by changing the order of the songs or by adding new ones, such as their brand new single named Carnival (a very good song, by the way), probably due to Wednesday 13’s cryptic absence. And it was impossible not to keep your eyes turned to the darkly, darkly sexy Raven, who delivered a very entertaining performance impersonating an evil doll with a special artifact per song, including a hula hoop, handcuffs and a giant teddy bear. My favorite songs of their concert were Dollhouse and Twinkle Twinkle Little Scars, and if you also enjoy this type of freakish, circus-inspired metal music, go take a look at their BandCamp page not only to purchase those two songs but their entire (short but already solid) discography.

Band members
Raven – lead vocals
The Doctor – lead guitar, backing vocals
Stitches – bass
Muppet – drums, harsh vocals

CRADLE OF FILTH

After a short break it was time for British Extreme Metal warlocks CRADLE OF FILTH to haunt The Opera House once again for our total delight, still promoting their 2017 album Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay, almost exactly one year after their 2018 concert in the city, coincidentally also on a Wednesday night. The setlist was very close to their previous one, with a few changes to some of the songs such as the removal of Beneath the Howling Stars and The Death of Love and the inclusion of Nemesis and Honey and Sulphur. I love all those songs, so I was more than fine with those changes as it’s always a pleasure to see a fantastic band like Cradle of Filth playing different songs live, but there was one huge “mistake” made by the band, which was NOT closing the show with the all-time classic From the Cradle to Enslave. Sorry, Dani, but I can’t forgive you for that even after seeing your Instagram post where you say you were quite sick last night (so sick he said they dropped Saffron’s Curse instead of From the Cradle to Enslave). Just kidding, of course.

Anyway, I can’t get tired of watching Dani growling like a demonic beast (even when he’s under the weather) while his bandmates make sure the atmosphere remains as obscure, devilish and aggressive as possible, with one of the nicest keyboardists in the world, Lindsay Schoolcraft, and the unstoppable guitarist Richard Shaw providing an extra touch of delicacy and madness to the show, respectively. Richard didn’t stop jumping up and down, spinning around, spitting and urging the crowd to go crazy into the circle pit, and all that while at the same time he was flawless with his riffs and solos. That’s what I call a true metalhead, my friends, providing Dani some effective support and relief due to his illness. If you were there, I bet their performance during the unparalleled 10-minute infernal beast Bathory Aria left you completely disoriented. That says it all.

In the end, although we didn’t have Wednesday 13 for some unknown reason, it was indeed another amazing night of Extreme Metal, with Raven Black and specially Cradle of Filth, of course, showing Toronto everything they got. When all was said and done (and after all the devastation the fans were promoting inside the endless circle pit in the center of the venue), everyone had a huge smile on their faces, and not even an exhausting day at work (like the one I had) could stop the crowd from enjoying the concert to its fullest. Furthermore, there were several amazing Cradle of Filth shirts being sold by their crew or worn by the fans as usual, but there was a guy wearing a very specific one that caught my attention, where in the back it said “DANI FILTH LOVES YOU”’. Well, how can we argue with that? He surely loves Toronto, and Toronto loves him and his iconic band back. That is pure, mutual respect and admiration that makes them come back to the city again and again. Hence, it’s been just less than a day after the concert was over, but I’m already eager to see the mighty Cradle of Filth possessing our souls once again here in our beloved Toronto.

Setlist
ACT I
Ave Satani (Intro)
Gilded Cunt
Nemesis
Right Wing of the Garden Triptych
Heartbreak and Seance
Bathory Aria: Benighted Like Usher / A Murder of Ravens in Fugue / Eyes That Witnessed Madness
Wester Vespertine
Dusk and Her Embrace
You Will Know the Lion by His Claw
Creatures That Kissed in Cold Mirrors (Interlude)

ACT II
A Bruise Upon the Silent Moon (Intro)
The Promise of Fever
Saffron’s Curse
Nymphetamine (Fix)
Honey and Sulphur
Her Ghost in the Fog
Blooding the Hounds of Hell (Outro)

Band members
Dani Filth – lead vocals
Richard Shaw – guitars
Marek “Ashok” Šmerda – guitars
Daniel Firth – bass
Lindsay Schoolcraft – female vocals, keyboards
Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka – drums

Concert Review – Disturbed (Scotiabank Arena, Toronto, ON, 03/04/2019)

David Draiman and his henchmen took Toronto by storm once again, providing us all a touching and memorable night of heavy music, life and friendship.

OPENING ACTS: Three Days Grace

Monday night in Toronto was damn cold, windy and, even if it was sunny and hot, it was still Monday. However, there’s nothing better than a good rock and metal concert to warm us up on such a boring day, right? That’s exactly what over 20,000 fans got at the now named Scotiabank Arena (formerly known as Air Canada Centre) during the Disturbed: Evolution Tour, featuring Three Days Grace as the opening act and, obviously, Disturbed, spearheaded by the iconic David Draiman. I was surprised with the amount of very young people at the venue, proving that rock music is far from being done (and I’ll talk more about it later), and not even that annoying bitterly cold wind was capable of stopping us all to raise our fists in the air to one of the most important bands in the history of Alternative Metal.

I must confess I’ve never paid too much attention to THREE DAYS GRACE, mainly because their music is not my cup of tea, sounding way too radio-friendly at times. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy their performance, though, as those Toronto-based rockers put on a very energetic and fun concert, still promoting their 2018 album titled Outsider. Frontman Matt Walst didn’t stop running around and jumping up and down for a single second, demanding the audience to sing along with him and to ignite some circle pits. A few songs stood out from their setlist, like The Good Life, Pain, Riot and, of course, their biggest hit I Hate Everything About You, all working as a good warm-up for the main attraction of the night. In other words, if a fan of Thrash, Death and Black Metal like me enjoyed their show, I can imagine how happy they made their diehard fans playing in their hometown.

Setlist
Intro (Livin’ On a Prayer)
The Mountain
Home
The Good Life
Pain
Infra-Red
Painkiller
Break
Right Left Wrong
I Hate Everything About You
Animal I Have Become (with “Seven Nation Army” interlude)
Never Too Late
Riot

Band members
Matt Walst – lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Barry Stock – lead guitar
Brad Walst – bass, backing vocals
Neil Sanderson – drums, keyboards, backing vocals 

DISTURBED

It was around 8:50pm when the lights went off and the humongous screen at the back of the stage started showing scenes from several DISTURBED concerts through the years, also presenting some rebellious and inspiring messages to the crowd, and that video worked flawlessly to pump up every single person at the venue for the opening track Are You Ready, from their 2018 album Evolution (which is definitely not their best effort, but it still has some very good moments, I might say). And although the whole concert might not have been as electrifying as their latest performance in the city in 2016 with Breaking Benjamin while promoting their 2015 album Immortalized (partially due to the extreme cold outside, as their 2016 show was outdoors in the middle of the summer), David & Co. kicked ass with a very solid and diversified setlist, proving once again why they’re still relevant after all those years on the road.

It was indeed a feast of classic tunes from the band, with crushing hymns like Stupify (where David gave a short speech about how the media wants us to believe we’re divided, when in fact we’re all united no matter our color, race, gender or sexual orientation), Voices, Ten Thousand Fists and their cover version for Genesis’ Land of Confusion (my favorite of the night, by the way) inspiring everyone to jump, headbang, mosh and sing together with the quartet. Dan Donegan, John Moyer and Mike Wengren were on fire with their instruments, providing David everything he needed to blast his unparalleled screams. Furthermore, despite the biggest part of their setlist being comprised of heavy songs, it was when they played their ballads that they truly connected with the audience, and that happened for a very simple and delicate reason. It was visible that all four members of the band were very sad and touched by the death of their longtime friend Keith Flint, the wicked frontman for British electronic music trailblazers The Prodigy, who committed suicide at the age of 49 at his home in Essex earlier that same day, turning the concert in Toronto something very special for the entire band.

When they played Hold On to Memories on the main stage, showing photos and images of their entire career including some pictures and old footage with their friends Chester Bennington (from Linkin Park, who also committed suicide in 2017) and the unparalleled Pantera brothers Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul, who died in 2004 and 2018, respectively, it was already a memorable moment for everyone at the venue, a celebration of life and friendship by Disturbed, but it was when they moved to the smaller acoustic stage at the back of the floor section to play A Reason to Fight and Watch You Burn that we could clearly see a lot of tears falling down from their eyes. David took some time to give a very meaningful speech about how depression is not something people choose to have, but a very serious disease that can consume even the most famous and richest people on the planet, dedicating that part of the show to Keith Flint just like what he had done a week before remembering the lives of Chris Cornell, Scott Weiland and Chester Benington during their concert in New York. There are (several) other people out there either suffering from depression or who had already reached the unfortunate point of suicide, like the talented Huntress frontwoman Jill Janus who passed away in 2018, and as David said we need to reach out to those in need to win this battle against such horrendous illness.

The other three unforgettable moments for me (and for most people at the venue) were first and foremost their already classic tribute to Simon & Garfunkel with their flawless version for their ballad The Sound of Silence, the insane fire on stage during Inside the Fire (for obvious reasons), and the amazing kids with their parents on stage to celebrate rock music during The Light, proving once and for all as David said that rock is not dead like the media enjoys “vomiting” in our faces every single day. And lastly, as the icing on the cake, how about two of my all-time favorite Disturbed songs, the superb Stricken and the demented Down With the Sickness, which ignited a big, fun and frantic circle pit that took over a significant part of the central area of the floor section? That’s what good rock and metal music is all about, right? Having a good time with your loved ones, enjoying a nice beer while watching a great band like Disturbed perform, and resting assured that while bands like Disturbed are alive and kicking, our beloved Rock N’ Roll will never, ever die.

Setlist
Are You Ready
Prayer
The Vengeful One
The Animal
Stupify
Voices
Land of Confusion (Genesis cover)
Hold On to Memories
Ten Thousand Fists
The Game
A Reason to Fight
Watch You Burn
The Sound of Silence (Simon & Garfunkel cover)
Indestructible
Inside the Fire

Encore:
The Light
Stricken
Down With the Sickness

Band members
David Draiman – vocals
Dan Donegan – guitar
John Moyer – bass
Mike Wengren – drums

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Concert Review – Behemoth (The Danforth Music Hall, Toronto, ON, 11/06/2018)

Toronto definitely loves Behemoth at their darkest.

OPENING ACTS: Wolves In The Throne Room and At The Gates

If there’s one thing we cannot complain at all in Toronto is the fact that the winter never really hits us hard before the end of December, which means whenever there’s a concert like this Tuesday’s fantastic triumvirate of extreme music with Wolves In The Throne Room, At The Gates and the masters of blasphemy Behemoth at The Danforth Music Hall during their “Ecclesia Diabolica America 2018 e.v.” tour, you can rest assured it will never be too cold nor snowing, allowing any fan to attend the show and have a great time. Well, I guess even if it was -20oC and snowing like hell the concert would have been absolutely SOLD OUT like it actually happened, with about 1,500 metalheads at the venue, and the reason for that is quite simple. All three bands kicked some serious ass with their austere, obscure and hammering music, especially Behemoth, who put up another memorable performance in the city.

I have to admit I didn’t know much about American Atmospheric Black Metal act WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM, formed in 2003 in the city of Olympia, Washington, in the United States, before their show opening for At The Gates and Behemoth this Tuesday, and I’m truly happy with them being chosen to do so. Still promoting their 2017 album Thrice Woven (available from their own BandCamp page), the  band comprised of Nathan Weaver on vocals and guitar, Kody Keyworth on the guitar and backing vocals, Peregrine Somerville also on the guitar, the stunning Brittany McConnell on keyboards and Aaron Weaver on drums (and no, they don’t have a bassist) delivered a solid, entertaining and mesmerizing show, playing only three songs but for around 30 minutes, just the way we love it in Atmospheric Black Metal. If you’re still going to see Behemoth during this North American tour, make sure you get to the venue on time for Wolves In The Throne Room, because watching them on stage is indeed a unique experience.

Setlist
Angrboda
The Old Ones Are With Us
Born From the Serpent’s Eye

Band members
Nathan Weaver – vocals, guitar
Kody Keyworth – guitar, backing vocals
Peregrine Somerville – guitar
Brittany McConnell – keyboards
Aaron Weaver – drums

After a quick break it was time for Gothenburg’s own Melodic Death Metal institution AT THE GATES to prove us all why they’re still one of the most relevant bands from the 90’s unparalleled Swedish scene, slaying everything and everyone throughout their entire concert. All fans at the venue enjoyed a lot the flammable performance by frontman Tomas Lindberg and his henchmen, including the songs from their brand new album To Drink from the Night Itself, such as the title-track and A Stare Bound in Stone. Not only their full concert was a feast of first-class old school and modern-day Melodic Death Metal, but it was nice to watch Mr. Adrian Erlandsson smashing his drums once again after so many years, as the last time I saw him playing live was when he was still drumming for Cradle Of Filth. A great drummer, an amazing and charismatic lead singer, and a very entertaining setlist. What else can you ask for in Melodic Death Metal made in the beautiful Sweden, right?

Setlist
Der Widerstand
To Drink From the Night Itself
Slaughter of the Soul
At War With Reality
A Stare Bound in Stone
Cold
El Altar del Dios Desconocido
Death and the Labyrinth
Heroes and Tombs
Suicide Nation
The Book of Sand (The Abomination)
Blinded by Fear
The Night Eternal

Band members
Tomas Lindberg – vocals
Martin Larsson – guitars
Jonas Stålhammar – guitars
Jonas Björler – bass
Adrian Erlandsson – drums 

BEHEMOTH

Right after At The Gates ended their show, the speakers started playing the devilish children’s choir from the awesome intro Solve, from BEHEMOTH’s blasphemous and totally amazing new opus I Loved You At Your Darkest, putting us all in a trance and warming up our senses for the storm of Blackened Death Metal we were all eager to witness once again in Toronto. And when our favorite Polish horde started their fulminating performance with Wolves ov Siberia, spearheaded as usual by the iconic Nergal, it was hell on earth at The Danforth Music Hall for the total delectation of the 1,500 fans who took the venue by storm.

Blending new songs from their latest albums I Loved You At Your Darkest, which by the way worked extremely well live like the hypnotizing chant Bartzabel and the beyond blasphemous Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica, and The Satanist, with the ominous hymns Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer (my favorite of the setlist) and Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel being a true invocation of evil, with old school material like the pulverizing Ov Fire and the Void, Slaves Shall Serve and Chant for Eschaton 2000, Nergal and his horde comprised of the extremely sharp and talented Seth on the guitar and backing vocals, the bulldozer Orion on bass and backing vocals, and the stone crusher Inferno on drums were on absolute fire from start to finish, worshiping Satan while delivering the best and most intricate fusion of classic and contemporary Death and Black Metal you can think of, with their masks, costumes and props being the icing on the cake. My only “complaint” is that they didn’t end the show with the fantastic O Father O Satan O Sun!, including those menacing horns and masks, but the closing combo Lucifer, We Are the Next 1000 Years  and the outro Coagvla were awesome anyway.

Not only Nergal was extremely happy and excited with the warm reception he received here in Toronto (not to mention the endless, incendiary circle pits beautifully crafted by their, let’s say, “most physical” fans), but seeing such packed venue made him pretty much promise us all that Behemoth will strike us Torontonians once again with their infernal music in a not-so-distant future, and we obviously can’t wait for another bestial performance by one of the most important extreme bands of the current metal scene. Lastly, on a side note, it looks like Behemoth love Toronto even more than we can imagine, as the Polish quartet from hell also played a 7-song setlist at a house party of one of Nergal’s friends the night before as you can see HERE, with the same intensity and energy of their usual concerts at much bigger places. I don’t mind not being invited for those parties as long as Behemoth keep coming back to the city with their insanely heavy and hellish concerts, but if by any chance anyone has a spare “ticket” for that type of event, why not? Just kidding, as I’m not that social, only a metalhead who loves when a band like Behemoth keeps spreading their black wings and unleashing hell upon the earth, showing their love for the city of Toronto as much as we love them back at their darkest.

Setlist
Solve
Wolves ov Siberia
Daimonos
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
Bartzabel
Ov Fire and the Void
God = Dog
Conquer All
Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica
Decade of Therion
Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel
Slaves Shall Serve
Chant for Eschaton 2000
Lucifer
We Are the Next 1000 Years
Coagvla

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

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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Concert Review – Boonsdale Fest 2018 & Wacken Metal Battle Canada Final (The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018)

After a year of silence, Wacken Metal Battle Canada returned in full force in a unique partnership with Boonsdale Fest to decide which underground band would raise the flag of Canadian metal high on “The Holy Land” of heavy music.

INTRODUCTION: BOONSDALE FEST AND WACKEN METAL BATTLE CANADA UNITED

There’s nothing better than a night of ass-kicking heavy music in the always fun month of June in the city of Toronto, and to make things even better how about uniting at The Opera House the 2nd annual Boonsdale Fest, organized by Boonsdale Records and featuring the bands MokomokaiOperus and Borealis, with the 2018 edition of Wacken Metal Battle Canada, where the Best from the West Hammerdrone battled the Best from the East Centuries of Decay for a place alongside the greatest names in the history heavy music at Wacken Open Air later this year. As there was no Wacken Metal Battle Canada in 2017 (each year Wacken allocates 28 slots at W.O.A. for the Metal Battle winners from 28 different countries, and due to the increasing number of countries some are asked to pause for a year to give the chance to others to participate, which was what happened to Canada last year), this year several Canadian independent and underground bands were more than eager to participate in the competition again, with qualifying rounds happening all over the country starting January 12,  until Calgary’s Hammerdrone and Toronto’s Centuries of Decay reached the desired final round in Toronto this Saturday.

In 2016, Wacken Metal Battle Canada crowned Death/Thrash Metal band Profaner as champions, who then by the way advanced to be 2nd place at the international Metal Battle at W.O.A. that same year, so who would be granted the chance to represent Canada at the biggest metal festival in the world in 2018? Well, it’s time to rumble to the heavy music by Centuries of Decay, Hammerdrone, Mokomokai, Operus and Borealis, and wait for guest judges Gustavo Valderrama (Navaja Music, Electric Flow), Tim Henderson (Bravewords.com), Andrew Epstein (Zombitrol Productions, Alan Cross’ A Journal of Musical Things), Chris Gonda (PureGrainAudio.com), Charlie Felix (Sound & Noise, Live Talent), Oscar Rangel (Operus, Ex-Annihilator), Wojtek Sokolowski (Operus) and Luc Lainé (CFLX 95,5 FM) to decide which band would rule them all!

CENTURIES OF DECAY

Centuries of Decay @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

Precisely at 9pm Toronto’s own Progressive/Atmospheric Death Metal act Centuries of Decay hit the stage at The Opera House showing why they were chosen Eastern Canadian Metal Battle champions, led by the deep and very melodic growls by vocalist and guitarist Devin Doucette. Formed in 2014, the quartet released in 2017 their debut self-titled album, available for a listen (and obviously for purchase) at their own BandCamp page, and that album was basically what the metalheads at the venue had the pleasure to witness them playing live. With songs getting close to or even breaking the 10-minute mark, something unimaginable for any artist or band from most non-metal styles that are in pursuit of stardom, Centuries of Decay inspired everyone in the crowd to bang their heads nonstop and feel embraced by their atmospheric music, generating a very nice and interesting feeling in all of us. That’s how exciting progressive and atmospheric heavy music can be, and if these are just the initial steps in the promising career of Centuries of Decay, I can’t wait to see what those four metallers will bring next.

Band members
Devin Doucette – vocals, rhythm guitar
Rob McAllister – lead guitar, backing vocals
Matt Hems – bass
Derrick Doucette – drums

HAMMERDRONE

Hammerdrone @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

After a quick bathroom/beer break, it was time for the winners of the West Hammerdrone to make a lot of noise and crush us with their unrelenting Melodic Death Metal, opening their performance with the violent Dark Harvest, the title-track from their 2017 opus Dark Harvest, which you can buy directly from their BandCamp page, a concept album inspired by the real life but obscure tale of the Scottish terrorist organization the Dark Harvest Commando. Frontman Grahma Harris was on fire during the entire concert, growling and roaring (and also making faces) like a beast, while his bandmates Rick Cardellini (lead guitars), Curtis Beardy (rhythm guitars), Teran Wyer (bass) and Vince Cardellini (drums) delivered a well-balanced fusion of the more harmonious lines from Melodic Death Metal with the sheer heaviness and aggressiveness of old school Death Metal. As a matter of fact, you can download for free a live EP by Hammerdrone titled Rituals of Battle from their BandCamp page, just to give you an idea of how awesome their music sounds live. And after Hammerdrone’s concert was over, I knew the judges were going to have a very difficult time deciding who should be crowned the 2018 champions. Well, at least they had a few more excellent concerts to go until then.

Band members
Graham Harris – vocals
Rick Cardellini – lead guitars
Curtis Beardy – rhythm guitars, backing vocals
Teran Wyer – bass, vocals
Vince Cardellini – drums

MOKOMOKAI

Mokomokai @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

When Peterborough-based four-piece band Mokomokai began blasting their electrifying blend of old school Heavy Metal and Hard Rock, I guess we could say it was the “official” start of Boonsdale Fest, and let me tell you it looked like their Rock N’ Roll party had no time to end. Formed in 2011, and having a distinct name inspired by the preserved heads of Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, the quartet formed by John Ellis on vocals and guitar, Bobby Deuce on the guitar, Jeremy Pastic on bass and J J Tartaglia on drums put everyone at the venue to dance with their flammable music, playing songs from their 2017 album The Poison Whiptail, like the excellent Heavy Metal Sky, as well as a cover version for the classic The Wizard, by Black Sabbath (check out the original version HERE), taken from their 1970 masterpiece Black Sabbath, with John even playing the song’s traditional harmonica. After such high level of adrenaline, I have only one thing to say about Mokomokai: if they visit your hometown, don’t miss the chance to see them kicking some serious ass live.

Band members
John Ellis – vocals, guitar
Bobby Deuce – lead & rhythm guitar
Jeremy Pastic – bass
J.J. Tartaglia – drums 

OPERUS

Operus @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

Perhaps the performance by the following band of the night, Toronto-based Epic Symphonic Metal squad Operus, was the most peculiar of the entire event due to all the unique elements found during their concert (and one of them was definitely not on purpose). Formed in 2005, this six-piece act put on an extremely entertaining and atmospheric show still promoting their 2017 album Cenotaph, featuring Oscar Rangel (ex-Annihilator) on the guitar, cellist Robin Howe adding an extra touch of epicness to the band’s music, masked-frontman David Michael Moote with his passionate and theatrical performance, J.J. Tartaglia back on drums to play a completely different style from Mokomokai, and an injured bassist Wojtek Sokolowski who twisted his ankle right at the beginning of the show, but who refused to stop and managed to play their full set before going to ER (and that’s what I call a true metalhead!). That’s another band I highly recommend you go watch live if they’re scheduled to play at a venue near you, and you can find their latest album available on different platforms such as iTunes if epic and symphonic music is your cup of tea.

Band members
David Michael Moote – lead vocals
Rob Holden – guitar
Oscar Rangel – guitar, backing vocals, growls
Robin Howe – cello, backing vocals
Wojtek Sokolowski – bass, backing vocals
J.J. Tartaglia – drums 

BOREALIS

Borealis @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

Last but not least, the festival ended with another very progressive and melodic band named Borealis, formed in 2005 in the Ontarian city of Orangeville, who also delivered a solid and delightful performance playing songs from all of their five full-length albums, such as Revelation, from their 2015 album Purgatory, and The Awakening, from their brand new opus The Offering, released earlier this year. Comprised of lead singer and guitarist Matt Marinelli (who had his bottle of water wisely placed on his mic stand looking like he was going to deliver some “wah wah’s” with his guitar when he was actually just thirsty as hell), guitarist Ken Fobert, bassist Trevor McBride, keyboardist Sean Werlick and drummer Sean Dowell, Borealis did not disappoint their fans, filling all empty spaces in the air with their classy Melodic and Power Metal and keeping everyone pumped up even with the clock getting close to 2am. That’s another band I highly recommend you go check them live as well as go after their discography, because it’s not only top-tier metal music, but the overall production of their albums is also outstanding.

Band members
Matt Marinelli – vocals, guitars
Ken Fobert – guitars
Trevor McBride – bass
Sean Werlick – keyboards
Sean Dowell – drums

AND THE WINNER IS…

Centuries of Decay – 2018 Wacken Metal Battle Canada Winner

…Toronto’s own Progressive/Atmospheric Death Metal squad CENTURIES OF DECAY! It was indeed an amazing concert, and I’m sure they will proudly carry the flag of Canadian metal high during their journey through the holy land of Wacken. Actually, I really wish Wacken Metal Battle Canada could send two bands to the festival, because Hammerdrone were just as demolishing and professional as the Metal Battle winners. At least now more people will get to know Hammerdrone and all other bands of the night, which in the end is the ultimate goal of the Metal Battle and of festivals like Boonsdale Fest, keeping the fire of metal alive by always presenting to us fans new incredible bands from the underground scene. For instance, there was this old school, diehard metalhead (drinking beer at an insane speed of “two tall boys every five minutes”, but who was still able to walk, talk and headbang as if he was having just water) who asked me right after Operus if there was still more to come, and when I said there was still one more band he showed a huge and honest smile and said “this is great, eh?”, and if independent bands can still extract that type of reaction from a veteran like that guy, well, that’s another proof that metal music will never die. Now let’s wait until next year to see which new name will represent Canada at W.O.A. 2019, and if you already have your tickets for the festival this year, don’t forget to go say “hi” and raise your horns to the guys from Centuries of Decay.

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