Concert Review – Slipknot (Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON, 08/20/2019)

An awesome night of heavy music spearheaded by the world’s most beloved and rebellious masked horde, showing everyone that if you’re 555, then Toronto is 666.

OPENING ACTS: Behemoth, Gojira and Volbeat

Blackened Death Metal, Progressive Groove Metal, Rock N’ Roll and Alternative Metal. What at first it might look like the distinct styles you usually find at an European metal fest during the summer is actually the lineup of the 2019 edition of the highly-acclaimed Knotfest Roadshow, and fortunately for us Torontonians the one and only Slipknot and their friends from Behemoth, Gojira and Volbeat brought that amalgamation of very different but utterly electrifying genres to the always great Budweiser Stage on another hot summer day in the city. It was a Tuesday, just the beginning of the week, which means most people who attended the show still had an entire week of work after around six intense hours of loud beats, unstoppable riffs and demented circle pits. Well, who cares, right? It’s all in the name of our good old Heavy Metal and Rock N’ Roll.

Just by arriving at the venue you could see it was going to be a very special day for longtime fans of Slipknot, with several of them being properly dressed as their idols, including some wicked (and a few weird) masks, showing how much those people love and respect a band that revolutionized metal music 20 years ago and that are still alive and kicking. If you had the opportunity to arrive to the Budweiser stage right when the gates were opened, you were able to enjoy a lot of different attractions such as a special Slipknot exhibition right beside where 2018 Wacken Metal Battle Canada winners Centuries of Decay (you can see more details about their 2018 win HERE) where blasting their first-class Progressive/Atmospheric Death Metal, enjoy one or more of the several food trucks available, test your knowledge of metal music by taking a fun quiz at the Monster Energy truck (needless to say, I had all six answers correct and got myself a nice Monster Energy bandana), or even take a picture with that crazy dude who tried to swim back to the Slayer concert in 2018 at that same venue. He was wearing a personalized shirt about his 2018 incident and two arm floats. Yes, he’s that crazy.

However, when the clock hit 5:30pm sharp, it was time for the gods and demons of heavy music and all fans that were already at the venue (and I was surprised by the huge number of people that managed to get there in time for the very first concert) to witness another blasphemous, theatrical and absolutely heavy-as-hell performance by Poland’s own BEHEMOTH. Still promoting their awesome 2018 opus I Loved You At Your Darkest, the iconic Nergal and his henchmen Seth, Orion and Inferno delivered a short and sweet concert for fans of their darker version of Death Metal, literally spitting fire, blood and blasphemy on our faces for around 40 minutes, with songs like Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer,  Bartzabel and Chant for Eschaton 2000 proving why they became one of the most beloved extreme bands of the past decade, and also one of the most hated and abhorred by any type of church (which in the end is a very positive thing).

Setlist
Solve
Wolves ov Siberia
Daimonos
Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer
Bartzabel
Conquer All
Sabbath Mater
Chant for Eschaton 2000

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

After a quick break the stage was ready with all of its lights aiming at our faces to warn us the pulverizing concert by French Progressive/Groove Metal institution GOJIRA was about to begin, and let me tell you it was simply fantastic and insanely heavy from start to finish. The Duplantier Brothers Joe and Mario, together with Christian Andreu on the guitar and Jean-Michel Labadie on bass delivered a neck-breaking performance for our total delight, leaving us all eager for more of their music in Canadian lands. I loved how heavy, dense and thrilling songs like Stranded, Flying Whales (my favorite of their setlist) and Silvera sounded last night, and we must thank Mr. Mario Duplantier for that. The guy is an untamed beast on drums, crushing his drum set flawlessly and throwing almost all of his sticks to the fans throughout his bestial performance. After such devastating concert by Gojira, I must say once again there’s only one thing I hate about festivals, and that’s the fact bands like Gojira do not have enough time to show the crowd everything they got.

Setlist
Toxic Garbage Island
Backbone
Stranded
Flying Whales
Love
The Cell
Silvera
The Gift of Guilt

Band members
Joe Duplantier – vocals, guitar
Christian Andreu – guitar
Jean-Michel Labadie – bass
Mario Duplantier – drums

After two demolishing concerts of extreme music, it was time to cool things down a bit with the heavier-than-usual Rock N’ Roll by Danish institution VOLBEAT, who are just beginning to promote their newest album Rewind, Replay, Rebound. As a big fan of Volbeat, I was a little worried about how the most berserk Slipknot fans would react to their fusion of lighter styles like Rock N’ Roll and Hard Rock, and during the first few songs let’s say most fans weren’t impressed with their music. However, after Sad Man’s Tongue (preceded by a snippet of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”) and Black Rose, featuring Toronto’s own Danko Jones on vocals together with Michael Polsen, things started to pick up and the more than 13 thousand fans at the venue who were already anxious for Slipknot had a great time with the band, especially when they played their heavier stuff like A Warrior’s Call, Dead But Rising and Seal the Deal. In a nutshell, it might not have been the best slot to add Volbeat, right after Behemoth and Gojira and right before Slipknot, but you know what? In the end it all worked really well, something only talented bands like Volbeat can do even against all odds.

Setlist
Born to Raise Hell (Motörhead song)
The Devil’s Bleeding Crown
Lola Montez
Sad Man’s Tongue
Black Rose (with Danko Jones)
The Everlasting
Slaytan
Dead But Rising
A Warrior’s Call / I Only Want to Be With You
Last Day Under the Sun
Doc Holliday
Seal the Deal
Still Counting
Sawdust in the Blood (Rob Zombie song)

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

SLIPKNOT

It was already past 9pm when the speakers began playing AC/DC’s rock anthem “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)”, getting our engines revved up for a storm of heaviness, insanity and explosions by American institution SLIPKNOT. It was total chaos and anarchy from start to finish, with the first few songs from their setlist, those being the classics People = Shit, (sic) and Get This, already inspiring all their fans to go absolutely mental into the pit. The temperature at the Budweiser Stage was just going up, with their new songs Unsainted, Solway Firth (both from their brand new, ass-kicking album We Are Not Your Kind) and All Out Life working even better than expected. As a matter of fact, I was more than sure those three songs would sound fantastic on stage, first because they’re already damn good songs, but mainly due to the fact Slipknot on stage always take their heaviness to the next level.

Corey, Mick, Jim and all others were on fire during their long and incendiary performance, with all their stage paraphernalia (and the Budweiser Stage is just perfect for that type of concert) adding a very welcome touch of insanity to the night. Not only that, it was visible how Corey was extremely happy to be back in Toronto after a long time, letting all the energy coming from the crowd penetrate deep inside his mind and helping him growl and scream like a beast until the very end. “We’ve been at this for 20 years! It hasn’t always been easy, but looking at all of you here tonight, I can safely say we’ll be doing it for another 20,” said a more-than-excited Corey to his fans before crushing their heads once again with their venomous music. I honestly have no idea if they can keep that level of violence on stage for another two decades, but if they keep going and delivering top-of-the-line heavy music like what Slayer have been doing until now, we can rest assured rock and metal will never die.

Although the fans at the floor section were out of control inside some killer circle pits, I must say the most demented guy from the entire night was the band’s newest member Tortilla Man. How deranged and talented is that guy? He kept pounding his drums, screaming, jumping up and down, dancing and hitting his beer kegs as hard as possible without showing any signs of fatigue for almost two hours; now I fully understand why the rest of the band is so happy and excited to have Tortilla Man in the band. The only field where he wasn’t number 1 in madness and precision was dancing, because that’s Mr. Sid Wilson’s undisputed title. I don’t know for sure what exactly he does behind his turntables, but when he’s there dancing and having fun around the stage it’s a whole new thing. That guy is just as sick as his music, no doubt about that. Anyway, after the all-time hits Spit It Out (including their famous “get down/jump the fuck up” interaction with the crowd) and Surfacing, it was time for Slipknot to say goodbye, to promise us all they will return to Toronto, and for the fans to breather a little and try to recover their energies to try to get home safe and sound. And as one final message after such amazing night of metal music, all I have to say to you is that if you’re 555, then I’m 666. As simple as that.

Setlist
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) (AC/DC song)
(515)
People = Shit
(sic)
Get This
Unsainted
Before I Forget
Solway Firth
The Heretic Anthem
Psychosocial
The Devil in I
Prosthetics
Vermilion
Custer
Sulfur
All Out Life
Duality

Encore:
Spit It Out
Surfacing
‘Til We Die

Band members
(#0) Sid Wilson – turntables, keyboards
(#4) Jim Root – lead and rhythm guitars
(#5) Craig “133” Jones – samples, media, keyboards
(#6) Shawn “Clown” Crahan – custom percussion, backing vocals
(#7) Mick Thomson – lead and rhythm guitars
(#8) Corey Taylor – lead vocals
Alessandro Venturella – bass
Jay Weinberg – drums
Tortilla Man – custom percussion, backing vocals

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Album Review – Uncured / Epidemic (2019)

Witness the evolution of the music crafted by the Cox Brothers with their pulverizing new album of Progressive Death and Groove Metal.

Founded in New York City by brothers Rex Cox and Zak Cox, who share the band’s vocal and guitar duties, American Progressive Death/Groove Metal unity Uncured has been making a name for themselves since their inception in 2016 when they released their debut EP Spontaneous Generation, followed by their first full-length opus Medusa, released in 2017, which attracted international attention for its combination of technical musicianship, brutal riffs and melodic interludes. After witnessing Uncured opening for renowned acts like Soulfly and the almighty Cradle of Filth last year while promoting their 2017 album Medusa, I’m happy to say those guys stepped up their game considerably with their brand new album, the powerful Epidemic, proving that although they might still be young faces in the scene, they already play and sound like veterans.

Recorded, mixed and mastered by their father Mitch Cox at Conclave Studios, in New York, Epidemic has everything a fan of modern and technical extreme music can ask for, with its crystal clear production enhancing the impact of each song thoroughly played by the aforementioned Zak and Rex on vocals, guitars and bass (as their current bassist Spencer Metela only joined the band after the recording of the album) and Liam Manley on drums.​ The only thing I don’t understand is why they left the excellent 2018 single Terminal out of the album, but that’s just me. And besides, who said Epidemic needed that song to be brutal? I’m pretty sure the boys know what they’re doing, and based on the feedback provided by their fans so far they’re undoubtedly on the right path to stardom with Epidemic.

The opening track Desecration is fast, furious and heavy from the very first second, with the Cox Brothers showcasing all their refined skills with their sick riffs and solos while Liam smashes his drums beautifully in a powerful display of modern Progressive Death Metal, sounding at the same time very technical and visceral. If that was not crazy enough for you, in Choke they take their progressiveness to the next level, and let me say both Zak and Rex are growling and screaming a lot better than in their previous releases, adding tons of rage and insanity to the song’s lyrics (“Tear your throat out / Reject everything from within / This is imperative, all will go black / The problem lies in the silence / There will be nothing that remains, only desolation / As our civilization reverts to dust / This will surely desecrate honor”), whereas in Conquistador the band drinks from the same fountain as modern-day bands like Trivium, delivering flammable riffs and intricate beats and also exploring new grounds by adding acoustic passages and distinct nuances from other metal and even non-metal genres to their music.

Eradicate is another feast of incendiary riffs and solos by Uncured highly recommended for slamming into the pit during their live performances, blending Melodic Death Metal with Groove Metal and an endless amount of progressiveness; followed by Death Valley, where after a serene intro the band comes crushing once again with their groovy and heavy-as-hell sounds, sounding perfect for cracking your neck headbanging and remaining as complex and vibrant as it can be until the very end. And in Resist The Infection all instruments sound absolutely pulverizing and metallic, with Zak and Rex screaming and roaring together like maniacs while Liam keeps the rhythm flowing smoothly with his beats. Put differently, although it might be the shortest of all songs, it still brings tons of stamina, feeling and rage to our avid ears.

The last batch of songs from Epidemic will crush you mercilessly, starting with Sacrifice, a classic Groove Metal tune infused with Death Metal nuances where its guitars and bass penetrate deep inside our minds, making our heads tremble. Furthermore, it feels like a hybrid of the music by Meshuggah, Tool, Dream Theater and other iconic bands, showing once again how talented those guys are. Albeit not as exciting as its predecessors, Stone Fortress is still a very good song, overflowing progressiveness, heaviness and groove, not to mention the usual crisp and piercing guitar lines by the band’s frontmen, while in Blinded By Demise the level of aggressiveness goes through the roof in another metal feast full of breaks and variations where all three band members display their refined skills in great fashion. And last but not least, after a somber, almost tribal intro Uncured attack us all one last time with more of their Progressive Death Metal in Nothing But Disease, with the music alternating between dark passages and extreme rage like the soundtrack to a psychological horror movie, ending in a creepy and captivating way.

There’s no excuse to not listen to Epidemic, as the album is available in full on YouTube, on Spotify and on the band’s official website, and after taking a good listen at it you can purchase your copy from their own BandCamp page or from their webstore in CD or vinyl format, as well as from iTunes or from Amazon. In summary, the Cox Brothers, together with Liam and Spencer, are definitely going places based on the high quality of the music found in Epidemic, presenting a huge step forward in terms of creativity, feeling and overall production after the also good Medusa. Having said that, don’t forget to follow them on Facebook and to subscribe to their YouTube channel, as we might be in front of the next big name from the modern extreme music scene with a long (and prosperous) way to go yet in their promising career.

Best moments of the album: Desecration, Eradicate and Resist The Infection.

Worst moments of the album: Stone Fortress.

Released in 2019 Seek & Strike

Track listing
1. Desecration 4:12
2. Choke 4:19
3. Conquistador 4:45
4. Eradicate 5:07
5. Death Valley 4:47
6. Resist The Infection 2:51
7. Sacrifice 4:04
8. Stone Fortress 4:07
9. Blinded By Demise 4:45
10. Nothing But Disease 4:26

Band members
Zak Cox – vocals, guitars, bass
Rex Cox – vocals, guitars, bass
Liam Manley – drums

Guest musician
Spencer Metala – bass (live)

Album Review – SystemHouse33 / Regression (2016)

Regression might be a return to a former or less developed state, but the new album by this talented Indian act is undoubtedly the evolution of Thrash and Groove Metal.

Rating3

systemhouse33_regressionI guess the first time I realized how crazy for heavy music people in India are was when I watched Iron Maiden’s Flight 666 documentary for the first time some good years ago. Watching around 30,000 people in Mumbai, India being completely smashed and screaming like lunatics to my favorite Iron Maiden song of all time, the unique “Aces High”, showed me there’s a lot more in the Land of Prayers than that hardly watchable Bollywood shebang. And it’s exactly from the city of Mumbai that come the demented thrash metallers SystemHouse33, who are not only releasing an amazing new album entitled Regression, but are also more than ready to conquer the entire world with their high-quality metal music.

Unleashing a rip-roaring fusion of the traditional Thrash Metal by Sepultura with elements from Groove and Death Metal (and even Melodic Death Metal), and having released four albums already in their career, this talented band has been reaching many important milestones since their inception in 2003. Always against all the odds, SystemHouse33 was the first metal band to ever emerge from the small Indian town of Nagpur, quickly spreading their Heavy Metal over several rock festivals and music events around India, including Campus Rock Idols, Metal Meltdown and Wacken Metal Battle. And before the release of the new album, those Indian metallers toured with American Death Metal icons Six Feet Under around Germany and Austria in December 2015 on their annual Xmas in Hell tour, being the band’s first ever foreign tour and becoming the first Indian metal band to tour with a legendary Heavy Metal headliner.

SystemHouse33 founding member and vocalist Samron Jude elaborates on the concept behind the new album, “Regression is the paradox of progress; it is the disintegrating world we live in. We are doing more, but feeling worse.” And let me tell you there couldn’t be better words to describe the aggressiveness and the feeling of insurgency found in every single song of the album, because right after the ominous intro Catharsis, which feels as if the band is rising from the ashes of a fallen world, we have the title-track Regression, starting their Indian onslaught the best way possible. Featuring huge doses of savagery amidst a polished and groovy rhythm, this amazing tune showcases guitarist/drummer Atish Thomas providing his “business card” in the form of some serious riffage, and you can easily sense how much he loves Groove Metal by his drumming style.

systemhouse33Indian brawler Samron Jude’s insane growls lead the powerful tune Lift This Plague, a solid composition perfect for banging your head nonstop where all band members are on fire, with highlights to its acid lyrics (“Pretentious flowing blood / Ignorance reaps resentment / Downward spiraling sky / Slumber of the sluggard”). Following that massacre we have the even better Namesake, one of the best tunes of the album (if not the sickest one), emanating endless electricity from all instruments. How not to get thrilled by those riffs and beats? Besides, it reminds me of the latest installments by many excellent Eastern European Groove Metal bands such as Ektomorf and Omega Diatribe. And a song named Death Chamber couldn’t sound any less visceral and obscure in a flawless display of what can be called Progressive Groove Metal, from its headbanging riffs to more progressive passages.

There’s not a single second to rest with the rhythmic and violent Detestable Idolatry, where you can feel the metallic bass chords by Leon Quadros striking you mercilessly while its contentious lyrics add a welcome touch of rebelliousness to its sonority (“Blood-filled ignorance in your soul / Self-righteous sacrifice of innocence / Slaying the name of a higher power / Shameful indulgence”). Pagan Breed is another progressive and experimental tune that never “forgets” the band’s core violence, with Samron firing anger through his harsh growls and the rest of the band doing a superb job in maintaining the ferocity of the song at a high level. Lastly, closing the album we have another berserk chant named Malicious Mind, yet again offering a potent fusion of progressiveness and old school Thrash and Death Metal. It sounds like if the band is demanding the listener to jump up and down with them, with Atish and Leon being in perfect sync with their guitar and bass lines, respectively.

I was about to give Regression a 3.5, but it honestly deserves a 4.0 for the band’s tenacity and passion for Heavy Metal in a country where almost everything seems to go against that type of music. And if you share the same passion for heavy music as the high-skilled metallers from SystemHouse33, go visit their Facebook page, YouTube channel and SoundCloud page, and grab your copy of Regression at their BandCamp page, at their official website, on iTunes, on CD Baby and many other locations. Although the word “regression” means a return to a former or less developed state, SystemHouse33 are making sure they change that concept to an evolved and exciting state of Thrash Metal with their flaming new album for our total delight.

Best moments of the album: Regression, Namesake and Pagan Breed.

Worst moments of the album: None. This album kicks fuckin’ ass.

Released in 2016 Independent

Track listing
1. Catharsis 1:35
2. Regression 4:42
3. Lift This Plague 3:04
4. Namesake 3:49
5. Death Chamber 4:07
6. Detestable Idolatry 5:09
7. Pagan Breed 3:14
8. Malicious Mind 3:56

Band members
Samron Jude – vocals
Leon Quadros – bass
Atish Thomas – guitars, drums

Additional musician
Jack Thomas – guitars (live)

Album Review – Deadly Circus Fire / The Hydra’s Tailor (2015)

What are you waiting for to put your hands on one of the best and most professional Progressive Metal albums from the past few years?

Rating3

hydra cover 1500x1500 pxDescribed by renowned British magazine Metal Hammer as “one of the most imaginative and formidable” Progressive Rock/Metal bands available in the market today, London-based four-piece group Deadly Circus Fire will blow your mind with the high-end fusion of raw metallic riffs and complex melodies found in their brand new album entitled The Hydra’s Tailor, telling you stories and invading your psyche in a brilliant way. And especially if you’re addicted to innovative bands such as Tool and Mastodon, the music by these British guys is mandatory to your collection.

Formed in early 2009 in the UK, the band released a self-titled EP in 2010 and their first full-length album The King and the Bishop in 2013, both receiving excellent feedback from fans and critics due to the band’s unique progressiveness and melodic lines. In addition, they’ve already supported Welsh Alternative Metal/Hardcore Punk band Skindred on one of their European tours, counting it among their career highlights so far. Of course, nothing would have been possible if the musicians involved weren’t as skilled as they are, because in the end the music itself is what really matters, don’t you agree?

Now turn up the volume and you’ll feel the reverberation inside your mind while lead singer Adam Grant declaims some thoughtful words in the excellent intro In Darkness We Trust, right before Animal hits you like a bullet to the head so progressive and heavy it is. I love those songs where you can clearly listen to the powerful sound of a bass guitar, and the low-tuned lines by bassist Mike Enort are spot-on. Fans of Tool will go crazy with this song, as well as with Where It Lies, where its acoustic notes open the gates for more creativity and intricacy, providing the listener a good balance between heavier riffs and smoother vocals, closer to what Mastodon do but with a Metalcore touch. Not only that, a Dream Theater-ish voyage was chosen by the band to conclude the song, and once again kudos to Mike for a superb job with his bass guitar.

Victim, which starts in a truly wicked way, showcases powerful riffs by the amazing guitarist Save Addario while drummer Paul Igoe smashes his drums with so much talent it’s hard to explain it in just a few words. Besides, the sounding of bass and drums during the guitar solo is at the same time complex and pleasant, turning the song into one of the best moments of the album. And their vision of a devilish opera couldn’t sound more obscure and interesting than in Devil’s Opera, where Progressive Metal is flawlessly blended with Sludge Metal and tons of groove. I would love to see them replicating that sonority live one day, that should be great.

DCFMore Americanized than all previous tracks, especially the vocals by Adam, Rise Again is an excellent choice for an alternate rock n’ roll radio station, with the duo Save and Mike giving a progressive lesson with their strings. It’s heavier than lots of Death and Thrash Metal bands I know, with its second half being one of those weird trips that musicians like the guys from Deadly Circus Fire always have an awesome time playing. Then we have the calm instrumental intro Martyrs, introducing the listener to the superb House of Plagues, which despite starting in a very groovy way it morphs into a creepier and more violent tune, especially the vocals by Adam when he screams “Lies, lies, lies!”. Although totally insane and progressive, it’s at the same time an easy listen, with its lyrics matching perfectly with every single second of it.

Aeden is perhaps one of the most complete examples of Progressive Groove Metal you can find, with highlights to its wicked guitar lines enhanced by the complexity imposed by Paul on drums. Moreover, pay attention to how the chorus goes from smooth to harsh in a matter of seconds. The title-track The Hydra’s Tailor has a great atmosphere with a strong Doom-ish vein, and its melancholic lyrics guide the music to a heavy ending, followed by Turning the Tide, which proves once again that despite most songs surpass the 6-minute barrier that doesn’t mean they get tiring at all. The band yet again focuses on a musicality similar to the work done by Mastodon, in special the outstanding heaviness generated by Save and Mike with their guitar and bass lines. And guess what? The last track (and also the longest of all) entitled Universe is another feast of progressiveness and talent, where its semi-acoustic beginning marvellously evolves to a much darker sounding. You can sense the music is about to “explode” anytime but somehow the band intelligently prevents it from happening, holding (almost) all their anger inside and transmitting that excruciating pressure to the listener.

To be fair, it’s hard to find the right words to describe such complex and cunning music. With that said, in order to get more details about this work-of-art, you should check the band’s Facebook page or SoundCloud, and also listen to a promo of the album on YouTube. And if you’re more than convinced of the band’s capacity and are eager to buy The Hydra’s Tailor, simply go to iTunes or to the Musicarchy Media webstore to lay your metal hands on one of the best and most professional Progressive Metal albums from the past few years.

Best moments of the album: Animal, Victim, House of Plagues and Universe.

Worst moments of the album: The Hydra’s Tailor.

Released in 2015 Musicarchy Media

Track listing
1. In Darkness We Trust 2:32
2. Animal 4:25
3. Where It Lies 6:44
4. Victim 6:02
5. Devil’s Opera 3:49
6. Rise Again 7:31
7. Martyrs 1:46
8. House of Plagues 6:44
9. Aeden 5:20
10. The Hydra’s Tailor 3:59
11. Turning the Tide 6:07
12. Universe 7:43

Band members
Adam Grant – vocals
Save Addario – guitars
Mike Enort – bass guitar, vocals
Paul Igoe – drums