Concert Review – Slayer (Sound Academy, Toronto, ON, 09/12/2016)

When you have the iconic Death Angel, Anthrax and Slayer playing together in Toronto, you know it’s going to be an action-packed night of demented headbanging, beer drinking and brutal slamming.

OPENING ACTS: Death Angel and Anthrax

img_1784Anytime a concert is scheduled for a weekday that’s not Friday and there are a few bands on the lineup, I believe the organizers should push the whole event one hour later than planned to give more time to several fans that do not live right beside the venue to get there before the first band starts. And when the opening act is a band like Thrash Metal masters DEATH ANGEL, that extra time should be mandatory. The doors at a completely revamped Sound Academy (which will soon change its traditional name to Rebel, the most generic thing you can think of) opened at 6:30pm yesterday, and right after that Death Angel began their concert. Was I there to witness the amazing band led by Mark Osegueda fire their classics and new songs from the superb The Evil Divide? Of course not, nor hundreds of other fans who due to work or school could not get to the venue before 7:30pm. Is it too difficult to take into account the fact that most people do not live only five minutes from the venue, especially on a Monday night? We paid good money for the tickets, we deserved to see Death Angel, but it looks like some people just don’t care if you’re attending the full concert or not, right?

Setlist
The Ultra-Violence
Evil Priest
Claws in So Deep
Thrown to the Wolves
The Dream Calls for Blood
The Moth

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

img_1787And if you arrived after 7:30pm you might even have missed the beginning of the excellent concert by Thrash Metal titans ANTHRAX, simply proving how early the whole event started. Despite playing only nine songs in total, our good friends Joey Belladonna, Jon Donais, Scott Ian, Frank Bello and Charlie Benante kicked fuckin’ ass, with half of their setlist being comprised of songs from their latest album, the classy For All Kings. And let me tell you that those new songs worked really well live, especially Evil Twin and Breathing Lightning. Obviously, all fans got really pumped up when they played some of their biggest classics such as Caught in a Mosh, Antisocial and Indians (including a war dance), with Joey and Scott (“Do you love Thrash Metal?”) igniting some flammable mosh pits with their endless energy and unique charisma. I hope they get back to Toronto soon, and next time they have to be the headliners and play their full set, because I lost count of how many times I’ve seen Anthrax as the opening act only in the past few years, always having to cut down their setlist due to time restraints.

Setlist
You Gotta Believe
Monster at the End
Caught in a Mosh
Got the Time
Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t
Evil Twin
Antisocial
Breathing Lightning
Indians

Band members
Joey Belladonna – lead vocals
Jon Donais – lead guitar
Scott Ian – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Frank Bello – bass guitar, backing vocals
Charlie Benante – drums 

SLAYER

img_1796One very positive thing I have to say about the revamp at the Sound Academy is that they fixed all past issues they had with their sound system, turning what once was a muffled and tangled noise into detailed and crystal clear sounds. That, my friends, was what made the cataclysmic performance by Thrash Metal behemoths SLAYER, the most badass and heaviest band on earth, even heavier than what we were used to, in special the demolishing drums by Mr. Paul Bostaph. He sounded bestial the entire concert, louder and heavier than a construction zone working at full force, making our chests pump hard with his beats as if he was using a stone crusher instead of regular drum sticks behind his drums. Simply amazing.

Obviously, the rest of the band also had a fantastic performance, with Tom Araya leading the band with his deranged screams while Gary Holt and Kerry King showed us how a guitar duo should really sound in heavy music. After the devilish intro Delusions of Saviour ended and their new bone-crushing hymn Repentless started, it was a feast of old school classics the likes of Postmortem, Mandatory Suicide, War Ensemble and the demonic Seasons in the Abyss mixed with new material from Repentless (five new songs to be more precise, including the awesome You Againt You and Vices), generating some sick mosh pits and rabid screams from all fans at the Sound Academy.

img_1808A few songs from their setlist hit me like a stampede so heavy, dark and amazing they were played. First of all, it’s always a pleasure to see Tom reciting the chorus for Dead Skin Mask before the song starts, inspiring every fan to sing along with him. As Tom said, we love Slayer’s music and they love to play it, so it’s like a love affair, right? And what to say about the brutal Disciple (I bet you were bursting your lungs out screaming “God hates us all!” together with Tom during the song, just like I did), the chaotic Born of Fire, and the really old school Fight Till Death, from their 1983 masterpiece Show No Mercy? This one crushed me like an insect so fantastic it was.

I have no words to describe the apocalyptic aura generated by the last batch of classics played by Slayer, starting with one of the most demonic songs of all time, Hell Awaits, followed by the also obscure South of Heaven, my favorite Slayer song of all Raining Blood (where Paul Bostaph gave a lesson in drumming from the very first beat until the end), the classic Black Magic and finally, paying homage to the legacy of Jeff Hanneman, the unparalleled Angel of Death. That was the last song of a pure Thrash Metal night on a perfect day in Toronto, leaving us all eager for more Death Angel, Anthrax and Slayer in a not-so-distant future. Add to all that the excellent Dystopia by Megadeth and the upcoming releases by Testament and even Metallica (at least their new song sounds good, let’s wait for the rest of the album), and you know 2016 is the year of Thrash Metal. And, of course, Toronto couldn’t be left out of such an awesome party.

Setlist
Delusions of Saviour
Repentless
The Antichrist
Disciple
Postmortem
Hate Worldwide
War Ensemble
When the Stillness Comes
You Against You
Mandatory Suicide
Fight Till Death
Born of Fire
Dead Skin Mask
Seasons in the Abyss
Pride in Prejudice
Vices

Encore:
Hell Awaits
South of Heaven
Raining Blood
Black Magic
Angel of Death

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

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Album Review – Death Angel / The Evil Divide (2016)

Fast and furious anthems, dark mid-tempo songs, austere lyrics and endless stamina. This is how high-quality Thrash Metal should always be done.

Rating3

death angel_the evil dividethrash
/THraSH/

verb
1. beat (a person or animal) repeatedly and violently with a stick or whip.
“she thrashed him across the head and shoulders” 

noun
1. 
a violent or noisy movement, typically involving hitting something repeatedly.
“the thrash of the waves”
2. a style of fast, loud, harsh-sounding rock music, combining elements of punk and heavy metal.

In case you didn’t know the meaning of the word “thrash”, this is the official definition of both the verb and the noun for you to memorize anytime someone asks you why Thrash Metal has such a peculiar name. However, if this is too much for you to remember during a conversation (or if you’re too drunk to make long and complex sentences), simply keep two words in mind, those being Death Angel, and it will be extremely easy for you to explain exactly what Thrash Metal is all about. Those thrash metallers from Daly City, the largest city in San Mateo County, California, in the United States, might have gone through several line-up changes and a huge hiatus during the 90’s, but after their resurrection in 2001 they have been delivering nothing but top-notch heavy music to the world.

After the release of the excellent The Dream Calls for Blood, in 2013, one of the key bands in the Bay Area Thrash movement of the 80’s returns at full force in 2016 with their eighth studio album, the also amazing The Evil Divide. Featuring a distinct artwork by American tattoo artist Bob Tyrrell, The Evil Divide is a feast of fast and furious Thrash Metal anthems, dark mid-tempo songs, austere lyrics and, of course, flawless performances by all band members, especially frontman Mark Osegueda who displays a wider-than-usual vocal range throughout the entire album, providing a special taste to each one of the ten songs masterfully played by the band, turning The Evil Divide into one of the best albums of the year and a must-have for lovers of old school Thrash Metal.

Get yourself ready for a high-octane onslaught, because the opening track, named The Moth, offers those piercing riffs and overpowering drums we truly love in this type of music, being melodic and polished but keeping the overall violence at a high level. Moreover, as already mentioned, Mark Osegueda is getting more demonic (and consequently more awesome) through the years, bringing more dynamism to Death Angel’s musicality. Right after that solid start, the sick bass lines by Damien Sisson kick off the circle pit-generator Cause for Alarm, where guest guitarist Jason Suecof (Charred Walls of the Damned) fires an amazing solo while drummer Will Carroll paves a path of devastation behind his drum kit. Honestly, there’s no way a real metalhead can stand still to this hurricane of Thrash Metal.

Then it’s time to slow things down a bit in Lost, a powerful heavy ballad by Death Angel with Mark stealing the spotlight with his passionate performance on vocals, while guitarists Rob Cavestany and Ted Aguilar make sure the band’s aggression keeps burning nonstop through their riffs and solos; followed by Father of Lies, a belligerent Thrash Metal tune that reminds me of the golden years of Bay Area Thrash. All you have to do is grab a beer, slam into the pit and enjoy this excellent song, paying good attention to the outstanding job done on guitars and singing along with the band its catchy and vicious chorus.

death angelIn Hell to Pay, not only its lyrics and chorus couldn’t be any thrashier (“Lurid speaker, you toxic feeder / There’s no damage on the way / Selfish user, trust abuser / There will be hell to pay”), but the overall performance of the entire band is superb. Mark leads this sonic havoc with his sharp screams, while the rest of the band keeps “feeding the beast” with all their strength. Holy fuckin’ shit, what an amazing Thrash Metal anthem! And Death Angel keep blasting their fantastic music in It Can’t Be This, another tune to sing along with the band with highlights to the amazing riffs by Rob and Ted, as well as the rumbling bass lines by Damien, which increase the song’s impact on the listener. And there’s still a lot more to come, as Hatred United/United Hate is yet another song born to be a Thrash Metal classic of modern times. Guest guitarist Andreas Kisser (Sepultura) provides an excellent guitar solo that sounds like some of his classic creations from the early days of Sepultura, whereas Mark effectively follows the lines crafted by guitars and drums with his enraged screams.

In Breakaway, an intro keeps growing until the music explodes into cataclysmic Thrash Metal, with pure electricity flowing through all instruments in one of the best tracks of the album. This is an ode to everything we admire in the music by Exodus, Testament, Slayer and so many other icons, bringing forward the speed, melody and heaviness of most classic Thrash Metal anthems.  The Electric Cell, with its old school lyrics (“A cold deathly grip on the shovel of greed / You dig a mass unmarked grave / Just know your bones will be the first to lie / At the bottom of the masses betrayed”), is a good exhibit of the endless stamina present in all band members, especially Will who doesn’t seem to know the meaning of the word “soft” while playing drums, before the cutting tune Let the Pieces Fall closes this superb album. It’s heavy and thrilling just like the rest of the album, with the vocal lines by Mark transpiring hatred. Thus, when it’s over you’ll go back to the beginning of the album and start listening to it all over again, and probably repeat that a few (or even a lot) more times until your body collapses due to unstoppable moshing and slamming.

In a nutshell, what Death Angel (or maybe I should call them “Thrash Angel”) offer us in The Evil Divide might not be a revolution in music, but it is exactly how high-quality Thrash Metal should always be done. And that seems to be an easy task for them due to the refined skills of each band member, a good sign of the bright future that lies ahead for the band and also for traditional Thrash Metal without a shadow of a doubt. No one knows if they’ll be able to top what they have achieved with The Dream Calls for Blood and The Evil Divide in recent years, and while we wait for their next release there’s plenty of awe-inspiring metal music from this iconic band in The Evil Divide to keep us banging our heads and raising our horns to the unparalleled and unrelenting sound of Thrash Metal for a good while.

Best moments of the album: Cause for Alarm, Hell to Pay, Hatred United/United Hate and Breakaway.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. The Moth 4:38
2. Cause for Alarm (feat. Jason Succof) 3:22
3. Lost 4:57
4. Father of Lies 5:05
5. Hell to Pay 3:12
6. It Can’t Be This 4:16
7. Hatred United/United Hate (feat. Andreas Kisser) 5:17
8. Breakaway 4:01
9. The Electric Cell 4:38
10. Let the Pieces Fall 5:47

CD/DVD Digipak bonus track
11. Wasteland 5:18

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

Guest musicians
Jason Suecof – guitar solo on “Cause for Alarm”
Andreas Kisser – guitar solo on “Hatred United/United Hate”