Album Review – Chthonic / Battlefields of Asura (2018)

Embark on an adventurous journey with Taiwanese immortals to the sound of the new opus by the Taiwanese masters of Orient Metal.

It might have taken five years for one-of-a-kind Taiwanese Melodic Black/Death/Folk Metal icons Chthonic to strike again with their high-end fusion of a captivating storytelling and their unique and exotic music that several people like to call “Orient Metal”, but the excruciating wait was definitely worth it. Over those past years, since the release of their 2013 masterpiece Bú-Tik the five members of the band have turned new pages of their lives, with lead vocalist Freddy Lim (林昶佐) having organized a new political party and being successfully elected to a seat in the Taiwanese parliament. Nonetheless, they never forgot their promise to their fans to deliver a new album, culminating with the release of Battlefields of Asura (政治) now in 2018, the prequel of their four albums with related story including Seediq Bale (2005), Mirror of Retribution (2009), Takasago Army (2011) and the already mentioned Bú-Tik, all combined with the acoustic album from another dimension Timeless Sentence (2014), the expanded novel Day 578 After the War (2014), and the movie Tshiong (2017).

And the story told in Battlefields of Asura by Freddy and his bandmates Jesse Liu (劉笙彙) on the guitars, Doris Yeh (葉湘怡) on bass and backing vocals, CJ Kao (高嘉嶸) on keyboards, synths and piano, and Dani Wang (汪子驤) on drums throughout the album’s 11 tracks is an adventurous journey with Taiwanese immortals, as explained in detail in the band’s “Souls Resposed” series. What lies ahead is full hostility, murderous emotions, walls of iron that are difficult to conquer, and lusts and desires that are not easy to bid farewell to, but there is also courage that inspires infinity. At the end of the adventure, it turns out to be a quest for the perpetual prajna. When you feel tears on your face, that’s when you will finally realize this is where all the stories told in Chthonic’s past albums come from, always embraced by the band’s harmonious, thunderous and unparalleled metal music.

Drawing Omnipotence Nigh, featuring Fang-Yun Chen on dizi (a Chinese transverse flute), is an insurgent battle-like intro only Chthonic can offer us, setting the stage for  the melodic and imposing The Silent One’s Torch, the perfect opening for their upcoming live concerts with Dani dictating the rhythm with his piercing beats while Freddy’s roars grow in intensity and rage as the music progresses, not to mention CJ’s always inspiring keys. Even more harmonious and thrilling, Flames upon the Weeping Winds has all it takes to become a fan favorite, with Doris not only shaking the foundations of earth with her bass punches, but her backing vocals also sound superb; followed by A Crimson Sky’s Command, another inspiring creation by Chthonic where CJ’s keys and synths sound and feel the most “Taiwanese” of the entire album (if we can say so), with highlights to the passionate growls by Freddy and the cutting riffs by Jesse.

Featuring Lamb Of God’s own frontman Randy Blythe on additional vocals, Souls of the Revolution is a flammable and rebellious anthem thoroughly crafted by our beloved Taiwanese horde where Jesse and Dani are on absolute fire and in perfect sync, elevating the song’s impact to a whole new level (not to mention it’s perfect for singing along with the band), whereas Taste the Black Tears carries a beautiful name for a crushing and epic tune, with Doris and Dani spearheading the band into the battlefield. Furthermore, the keyboards and synths by CJ bring an extra dosage of epicness to the overall result, with the music flowing powerfully form start to finish. And in One Thousand Eyes a dense and bold intro evolves into classic Chthonic, with Freddy gnarling like a demonic entity while CJ brings balance to the sonic havoc blasted by the band with his smooth keys, all boosted by the song’s extremely effective and exciting backing vocals and Jesse’s gripping guitar solo.

Chthonic Battlefields of Asura Box Set

Then we have Masked Faith, a whimsical and at the same time fierce bridge to Carved in Bloodstone, bringing elements form Epic Metal to their core Orient Metal. However, what starts in a promising way loses its strength after a while despite its imposing backing vocals and pounding drums, but that doesn’t last long as Chthonic are back on track with the fulminating Millennia’s Faith Undone, featuring Denise Ho (also known as HOCC) on vocals and Su-nung Chao on erhu (or hiân-á violin). This is undoubtedly the closest song to their previous installments Bú-Tik and Takasago Army, sounding epic, dense and electrifying, with highlights to the slashing work done by the band’s stringed duo Jesse and Doris, resulting in a true battle hymn by those unrelenting Taiwanese metallers, flowing into the ominous and stylish outro Autopoiesis. In addition, don’t forget to check the song’s acoustic version called Millennia’s Faith Undone (The Aeon’s Wraith Version), just as epic as the regular one.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a longtime fan of Chthonic or a newcomer to their sonic realm of rebellion and war, you’ll certainly have a blast listening to the top-of-the-line music found in Battlefields of Asura, proving why they’re perhaps the best metal band the East has ever provided the world. Needless to say, this is a must-have album in your metal collection, available at several locations such as IndieMerch, but if I were you I would go for the Battlefields of Asura Box Set available from the Ciong Zo webstore, including a long-sleeve shirt reflecting the song “Flames upon the Weeping Winds”, a cap reflecting the song “A Crimson Sky’s Command”, prayer beads reflecting the song “One Thousand Eyes”, a badge of honor reflecting the song “Taste the Black Tears”, a candle cup reflecting the song “The Silent One’s Torch”, the Taiwanese version of the album in CD format,  a special “Millennia’s Faith Undone (The Aeon’s Wraith Version)” 7″ vinyl single, and a treasure box reflecting the song “Carved in Bloodstone”. Then, and only then, you’ll be properly (and fully) armed to join Freddy, Jesse, Doris, CJ and Dani into the Battlefields of Asura.

Best moments of the album: Flames upon the Weeping Winds, Souls of the Revolution, Taste the Black Tears and Millennia’s Faith Undone.

Worst moments of the album: Carved in Bloodstone.

Released in 2018 Ciong Zo

Track listing
1. Drawing Omnipotence Nigh (feat. Fang-Yun Chen) 2:07
2. The Silent One’s Torch 4:02
3. Flames upon the Weeping Winds 3:10
4. A Crimson Sky’s Command 3:31
5. Souls of the Revolution (feat. Randy Blythe) 4:39
6. Taste the Black Tears 4:49
7. One Thousand Eyes 5:15
8. Masked Faith 2:18
9. Carved in Bloodstone 2:57
10. Millennia’s Faith Undone (feat. Denise Ho & Su-nung Chao) 5:05
11. Autopoiesis 2:04

English Version bonus track
12. “Battlefields of Asura” Album Concept Description by Freddy Lim 1:55

Limited Edition Box Set Disc 2 (Vinyl) bonus track
12. Millennia’s Faith Undone (The Aeon’s Wraith Version) 6:15

Band members
Freddy Lim (林昶佐) – vocals, erhu
Jesse Liu (劉笙彙) – guitars
Doris Yeh (葉湘怡) – bass, backing vocals
CJ Kao (高嘉嶸) – keyboards, synths, piano
Dani Wang (汪子驤) – drums

Guest musicians
Randy Blythe – additional vocals on “Souls of the Revolution”
Denise Ho – female vocals on “Millennia’s Faith Undone”
Fang-Yun Chen – dizi on “Drawing Omnipotence Nigh”
Su-nung Chao – erhu on “Millennia’s Faith Undone”
Chi-Jen Chen, Ching-Lan Hsu, Chun-Yu Yang, Hsiang-yi Wei, Hsuan-Yi Chen, Joey Kuo, Po-Jen Liao & Wei-Shun Liu – backing vocals, choirs

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

Album Review – Body Count / Bloodlust (2017)

Controversy, acidity and hatred are just some of the main ingredients in one of the heaviest and most complete albums in the career of the bloodthirsty Ice-T, Ernie C and Co.

We as human beings all got a deranged sickness deeply rooted inside our minds, a will to kill for sport and for revenge, an inner desire to make the ones who disagree with us or who hurt us suffer in pain, and that’s exactly what the iconic Ice-T and his henchmen, collectively known as American Thrash/Groove Metal band Body Count, have to offer us in their new installment, the excellent Bloodlust. Since their inception in 1990 in Los Angeles, the band has been delivering a high quality hybrid of Groove Metal and Hip Hop, but in Bloodlust they managed to increase the heaviness of their compositions significantly, resulting in what can be considered their most metal album of all time.

Not only Bloodlust is the sixth studio album in their solid career, but the controversy, acidity and hatred flowing from each one of the album’s 11 tracks puts it almost side by side with their cult self-titled debut album, from 1992. That only shows how passionate Ice-T and the other are about heavy music, always playing it with a lot of energy, trying to send a clear message to their fans and showing the bitter truth of the lives of the less fortunate people in the United States and all over the world. Besides, when you have guest musicians the likes of Dave Mustaine (Megadeth), Randy Blythe (Lamb of God) and Max Cavalera (Soulfly, Sepultura), you know the music will hit you in the face like an uncontrolled bulldozer.

Loud sirens and the more-than-special guest Mr. Dave Mustaine himself declare martial law, before Body Count begin delivering sheer heaviness, chaos and groove in the opening track, the awesome Civil War, with Ice-T having a fantastic performance with his hostile rap-like vocals, resulting in one of their darkest compositions to date; and keep banging your head to the always boisterous riffs by Ernie C and Juan of the Dead while Ill Will smashes his drums mercilessly in this Groove Metal anthem The Ski Mask Way. Needless to say, the song’s lyrics are as aggressive as hell (“I’m in your rear view, when you leave the club / How cold could I be, you look like food to me / All on instagram, showin’ that cash off / What you really hope, is I don’t take this mask off don’t make me punish you don’t want to hurt your wife / Come up off that watch, it ain’t worth your life / I gotta crew of wolves, life has no meaning / We roll late night and hunt human beings”). Slowing the pace down a bit and increasing the groove considerably, This Is Why We Ride is a song where Ice-T is nicely supported by the excellent job done by Vincent Price on bass and Ill Will on drums, not to mention that the sounds of the shots and the sirens of the cops together with the insane heaviness blasted by the band will crack your neck mercilessly.

If you’re already feeling that pain in your neck after such intense headbanging music, All Love Is Lost will terminate it for good. Featuring the unparalleled growls by guest Max Cavalera, the vocals in this song burst with acidity while the instrumental pieces are a work of anger. Moreover, Ernie C and Juan sound like two serial killers slitting throats with their bestial riffs. Then the band offers us a fantastic version of two all-time classics by Slayer, Raining In Blood / Postmortem 2017, with Ice-T kicking ass on “Raining Blood” while Vincent Price takes care of the vocal duties on “Postmortem”. Furthermore, the intro to the song is already a lot of fun, with Ice-T explaining the origins of Body Count saying he wanted to have a Heavy Metal and Hip-Hop band by blending the music by Black Sabbath, Suicidal Tendencies and, of course, Slayer. God, Please Believe Me works as a poetic bridge by Ice-T and his crew to the fulminating Walk With Me…, one of my favorite songs of the album where guest singer Randy Blythe vociferates like a beast, while Ill Will sounds insane on drums and Ice-T is just as rabid as Randy. This is a flawless hybrid of Thrash, Groove and Rap Metal, showcasing even hints of Death Metal, perfect for stage diving, mosh pitting and sick headbanging due to its beyond brutal rhythm.

Here I Go Again, a re-recording of a demo track from Ice T’s Return of the Real sessions, brings a somber ambience with Ice-T delivering some darker-than-usual vocals, with its instrumental being pretty solid which results in an effective support to the craziness flowing from the song’s lyrics and the demented screams in the background. Then we have the controversial No Lives Matter, another high-end explosion of Groove Metal by Body Count which blends their heavy music with an austere discussion about the issues surrounding the “Black Lives Matter” initiative. Put differently, it’s an extremely politicized tune with insane bass lines by Vincent and a great performance by Sean E Sean with his samplers, paving the track for the title-track Bloodlust, a song about our attraction for death and brutality, about the inner desire of mankind for killing, portraying it as a sickness inside our hearts and minds. While Ernie C and Juan fire fierce and melodious riffs, Ill Will continues his technical and groovy attack on drums, showing how amazing this song will sound when played live.

And if you think Ice-T and his henchmen would give you a break from all their sonic havoc, they come crushing one last time with the best song of the album as their closing act, the flammable Black Hoodie, an amalgamation of their past, present and future where poetry and violence are powerfully united (“Got on a black hoodie, its hood up on my head / I didn’t have a gun so why am I dead / You didn’t have to shoot me and that’s a known fact / And now I’m laying face down with bullets in my back”), with all instruments exhaling metallic and belligerent sounds while Ice-T keeps rapping nonstop.

It deosn’t matter if you are a metalhead that’s not very fond of rap or a rapper that doesn’t get too excited to the sound of a heavy riff, when you have an album like Bloodlust (which by the way you can find in different bundles at the Control Industry webstore) on your hands it’s almost mandatory that you start banging your head to Body Count, acknowledging they are indeed the biggest exponent in the history of Rap Metal and one of the most fun acts from the 90’s that’s still alive and kicking without sounding Jurassic. And I’m pretty sure the counting of bodies done by Ice-T, Ernie C and Co. is far from being over.

Best moments of the album: Civil War, Walk With Me…, Bloodlust and Black Hoodie.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Century Media

Track listing   
1. Civil War (feat. Dave Mustaine) 4:23
2. The Ski Mask Way 3:36
3. This Is Why We Ride 5:26
4. All Love Is Lost (feat. Max Cavalera) 3:36
5. Raining In Blood / Postmortem 2017 (Slayer cover) 4:31
6. God, Please Believe Me 1:23
7. Walk With Me… (feat. Randy Blythe) 3:07
8. Here I Go Again 3:32
9. No Lives Matter 4:23
10. Bloodlust 3:34
11. Black Hoodie 3:29

Band members
Ice-T – vocals
Ernie C – lead guitar, backing vocals
Juan of the Dead – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Vincent Price – bass, backing vocals, lead vocals on “Postmortem”
Ill Will – drums
Sean E Sean – sampler, backing vocals
Little Ice – backing vocals

Guest musicians
Dave Mustaine – spoken word and lead guitar on “Civil War”
Max Cavalera – additional vocals on “All Love Is Lost”
Randy Blythe – additional vocals on “Walk With Me…”

Album Review – Lamb of God / VII: Sturm und Drang (2015)

Braving all the storms and stress in their lives, Mr. Randy Blythe and his squad boldly externalize their deepest fears through their aggressive new album.

Rating4

CoverSeveral bands and artists all over the world would love to benefit from the type of exposure frontman Randy Blythe got on the media after his manslaughter case, focusing on the external situation rather than on the music itself to sell more and consequently make more money. Fortunately for fans of high-quality heavy music that’s not the case with his own band, American groove metallers Lamb of God, who put together instead their talent and personal experiences to generate another excellent and violent studio album, this time entitled VII: Sturm und Drang.

Of course there are many references to Randy’s period in prison, but this is not a “prison record” according to him.  The whole album is in fact about the psychology of humans reacting under extreme conditions, which also explains its subtitle “Sturm und Drang” (a German term that means “Storm and Stress”), how we deal with our personal demons and what to expect for our future. And when the music supporting such emotional concept is as thrilling as what Lamb of God can craft, you know the album is already more than halfway to success.

Longtime fans of Lamb of God will connect instantly to the new album as soon as the brutal and vicious Still Echoes begins, led by an enraged Randy Blythe and with Chris Adler, who will drum on the new Megadeth album, proving here why he was chosen by Mustaine for the duty. And the battle rages on in the awesome Erase This, a violent but still very melodic tune where the band will break your neck mercilessly, with highlights to the great job on guitars by Willie Adler and Mark Morton, especially their solos. Then in the dark and heavy tune 512 you will be able to feel in details the time Randy spent in prison. He actually wrote the lyrics to the song in Pankrác Prison, in the Czech Republic, cell number 512 (most of his time was spent in a basement dungeon), while he was contemplating how the experience was changing him, and you can feel his desolation and pain flowing through his words (“Six bars laid across the sky / Four empty walls to fill the time / One careless word, you lose your life / A grave new world awaits inside”).

Embers, featuring lead singer Chino Moreno of Deftones, whose clean vocals sound good but nothing truly remarkable, is a rhythmic and melodic devastation perfect for their live performances to ignite some circle pits, while Footprints showcases a modern version of the band’s Groove/Thrash Metal with an amazing dark atmosphere, with Chris kicking ass on drums and Randy vociferating all his anger and frustrations. Randy is definitely not in a good mood in this song, no doubt about that. Following that bestial massacre, Overlord cools down the animosity a bit, reminding me of some of the old classics by Stone Temple Pilots but obviously heavier. It’s a good “break” from all the havoc the band has delivered so far, but that’s just until its melancholic and introspective instrumental suddenly becomes another demonic metal feast.

lamb of godThe magnificent Anthropoid is the perfect depiction of contemporary extreme metal, where although violence is the most important element present in the music, its level of complexity is still extremely high and astonishing. It’s a nonstop headbanging tune fueled by huge doses of madness and electricity, and knowing this song hasn’t been included in their most recent setlists makes me deeply sad. In Engage the Fear Machine, they slow down the rhythm once again without losing their ferocious vibe thanks to the growling vocals by Randy, to its groovier than usual riffs and to its frantic drums, which sound like bullets hitting solid metal to be more precise.

Closing the regular version of the album, it’s time for war with Lamb of God in Delusion Pandemic, where the cohesiveness among band members beautifully enhances the song’s obscurity. In addition, the metallic guitar lines by Willie and Mark provide Randy all he needs to keep kicking ass and delivering aggressive words (“Allocate your future to the delegates / Relegate your muses to the surrogates / Long green apron stings that end in hooks / Sunk deep, written off, and on the books”). And finally, Torches, featuring lead singer Greg Puciato of The Dillinger Escape Plan, is in my opinion the weakest of all tracks, very bland and generic compared to the rest of the album with nothing special to offer to the listener like most of the other songs of the album. Moreover, if you acquire the limited digipak edition of VII: Sturm und Drang, you’ll be treated to two bonus tracks, Wine & Piss and Nightmare Seeker (The Little Red House), both as good and exciting as the regular album tracks.

To sum up, it’s good to see Lamb of God are leaving their comfort zone by exploring new approaches and heights and facing their inner demons, which in the end translates into more meaningful music for the total delight of their loyal fans as we can enjoy in VII: Sturm und Drang. That is to say, if there’s a band that truly learned how to externalize all their weaknesses and fears through their music, braving all the storms and stress in their lives without showing any signs of backing off or giving up at any moment, that’s undoubtedly the ruthless squad led by the one and only Randy Blythe.

Best moments of the album: Footprints, Anthropoid and Delusion Pandemic.

Worst moments of the album: Embers and Torches.

Released in 2015 Epic Records/Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Still Echoes 4:22
2. Erase This 5:08
3. 512 4:44
4. Embers (feat. Chino Moreno) 4:56
5. Footprints 4:24
6. Overlord 6:28
7. Anthropoid 3:38
8. Engage the Fear Machine 4:48
9. Delusion Pandemic 4:22
10. Torches (feat. Greg Puciato) 5:17

Limited Digipak Edition bonus tracks
11.Wine & Piss 3:33
12.Nightmare Seeker (The Little Red House) 4:56

Band members
Randy Blythe – vocals
Willie Adler – guitar
Mark Morton – guitar
John Campbell – bass
Chris Adler – drums

Guest musicians
Chino Moreno – additional vocals on “Embers”
Greg Puciato – additional vocals on “Torches”

Concert Review – Heavy Montréal 2014 Day 2 (Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal, QC, 08/10/2014)

A scorching hot Sunday of impeccable heavy music in Montreal.

DEATH ANGEL

IMG_2880After a good night of rest I was ready for more Heavy Montréal at Parc Jean Drapeau on Sunday. However, not only I was able to arrive really early that day (missing only a couple of minor bands), but also the sun was a lot hotter and the lineup  a billion times heavier, turning that day into some kind of heavy music survival camp, which was totally awesome.

The first attraction I was able to check on Sunday was American Thrash Metal band Death Angel, who at 1:30pm delivered a very consistent concert at the Heavy Stage, mixing some old songs with new ones from their most recent album from 2013 in their SETLIST, with highlights to the title-track The Dream Calls For Blood, one of the songs with the highest response from thousands of thrash metallers already present at the festival. And, of course, the energy lead singer Mark Osegueda emanates throughout the entire show was more than admirable.

Band members
Mark Osegueda – vocals
Rob Cavestany – lead guitar
Ted Aguilar – guitars
Damien Sisson – bass guitar
Will Carroll – drums

EXODUS

IMG_2883When American Thrash Metal beasts Exodus started their sonic Armageddon at 2:15pm at the Molson Canadian Stage, especially with the return of Steve “Zetro” Souza on vocals, the smile on the faces of all fans perfectly represented what Exodus are: a nonstop Thrash Metal machine ready to rumble until there’s no one standing anymore. I’ve always considered them the “extra” element that would transform the Big Four into a Big Five, and everytime I see them live I believe in that even more.

Despite not playing any new stuff from their upcoming album Blood In, Blood Out (which I really cannot wait to take a listen to), their short but superb SETLIST was a perfect lesson in Thrash Metal: Bonded By Blood, Blacklist, Toxic Waltz, Piranha, Strike of the Beast, among other masterful songs, were the soundtrack for intense circle pits, furious headbanging and constant beer drinking.

All band members were on fire, especially the returning Zetro (and his HUGE belly) and the riff master Gary Holt, a man that deserves a lot more recognition in the world of heavy music than he actually has. Maybe the only issues with their concert were sound of the guitars, which were too low compared to the drums, and the fact they had only 45 minutes to play. Anyway, the “Exodus Atack” might have been short, but it was indeed extremely effective.

Band members
Steve “Zetro” Souza – vocals
Gary Holt – guitar
Lee Altus – guitar
Jack Gibson – bass
Tom Hunting – drums

EPICA

IMG_2886After the BEASTS from Exodus, it was time for everyone to relax (and bang their heads, of course) with the BEAUTY Simone Simons and her bandmates from Dutch Symphonic Metal band Epica at 3:00pm, at the Heavy Stage. Their SETLIST was also pretty short, but instead of playing their classics they decided to offer their fans a concert full of new songs from their brand new album, the excellent The Quantum Enigma, which worked really well for them: everybody watching their performance truly enjoyed songs like The Second Stone, The Essence of Silence and Unchain Utopia.

Obviously, everyone had their eyes fixed on the stunning Simone, who is not only extremely gorgeous, but an awesome singer and a very sympathetic and charismatic frontwoman. Her headbanging was also amazing, especially due to the effect her beautiful long red hair had on that. Lastly, Simone mentioned they’re getting back to Canada in October with Machine Head and Children of Bodom, this time for a full 2-hour concert. Are you going to miss that unique opportunity?

Band members
Simone Simons – lead vocals
Mark Jansen – rhythm guitar, grunts, screams
Isaac Delahaye – lead guitar, backing vocals
Rob van der Loo – bass
Coen Janssen – synthesizer, piano
Ariën van Weesenbeek – drums, grunts, spoken words

BODY COUNT

IMG_2898I skipped Symphony X not only because they’re quite boring, but also to breathe some fresh air, watch good-quality wrestling matches at the Heavy Mania Stage, drink a couple of beers, and get ready for American Crossover Thrash band Body Count. At 4:30pm there they were at the Heavy Stage, or I should say that Body Count was literally “in the house”: that was a very entertaining concert, full of classics such as Body Count’s In the House, Disorder (my favorite of their SETLIST), Cop Killer and Talk Shit, Get Shot.

I must say that Ice-T, the mastermind behind Body Count, is a motherfuckin’ great frontman. Even after all those years, the man still got it and perfectly interacted with each and every person from the crowd. The funniest part was when he pointed to a girl and asked her age. She said she was only 16, for his surprise, as he replied back saying he would expect to see her at a Justin Bieber concert, not at Body Count, but he was 100% happy with her being there. He then pronounced some “beautiful” words for her, saying it was a pleasure to have her there and that the whole band truly respected that “bitch”. Well, the “bitch” seemed to be honored with his words. A day to remember, “bitch”!

Band members
Ice-T – vocals
Ernie C – lead guitar
Juan of the Dead – rhythm guitar
Sean E Sean – sampler, backing vocals
Vincent Price – bass
Ill Will – drums

BAD RELIGION

IMG_2902After skipping another concert, Hatebreed, and watching only 5 minutes of Alestorm’s performance at the Apocalypse Stage, I ran back to the Heavy Stage at 6:00pm for a memorable performance by American Punk Rock icons Bad Religion. The band was back in town just one year after their last performance there, or as frontman Greg Graffin said during the show, Bad Religion were back to Montreal “1 year later, 10 years older, and all fans looking better than ever”.

And what can be said about a nonstop SETLIST with 22 songs, including masterpieces such as Recipe for Hate, Struck a Nerve, 21st Century (Digital Boy), Infected, Punk Rock Song and American Jesus? It was pure madness, with kudos to drummer Brooks Wackerman for pounding his drums so intensely that each and every song became even better than the studio versions. Bad Religion might look 10 years older, but they sound like if they were all in their mid-20’s.

Band members
Greg Graffin – lead vocals
Brian Baker – lead guitar, backing vocals
Mike Dimkich – guitar, backing vocals
Brett Gurewitz – guitar, backing vocals
Jay Bentley – bass, backing vocals
Brooks Wackerman – drums, percussion

LAMB OF GOD

IMG_2907The sun was still scorching hot at 7:00pm when Twisted Sister hit the stage, so I decided to rest for a while at the Wi-Fi zone before heading back to the Heavy Stage, where at 8:00pm American Groove Metal band Lamb of God began their sonic massacre to the total delight of their diehard fans. They played a pretty decent SETLIST, with powerful songs like Walk with Me in Hell, Laid To Rest and Redneck, all accompanied by their respective awesome disturbing videos depending of course on the lyric theme, showing random images of junkies, religious fanatics such as Jim Jones and his followers, among others. That was an amazing addition to the show, holding the attention of even who was not a fan of their music.

However, it was lead singer Randy Blythe who stole the show with his close interaction with the audience, especially his funny jokes and messages, like when he said Dee Snider is one of his biggest idols (as they both have their issues with the law), his admiration for the badass names “Saskatoon, Saskatchewan”, and mainly when he asked everyone to give him a huge fuckin’ “WOOOOOO!” in honor of the Nature Boy, the one and only wrestling legend Ric Flair. And I guess I don’t need to mention anything about the insane mosh pits, right?

Band members
Randy Blythe – vocals
Mark Morton – guitar
Willie Adler – guitar
John Campbell – bass
Chris Adler – drums

SLAYER

IMG_2909You don’t need to ask anyone what you should or should not play when you’re FUCKIN’ SLAYER! At 9:15pm, American Thrash Metal behemoths tamed the Molson Canadian Stage for a brutal performance that almost devastated the whole island, bringing even the “plague” (or tons of mosquitoes) to Heavy Montréal (according to Tom Araya himself) and closing the festival on a perfect note. The most evil band in the world didn’t play any new songs, not even the recently released Implode, and of course there were no fuckin’ “requests” in their SETLIST. They simply chose to stick to their basics instead, bombarding each fan attending the concert with undisputed Thrash Metal classics such as War Ensemble, At Dawn They Sleep, Spirit in Black, Disciple, Raining Blood, Die By the Sword and Angel of Death.

It was another flawless performance by Tom Araya, Kerry King, Gary Holt and Paul Bostaph, and one thing must be said about Gary and Paul: they had some absurdly humongous shoes to fill when they replaced the gods Jeff Hanneman and Dave Lombardo, but their synergy with the other guys and their passion for heavy music make it look like they’ve always been with the band. Gary Holt is a guitar beast, as I’ve said a billion times already, and Paul Bostaph is so awesome he makes playing drums look like it’s the easiest thing in the world.

In between the songs and all the sick circle pits happening all over the festival, Tom Araya thanked the fans a thousand times for being there, saying they were the reason for that kind of festival to exist. He seemed really happy and honored by how loud everyone was screaming their names and singing their songs during the entire concert. In addition, he also tried to send some meaningful messages to the crowd while introducing some songs, like when he mentioned the horrible conflict that’s happening now between Israel and Palestine, before playing the masterpiece Die By the Sword. Do I need to say a “Slayer by Request” is totally unnecessary, especially when a band is so impressive as they are, no matter what they choose to play? I believe all the “SLAYER! SLAYER! SLAYER!” screams that echoed really loudly at the venue when the concert was over, at all subway stations and even at a McDonald’s where I had a pit stop to get some food can answer that.

Band members
Tom Araya – vocals, bass
Kerry King – guitar
Gary Holt – guitar
Paul Bostaph – drums

FINAL THOUGHTS

This was probably the best edition in the history of Heavy Montréal, because not only the main-eventers were brilliant, but mainly because the way everything was set up made the whole experience really pleasant for any type of person attending the festival. For instance, the extra stage this year allowed even more independent and/or newer bands to get known by the audience, the continuation of the Heavy Mania Stage was a great success, and the Heavy Montréal 2014 App was more than helpful for everybody.

Moreover, I don’t remember seeing any incidents during both days at Parc Jean-Drapeau. I cannot believe it’s 2014 and some idiots keep insisting on saying headbangers are violent people, when in fact we’re the most easy-going people in the whole fuckin’ world. Anyway, it’s time to recover from those two intense days, work, study, listen to metal and enjoy the local concerts wherever you are, until a new edition of Heavy Montréal is forged in the fires of heavy music next year for our pure delectation. What are your thoughts about Heavy Montréal 2014? Which attractions did or did not meet your expectations? And who do you want to see at Heavy Montréal 2015? Leave your comments below (if you have any) and, of course, keep listening to heavy music.