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

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Album Review – Kaos Reign / Epiphany (2018)

This American Groove Metal power trio returns with a brand new album showcasing more of their crushing guitars, gritty vocals and thrash and groove drumming.

Norwalk, Connecticut-based Groove Metal power trio Kaos Reign is here to assault your senses with their unique mix of Death, Doom, Groove And Thrash Metal, drawing influences from early Sepultura, Slayer, Death and Pantera. Formed in 2013 by lead singer and guitarist Bill Klopfer and drummer Chris Anderson, the band has been on a roll since their inception, having already released the full-length albums Embrace the Fire, in 2014, Screaming for Salvation, in 2016, and now in 2018 their brand new opus Epiphany, an album that continues to follow Kaos Reign’s path of crushing guitars, gritty vocals, and thrash and groove drumming, but at the same time showing an evolution in their music.

More refined and dynamic than its predecessors, and featuring a straightforward, dark artwork by the band’s own Bill Klopfer, Epiphany brings a band that’s in absolute sync, with Bill’s vocals sounding versatile while his riffs are memorable and captivating. Bassist Matt Duggan rounds out the sound with the execution of his distinctive bass lines, whereas Chris Anderson’s extreme drumming portrays confidence and style. With its lyrics touching on themes of inner struggle, determination to overcome, and societal issues, encouraging us to proceed with caution and understand the chaos that consumes us, Epiphany will certainly please fans of fast and extreme music who are also searching for gripping background stories that effectively spice up the music being played.

Wicked, dark sounds ignite a belligerent Groove Metal onslaught by Kaos Reign titled Selfish Backstabber, displaying a solid instrumental, endless electricity, and Bill screaming the song’s acid lyrics like there’s no tomorrow (“I watch your actions and learn / You preach your belief, you don’t believe / You taste so sour I yack / The aftertaste, post nasal burning”). Following such sharp start we have a hybrid of Thrash Metal and Hardcore named Dispatch the Threat, where Chris keeps smashing his drums, therefore inspiring us to slam into the pit, with the song’s cleaner vocals sounding like a metal version of Rage Against The Machine’s Zack de la Rocha; and Lethal Injection, bringing more rumbling and groovy sounds blasted by Bill and Matt while Chris continues to add intricacy to the band’s violent music. Put differently, this is an excellent choice for their live concerts and a fantastic addition to the playlist of anyone who loves modern Groove Metal. And the title-track Epiphany presents darker elements in its intro, suddenly morphing into another crushing metal attack and also displaying hints of Southern Metal, with all instruments together generating a hurricane of heavy sounds and tones.

The album loses its grip a little with the not-so-inspired tune The Criminal Inside, despite all aggressiveness showcased by the band and the always rhythmic beats by Chris, but fortunately in Parasite the band gets back on track with their flammable Groove Metal, with highlights to the thrilling guitar lines by Bill and to more of their austere and aggressive words (“Leeching off society / A parasite sucks the blood / Right from / the eye of the storm / The side effects / are visible”). Under the Knife is the most visceral and destructive of all songs, and therefore one of the top moments of the album, with all three band members extracting crushing sounds form their instruments, presenting a great sync between Bill’s riffs and Chris’ drums, not to mention the metallic bass lines by Matt, whereas in Everyone is Offended they slow down their dementia, but still sounding heavier than hell. In a nutshell, this is a mid-tempo, groovy creation by Kaos Reign where Bill keeps sending a not-so-happy message through his demented vocals.

And their slamming party goes on with another melodic and fierce song titled How Do You Sleep at Night?, where Chris doesn’t stop pounding his drums and Bill even brings forth some thrashier riffs the likes of Slayer and Testament. Punish Myself is perfect for headbanging like a maniac, blending the thunderous sounds of Groove Metal with the slashing insanity of Thrash Metal, with Bill smashing his strings mercilessly without forgetting to add harmony to the music; followed by Placebo, a lot less groovy and venturing through Southern Metal grounds, singing about the dangerous market of addictive legal drugs (“I am on a big dose / I feel so comforted and relaxed / Why live life sober? / When you can be prescribed happiness”). However, despite being a relatively good song, it definitely lacks the band’s characteristic speed. And Isolation Chamber, the most somber and wicked of all tracks, closes the album on a high (and obscure) note, even presenting elements from Doom Metal (especially on Chris’ beats and Bill’s vocals).

If you want to show your support to this talented and unrelenting American power trio, you can purchase Epiphany (which by the way is available for a full listen on Spotify) from the band’s own BandCamp page, from CD Baby or from Amazon, but as you already know the world of Kaos Reign is not limited to Epiphany only, which means you can get an overdose of their belligerent music by visiting them on Facebook, on YouTube, on ReverbNation and on SoundCloud. And I believe you might be asking yourself what will be the next step in the evolving path crafted by Kaos Reign, right? Well, let’s hope it doesn’t take too long for us all to have an answer to that and get more of their sharp metal music sooner than expected.

Best moments of the album: Selfish Backstabber, Lethal Injection, Parasite and Under the Knife.

Worst moments of the album: The Criminal Inside and Placebo.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Selfish Backstabber 5:12
2. Dispatch the Threat 4:11
3. Lethal Injection 4:45
4. Epiphany 4:09
5. The Criminal Inside 4:21
6. Parasite 4:54
7. Under the Knife 3:53
8. Everyone is Offended 4:39
9. How Do You Sleep at Night? 4:35
10. Punish Myself 5:26
11. Placebo 4:32
12. Isolation Chamber 4:53

Band members
Bill Klopfer – vocals, guitar
Matt Duggan – bass
Chris Anderson – drums

Album Review – Motograter / Desolation (2017)

Get “motograted” by the thrilling fusion of Alternative Metal and Hard Rock blasted by this tenacious American outfit.

Do you know what a “motograter” is? If you’re familiar with the fusion of Alternative Metal, Heavy Metal and Hard Rock crafted by a relentless American squad known as Motograter, you already known that the “motograter” is a homemade musical instrument designed with industrial cable and guitar pieces that creates a unique bass sound, and by that you can imagine how thunderous their music sounds. Formed in 1995 in Santa Barbara, California, United States, the band (which by the way displays a tribal style body paint for their live concerts) has suffered considerable lineup changes and a few split-ups since their inception, but that didn’t stop the band from keeping on rocking, being reunited once again a few years ago and releasing this year their second full-length album after their 2003 debut self-titled release (featuring Ivan Moody from Five Finger Death Punch on vocals), the hard and heavy Desolation, now with James Legion (Deadform, The Breathing Process) on the vocal duties.

As aforementioned, the reinvigorated Motograter, comprised of the talented James Legion on vocals, Matthew “Nuke” Nunes and Jesse Stamper on guitars, Mylon Guy on bass, Noah “Shark” Robertson on drums and Dustin “Skunk” Anderson on the motograter, will hit you in the face with a feast of alternative and metallic sounds found in their new album, with the artwork designed by Mister-Sam Shearon (who has already worked with renowned bands such as Iron Maiden, Ministry, Rob Zombie and Rammstein, among several others, and also created covers for comic books and graphic novels including Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, Judge Dredd and The X-Files) effectively representing the energy and aggressiveness you’ll find throughout the entire album. With that said, are you ready to be “motograted” by this insane metal tribe?

You’ll experience modernity and electricity flowing from the very first second of the opening track Parasite, where Mylon, Noah and Dustin provide their welcome card in the form of thunderous and vibrant background sounds, giving all the necessary support for James to thrive with his vocals in an awesome blend of Hard Rock with Alternative and Nu Metal. Gripping guitar lines kick off another born-to-be-a-hit composition by Motograter, titled Dorian, with Matthew and Jesse slashing our ears with their riffs while Noah keeps the musicality as heavy as it can be with his pounding drums, not to mention the song’s completely addictive chorus that won’t leave your head for a few weeks; and their galvanized, rumbling sounds continue to permeate the atmosphere in Victim, another great sample of their contemporary Alternative Metal led by the ominous vocals by James.

In the excellent Paragon it becomes clear that those American metallers will never get tired of piercing our brains with their rumbling tones and roars, with the motograter going along really well with the song’s guitar riffs and the potent voice by James, being perfect for banging our heads nonstop together with the band due to its modern and thrilling rhythm. Slowing down a bit and sounding less metallic, Bleeding Through is a semi-ballad by this skillful sextet recommended for some radio play, albeit not as dynamic and fun as the rest of the album, followed by Misanthropical, which despite feeling like it’s going to be another ballad, it slowly morphs into an obscure metal chant with the motograter shaking the foundations of the earth, while the infernal duo Noah and Mylon continue to set fire to the music, and with the song’s guttural vocals adding some good amount of fury to the overall result. Daggers keeps the album at a great level of intricacy and stamina in an interesting mix of what’s almost a dark ballad with the heavier sounds of Alternative Metal, with Mathew and Jesse being fantastic on guitars, delivering both smoother and more electrified riffs during the whole song.

The last part of the album begins with Portrait of Decay, a hybrid of the more visceral music by Slipknot with the melody found in bands such as Alter Bridge, therefore becoming another strong candidate to become a radio favorite due to its catchy pace and vocals. Locust sounds and feels more aggressive than most of the album’s previous tracks, with Noah smashing his drums flawlessly while Mylon and Dustin make sure the music remains vibrant at all times (and let’s not forget about its harsh growls, one of the main ingredients that make this tune so amazing). Rise (There Will Be Blood), the second to last tune in Desolation, is one of those songs to jump up and down with the band during their live performances, bringing elements of more alternative bands like Linkin Park to their already potent sonority, followed by Shadows, a decent dark ballad that’s slightly below what Motograter can offer us despite the great job done by James on vocals. It’s still very enjoyable, though, especially if you’re into modern metal ballads.

In case you feel you’re more than ready to be “motograted” by Motograter, simply follow them on Facebook and listen to their music on YouTube or on Spotify. And if Desolation brings forward all you enjoy in modern metal music, you can buy your copy at the EMP Label Group webstore as a regular CD or as a CD + t-shirt bundle, as well as on iTunes, on Amazon or at Discogs. Not only Desolation has all elements needed to be a must-have album for admirers of contemporary Alternative Metal, but above all it will definitely help Motograter in solidifying their path in heavy music, and let’s hope the band’s lineup is finally stabilized once and for all and that they keep delivering high-end albums like this one for many years to come.

Best moments of the album: Parasite, Dorian, Paragon and Locust.

Worst moments of the album: Bleeding Through and Shadows.

Released in 2017 EMP Label Group

Track listing
1. Parasite 3:46
2. Dorian 3:46
3. Victim 3:30
4. Paragon 4:03
5. Bleeding Through 3:28
6. Misanthropical 3:41
7. Daggers 4:21
8. Portrait of Decay 3:35
9. Locust 3:42
10. Rise (There Will Be Blood) 3:40
11. Shadows 3:18

Band members
James Legion – vocals
Matthew “Nuke” Nunes – guitar
Jesse Stamper – guitar
Mylon Guy – bass
Noah “Shark” Robertson – drums
Dustin “Skunk” Anderson – motograter

Guest musicians
Aleksi Oksa – samples
Justin Fowler, Ahrue Luster & Jon Berrier – additional samples