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 – Wacken Metal Battle Toronto Round #4 (Bovine Sex Club, Toronto, ON, 03/27/2015)

The battle for a place among the Gods of Heavy Metal rages on in Toronto.

INTRODUCTION: Wacken Metal Battle Canada

wacken metal battle_toronto_round4This Friday, March 27 lots of metalheads showed up at the iconic Bovine Sex Club (probably the worst nightmare for a claustrophobic fan of heavy music) in Toronto, Ontario, to show their support for five promising Canadian metal bands during Wacken Metal Battle Toronto Round #4. I guess I don’t need to explain in details what a Wacken Metal Battle is, but in case you really don’t know anything about it simply go to their official website to check the RULES of this competition and the DATES AND LOCATIONS of all qualifying rounds, provincial semi-finals and finals, and the great Canadian final, as well as their official Facebook page for more details and updates on all the battles raging on across Canada. If you’re craving for fresh and electrifying heavy music, a Wacken Metal Battle is what you need.

Guest judges for this round were Jon Asher (Asher Media Relations), Oscar Rangel (Annihilator), Dan Hand (Underground Operations) and Andrew Epstein (FlinkTO), who had the privilege of watching five kick-ass bands ranging from blasting Death Metal to the most inspiring form of Power Metal: Rivers Run Red, Black Eve, Apokalyptik Warrior, Call Of The Wild and Olde. I honestly cannot say which one was my favorite, as they all delivered top-notch Heavy Metal much better than what several renowned bands haven’t been able to do in a long time. And the winner is… Well, let’s save it for the end of this review. First, enjoy a quick but candid review of each of the metal “infantries” fighting for a place among the Gods of Heavy Metal at the 2015 edition of the one and only Wacken Open Air in Germany. And sorry for the horrible photos, I had some issues with my camera.

RIVERS RUN RED

This straightforward band from Woodbridge, Ontario, was responsible for opening the night with those traditional Death Metal eviscerating vocals and demonic riffs perfect for mosh pits and brutal headbanging while enjoying a cold beer. If you want to listen to what Rivers Run Red are capable of when armed with their instruments, visit their SoundCloud page for a taste of their music. And of course, we can rest assured old school Death Metal will keep haunting Canada while talented bands like Rivers Run Red are out there.

Band members
Silvestro Lo Presti – vocals
Massimo Taglieri – lead guitar
Andrew La Porta – rhythm guitar
Matthew Trojan – bass
Anthony Ricci – drums

BLACK EVE

Led by frontman John “Deadman” Davis and delivering high amounts of energy, violence and obscurity through their music, Melodic Death Metal band Black Eve had a very professional and fun show that entertained everyone at the venue. Obviously, their evil gear and corpse paint are important elements of the band’s live performance, but it’s the music itself that stands out, with highlights to the excellent guitar duo composed by Mario Syposz and Reuben Pereira. You can take a listen at Black Eve’s demonic music at the band’s ReverbNation page, paying attention to their interesting lyrics inspired by classic horror movies and slasher flicks.

Band members
John “Deadman” Davis – vocals
Mario Syposz – lead guitar
Reuben Pereira – rhythm guitar
Cody Stanley – bass guitars
Trysten “Tragedy” Mclellan – drums

APOKALYPTIK WARRIOR

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Apokalyptik Warrior @ Bovine Sex Club, Toronto, ON, 03/27/2015

If you have no idea of what Street Metal means, the crazy bastards from Apokalyptik Warrior will teach you a lesson in that form of Heavy Metal. They do not aim at reinventing metal nor at being thoughtful or philosophical. All they wanted to do this Friday was driving the fans wild with their assault of metal riffs and harsh screams. Listen to this song by this nice Street Metal band and you’ll understand what I’m saying. In addition, it was really cool to see the guys from Black Eve slammin’ into the circle pits during Apokalyptik Warrior’s performance, showing us all that it was not actually a battle of bands happening at the Bovine Sex Club, but it was simply a gathering of friends and fans of heavy music.

Band members
General SS Ramsay – vocals, guitar
Baroness Denise Samuelson – bass
Battery Sergeant Adam ‘Mortal’ McLaughlin – drums

CALL OF THE WILD

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Call Of The Wild @ Bovine Sex Club, Toronto, ON, 03/27/2015

The third band of the night was a sign that the Heavy Metal gods are more powerful than ever, delivering their message through the music by awesome bands like Call Of The Wild. What an amazing and cohesive five-piece Torontonian Power Metal band, with songs such as Voyager being a beautiful tribute to everything we learned to love in the music by Iron Maiden, Helloween, Iced Earth and so on. And do I need to say anything about the stunning guitarist Cyndi Zhang? Her guitar lines are outstanding, not to mention that her true Asian beauty adds an extra touch of awesomeness to the band’s live performance. She deserves to be a “Metal Chick of the Month” here at The Headbanging Moose one day for sure. Anyway, what are you waiting for to heed the call of the wild?

Band members
Power Serg – vocals
Cyndi Zhang – guitar
Tom Stanley – guitar
Mark Nicholson – bass
Chris Maniac – drums

OLDE

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Olde @ Bovine Sex Club, Toronto, ON, 03/27/2015

Closing this amazing night of heavy music, it was time for some low-tuned riffs and deep growls with Doom/Sludge Metal band Olde, directly from Malton, Ontario. Olde are indeed another exceptional band with such a professional and heavy sounding it’s hard not to bang your head to their doomed music. Frontman Doug McLarty has a strong voice that helps the band deliver all the despair they want with their music, but it’s the work done by guitarist Greg Dawson and  drummer Ryan Aubin that truly maintains Olde’s music quality so high. Go to their SoundCloud page and also to their BandCamp page to listen to their debut full-length album, entitled I, and you’ll see why they were one of the chosen bands for this round of Wacken Metal Battle in Toronto.

Band members
Doug McLarty – vocals
Greg Dawson – guitar
Chris Hughes – guitar
Cory McCallum – bass
Ryan Aubin – drums

AND THE WINNER IS…

As a matter of fact, there were two winners that made it to the next round of Wacken Metal Battle in Toronto: APOKALYPTIK WARRIOR with their sick Streel Metal, and the power metallers from CALL OF THE WILD. Congratulations! It was indeed a well-deserved win for both bands, and I cannot wait to see how far those two excellent groups can go in the competition. Who knows, maybe Wacken Open Air this summer? There are still other battles to go in Toronto and everywhere else in Canada, so they better get ready for a lot more of this healthy and fun metal war if they want to gain their place among the Gods of Heavy Metal in German territory this year.

And just as a final note, if any of the bands above (or any other indie band all over the world) read this review and are about to release new material, you can always get in touch with us through our CONTACT US page and have your new album reviewed at The Headbanging Moose, as well as have your music sent to The Metal Moose Radio. How about that, eh!?