Album Review – Sanktuary / Winter’s Doom (2016)

When the coldest winter comes to punish you for your unholy sins, you can find sanctuary through the flammable power of old school Thrash Metal.

Rating5

Everyone knows that, depending on where you live in Canada, winter can feel like the rawest and most brutal form of damnation, especially if you live up north in the territories of Yukon, Nunavut or Northwestern Territories. However, what could translate into a pitiful and melancholic life for many was transformed into kick-ass metal music by the talented Canadian Power Thrash band Sanktuary, who will  take you on a journey back to the golden years of Thrash Metal with their brand new album, conveniently named Winter’s Doom. And let me tell you that despite this “bitterly cold” title, each and every song from the album will absolutely set you on fire.

Formed in 2009 and having already released a few EP’s, splits and a full-length album in 2013 entitled Something Fierce, Sanktuary have always remained loyal to their foundations and kept delivering high-quality old school Thrash Metal inspired by their homeland, by politics and technology, turning Winter’s Doom into a very pleasant experience to any type of metalhead in the world. “In the title track and album cover [designed by artist Tyler Grasholm] we portray ourselves as heavy metal warriors thriving in a habitat where most would perish instantaneously. That’s our homeland, the Yukon”, comments this Whitehorse-based band, a city located about 5,000km northwest of Toronto and really close to the border with Alaska.

And Sanktuary come ripping with their hardcore attitude in the exciting opening track Space Race, where as in most albums from the early days of Thrash Metal there’s a constant Punk Rock vibe in the music. In addition, lead singer/guitarist Alan Binger’s voice sounds exactly like if it was recorded in the 80’s so crude and visceral it is. The old school riffs by Alan and guitarist Glen Emond, together with the rumbling bass lines by Cole Hume, dictate the rhythm in Wild Is the Wind, an ode to Yukon with Alan providing deeper growls than in the opening track amidst hints of Rock N’ Roll the likes of Motörhead. In Vermin Lord, the band blends the speed and shredding of Exodus with the craziness and rhythm of Anthrax, with some sick guitar solos adding more liveliness to the musicality. In other words, it’s 7 minutes of pure Thrash Metal that will drag you to the core of an insane circle pit without a shadow of a doubt.

Sanktuary_Group webThe title-track Winter’s Doom keeps the pedal to the metal with a mix of Thrash Metal and Punk Rock, offering the listener the intoxicated and demented vocals by Alan and the nonstop Thrash Metal beats and fills by drummer Anders Grasholm; whereas Open Your Eyes presents more old school metal for fans of heavy music who are always dressing their tight jeans, leather jackets and white tennis shoes. Moreover, its backing vocals provide an awesome support to Alan in sending an intense and aggressive message to the whole world.

Corpse Blockade, my favorite song of the album by far, showcases elements of the NWOBHM (especially its Iron Maiden-inspired riffs), with its constant shredding and solid drumming making this an excellent choice for their live performances, not to mention the nice guitar solos boosting its overall quality even more. And finally, sounding like if he’s possessed by Joey Belladonna or Paul Baloff, Alan dictates the rhythm in Maximum Authority, a nice display of pure Thrash Metal with highlights to its sick riffs and solos, as well as the crushing bass lines by Cole.

In summary, anytime the winter comes to punish you for your unholy sins, or anytime you feel your soul is about to be frostbitten, you can find sanctuary through the flammable Power Thrash crafted by these talented metallers from Yukon by visiting their Facebook page, YouTube channel and SoundCloud, and also by purchasing Winter’s Doom at the band’s BandCamp page. Winter? What winter?

Best moments of the album: Space Race and Corpse Blockade.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Independent

Track listing
1. Space Race 4:30
2. Wild Is the Wind 4:12
3. Vermin Lord 6:50
4. Winter’s Doom 3:39
5. Open Your Eyes 4:40
6. Corpse Blockade 4:15
7. Maximum Authority 4:46

Band members
Alan Binger – vocals, guitars
Glen Emond – guitars
Cole Hume – bass
Anders Grasholm – drums

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Concert Review – Iron Maiden (Brno Velodrom, Brno, Czech Republic, 06/08/2014)

SCREAM FOR ME, BRNO!

INTRODUCTION: The City of Brno

tour_500Finally back from my awesome trip around Eastern Europe, there couldn’t be a better way to “reignite” the moose than with a review of another flawless performance from Heavy Metal behemoths IRON MAIDEN! But before I talk about the concert itself, let me do a quick intro about the city of Brno, where Maiden played for the first time ever in their brilliant career.

With a population of almost 400,000 people, Brno is the capital of the South Moravian Region and the second largest city of the Czech Republic (Prague is the first one with 1.3 million people). This beautiful city is located about 200km from both Prague and Vienna (Austria), so it doesn’t really matter where you fly to if you don’t live in Europe and want to visit there.

And believe me, it’s definitely worth a visit: the people from Brno are very friendly and beautiful, their food is amazing, their beer is not only delicious but also very cheap, and of course, there’s a lot to do in the city such as visiting the imponent Špilberk Castle (you can have a pint of Brno’s awesome Poutník light draft beer for less than two Canadian Dollars at the pub on the top of the castle), seeing the mummies at the Capuchin Crypt and Church, or visiting the Brno Ossuary. Or maybe if you’re planning to have a very romantic dinner in the city, my suggestion is the excellent La Bouchée Restaurant. You can find some good info about the city and its hotels, attractions and events at the website Brno.me.

OPENING ACT: Ghost

IMAG2183We flew from Toronto directly to Vienna from the evening of June 7 to the morning of June 8, picked up a car at the airport, enjoyed the 2-hour drive to Brno, checked in at our hotel located only 500m from the venue (the open-air Brno Velodrom, which seemed really old and not very well-maintained from the inside), slept for about 2 hours to recover our energies, and then simply walked to the Velodrom. When we got there, Swedish Hard Rock band Ghost was already onstage, but we couldn’t care less as we’re not fans of the band nor will ever be. We really don’t get why so many people love this overrated band. Well, Ghost did exactly what we expected: despite their good instrumental, interesting lyrics and all their theatrical performance, the vocals are extremely bad and the songs sound way too boring for big venues or festivals. I wasn’t able to distinguish any of the songs from one another, so for me it sounded like a single 40-minute boring song being played all the time. Anyway, even the most diehard fans of Iron Maiden respected the band and not even a single boo was heard, which was good for the band members, but that left me wondering how cool it would have been with Anthrax instead of Ghost opening for Maiden, as it happened in previous concerts this year.

Band members
Papa Emeritus II – vocals
Nameless Ghouls – all instrumentalists (lead guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, drummer, rhythm guitarist)

IRON MAIDEN

IMG_1829It was around 9pm when, after the traditional intro with UFO’s Doctor Doctor and the video showing scenes of ice meltdown with the epic orchestral song Rising Mercury in the background, Steve, Bruce & Co. hit the stage with the classic Moonchild (by the way, the sound quality was excellent). I don’t need to say how great that was, right? And it doesn’t matter if it’s a huge festival like Rock Am Ring or a small city like Brno: Iron Maiden are ALWAYS on fire and ALWAYS deliver the most electrifying show one can ever imagine! “What a lovely evening!”, Bruce said in regards to the sunny and hot weather in Brno, with the temperatures above +35°C making it even hard to breathe sometimes. Nothing that cannot be solved with some cold beer, though.

Besides that, it was clear to me that the vast majority of the fans there were not from Brno, but from other parts of Czech Republic and major European cities like Prague, Vienna and Bratislava (as well as other distant parts of Europe like England and Finland), which means only true Maidenmaniacs attended the concert, enhancing the connection between band and fans even more. Moreover, as it already happened in 2012 and 2013, each and every all-time classic like Can I Play With Madness, The Trooper, Wasted Years and Run to the Hills didn’t let the energy down not even for a single second throughout the entire concert. Not even the limited English from most fans in the venue curbed their enthusiasm and their will to sing along all songs with the band. And what was that crazy dude on the fence with the British flag? He was 100% drunk, his T-shirt was all torn because of the fence (and I believe he was also bleeding because of that), but he was so happy seeing Maiden live that none of that could stop him from enjoying every song played. That was awesome.

IMG_1809In addition, the highlights of this concert (and of the whole Maiden England Tour 2014) were once again the thrilling masterpieces The Prisoner and Aces High, the undeniable perfection of the epic Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, and of course the three changes the band made to the setlist this year. This was my fifth “Maiden England” concert (after three in Canada in 2012 and one in Germany in 2013), and by far the best in terms of setlist: replacing Afraid to Shoot Strangers, The Clairvoyant and Running Free by Revelations, Wrathchild and Sanctuary was an awesome move that added more power to their performance, especially the wonderful Revelations, one of my favorite Maiden songs of all time. Bruce had such an outstanding performance on this song, one of the best I’ve ever seen, that it was impossible not to get emotional with its perfect lyrics. Can someone please ask the band to NEVER remove it from the setlist again?

Talking about Bruce, he was singing A LOT better than a few days before at Rock Am Ring. For instance, during the encore it sounded like the concert was just starting, and we’re talking about very difficult songs to sing like Aces High and The Evil That Men Do. Maybe he had more time to rest until the concert at Brno, or maybe he feels more excited when it’s a smaller venue and not a huge festival? The same can be said about the other band members, especially Dave Murray and Nicko McBrain, who were both in top form even after so many years on the road. They simply love what they do, and that’s why we love them so much. Just Google it and you’ll see what I’m talking about, there are many good videos shot at the concert in Brno that you can compare with their performance at Rock Am Ring.

In summary, as the band itself always says, “Iron Maiden’s gonna get ya, no matter how far”, even if it’s as far as Brno, in the amazing Czech Republic. No one knows if Maiden will return to the city in the future for more concerts, but based on this first one and on all the beauty, peace and the enthusiastic people there, Brno truly deserves to be constantly visited by our beloved Heavy Metal giants. And if they do so in the following years, I hope I can take some days off again to witness Bruce shouting out loud “SCREAM FOR ME, BRNO!” under the beautiful and clear Czech sky during one more of their superb summer tours.

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
Steve Harris – bass, backing vocals
Dave Murray – guitars
Adrian Smith – guitars, backing vocals
Janick Gers – guitars
Nicko McBrain – drums

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The Walking Dead Review – Episode 416: A

It doesn’t matter if you’re a marauder or even a cannibal, always remember not to mess with Sheriff Rick Grimes.

***WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS***

If you haven’t seen A yet, I suggest you scroll down to the end of this post first and watch the entire episode before reading the rest of the text.

twd416_01So AMC’s The Walking Dead season 4 is finally over and, after all those flashbacks, introspective moments and just a few minutes of sheer violence (I was expecting a lot more of that, based on what the producers of the show were promising) in the last episode, curiously named only “A”, all fans will have to wait until October to get some extra doses of brutality and lots of answers for many things that were not explained at all, such as where Beth, Carol, Tyreese and Judith are, who will die on the hands of the people at Terminus, and how Rick and the others will escape from that nightmare.

I must admit the first five minutes were awesome, with that flashback showing our beloved hero Hershel back in the day where the prison was still a safe place, always helping everyone with his words of wisdom, and Rick was trying to be more human in order to become a better father, and then Rick covered in blood a totally away from reality. How did Rick reach that point? When did he snap and why? All that tension and mystery already put “A” well above most of the episodes from the second half of season 4, but unfortunately that didn’t last as long as we were all eagerly waiting for.

Of course, that sequence where Joe and his gang finally find Rick, Michonne and Carl, and the vision of Carl almost being raped by one of the marauders turning Rick into a merciless wild beast, was simply amazing. Our sheriff ripping Joe’s throat with his own teeth, like if he was some type of “alive zombie”, was awesome and showed why he and Carl have survived the apocalypse up to now and, of course, proved once again why the walkers are the least dangerous of all their problems. Rick almost surpassed Stallone ripping a guy’s throat with his own hand in the last Rambo movie in terms of bestiality, but let’s admit it’s pretty hard to be more violent and reckless than Mr. John Rambo.

Anyway, as I said, that scene was too short and Rick, Carl, Daryl and Michonne started the last part of their journey to Terminus. That bite surely turned Rick into a different person, and his survival instincts are now stronger than ever, which could be easily seen in each and every moment before and when the group reached the “sanctuary for all”: he left a bag full of weapons outside Terminus (which will most likely be their salvation next season), and he didn’t seem to trust any of the people there, especially this new guy, Gareth. Well, he was more than right, because when creepy Mary and Gareth offer them some food, Rick sees those strangers wearing Maggie’s poncho and Glenn’s vest and watch, and he then realizes that’s no sanctuary at all.

twd416_02But the worst was still to come, when amidst all the shooting Rick notices they were aiming at their feet and that they were not trying to kill them. Do you want to know why? Just think about the meat that Mary was serving them before and you’ll get it (and probably will be disgusted by that). They end up being caught by Gareth and the others members of that dreadful cult and sent to a train wagon, where not surprisingly they reunite with Glenn, Maggie, Bob and Sasha, and get to know Sgt. Abraham Ford, Eugene and Rosita.

And to end this season in a very exciting way, badass Rick doesn’t seem worried at all with the fact that they’re about to become Gareth and his bunch of cannibals’ afternoon snack. “They’re screwing with the wrong people.”, our sheriff said. Any doubts about that?

And this will be the last review about The Walking Dead on this website. Not because the show is not good anymore (it’s still awesome), but because the focus will be exclusively Heavy Metal and Hard Rock. So unless Rick starts listening to AC/DC during his fights against zombies and other humans in the following seasons, like Andrew Lincoln said he does prior to shooting some of his scenes, that’s all, folks.

A (FULL EPISODE)

The Walking Dead Review – Episode 415: Us

And they finally arrive at Terminus.

***WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS***

If you haven’t seen Us yet, I suggest you scroll down to the end of this post first and watch the entire episode before reading the rest of the text.

twd415_01Just one episode to go, and I’m still not really pumped up with season 4 from AMC’s The Walking Dead. I remember that during seasons 1, 2 and 3 I couldn’t wait for the next episodes, but now it really seems they’re dragging the show as much as possible just for (a lot of) money. Besides, many of the main characters have become so boring, like a shadow of what made them so good, especially Michonne and Daryl. Are the writers doing this with them to find an excuse to kill them in the show? And what about that “love is in the air” trend? Shouldn’t they be worried about zombies, food, water or anything else before spreading all that love in a world that doesn’t give a shit about it anymore?

First of all, Glenn’s quest to find Maggie no matter what has been really stupid. He has the right to go after the love of his life, no problem with that, but putting the lives of other people in danger because he’s too stubborn to follow a simple plan or request that would lead him to Maggie but in a relatively calm and safe way is too much. As soon as he saw the signs Maggie, Sasha and Bob left him, he started running like a moron. Why? When did running by yourself like an idiot become a good thing to do in the show? Anyway, he’s lucky that Abraham, Eugene and Rosita are really patient people, and that Tara is so “busy” fighting against her inner ghosts that she doesn’t really care if his ideas and actions are way beyond stupidity.

Talking about Eugene, Tara and Rosita, their dialogues yesterday were for me the highlight of the episode. It was so funny seeing Eugene telling Tara she’s smoking hot, just to hear her replying to him “Yeah, and I like girls!” That was a really awkward moment, and add to that Abraham telling Tara she saw her staring at Rosita’s tits, and you multiply the awesomeness by a million! Unfortunately, that’s all the fun we had last night, because later there was just the action scene inside the tunnel full of walkers, where Glenn almost got Tara killed with his “brilliant” plan, but it wasn’t that exciting in the end.

twd415_02And what about Daryl and his new “friends”? Joe seems to be a pretty straight-forward guy, always going by the rules (if it’s claimed, it’s claimed!) and always telling the truth, so why not get along with him and forget about Beth for a minute? As I said, Daryl is not the same, and I don’t think this is going to end well for him. His childish fight against Len for that rabbit, and then Len trying to incriminate Daryl in that old garage for getting his piece of the rabbit just to be killed by the other members of the gang later, didn’t make too much sense at all. At least things will get a lot better when Joe finds Rick and gets his revenge (or not?) for what rick did in that house he was trying to relax a few episodes ago. Even Rick seems to be too calm, as per that brief moment he appeared in the episode watching Carl and Michonne play in the rails, but let’s hope next episode the good old sheriff is back in action doing what he’s supposed to do: fighting for his life, for Carl’s and for the people he cares about.

Finally, Glenn and Maggie are reunited (thanks to Eugene’s plan to drive to the other side of the tunnel), there’s that stupid scene burning that picture of Maggie (that was totally unnecessary), and after some useless talking they got to the promised sanctuary, Terminus, where they find that mysterious woman called Mary. But is that really a sanctuary? Doesn’t it look creepier than any other place they’ve been? At least it’s the season finale next week, which means something will actually happen, right? Because if not, the second half of season 4 will be indeed a total waste of time.

Us (FULL EPISODE)

The Walking Dead Review – Episode 410: Inmates

Hitchhikers may be escaping inmates, but The Walking Dead is definitely awesome.

***WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS***

If you haven’t seen Inmates yet, I suggest you scroll down to the end of this post first and watch the entire episode before reading the rest of the text.

twd410_01What an intense an fun episode to watch! After seeing what happened to Rick, Carl and Michonne, we had the pleasure to catch up with the rest of the crew, including some we thought were gone for good, and some new faces that I’m pretty sure the fans of the comics got really excited about. Not only that, what made this episode so cool was that all characters were almost at the same place but in a different time span, showing things are not going to be easy at all for the whole group to rejoin.

First of all, we see the duo of Beth and Daryl alone in the dark, in the middle of the woods, thinking about what happened to the others, what they were going to do by themselves. The beautiful part of this scene was the narration of Beth’s diary by Beth herself, when they first moved to the prison, as if the prison was their new sanctuary, as if there was some hope there. Well, we saw what happened in the mid-season finale and their situation now. However, it seems Beth is still hopeful, that she still believes the others are alive (and she’s right!), and because of her hope Daryl kind of wakes up from his total dismay. “If you don’t have hope, what’s the point of living?”, Beth said.

The next survivors are Tyreese, Lizzie and Mika. Oh, and for our total frenzy, baby Judith is with them! The blood Rick and Carl saw on her baby basket was from Tyreese’s arm, which was still bleeding by the way after all that time. In my opinion, Tyreese had the heaviest burden of all survivors by having to take care of two little girls and a baby, despite the fact that Lizzie killing little bunnies doesn’t make her so weak and fearful as her sister, right? And then, just to make things even more interesting, guess who’s back? The even more fearless Carol! Her one and only fear was the possibility of Tyreese wanting his revenge for Carol killing and setting fire to his girlfriend before being banished from the prison, but as he doesn’t know about that small detail, why bother? Let’s get all together, pretend nothing happened and go to the sanctuary called “Terminus”, which I’m pretty sure it’s not a good idea at all. For them, of course, but excellent for the Walking Dead fans!

twd410_02The third batch of survivors is composed by the always beautiful Maggie, the brave Sasha and the wildcard Bob, trying to find Glenn, but ending up facing the prison bus full of walkers. Maggie is about to snap, desperate for not finding Glenn anywhere, but then she sees what’s really going on: Glenn is not there. He probably escaped from the bus and is alive and well somewhere else, which makes her kind of happy. If only she could see where Glenn actually was, she wouldn’t feel that happy…

Because Glenn is still at the prison! He’s not fully recovered from the deadly flu, but he’s a lot better and strong enough to go back into the prison to find something that could help him escape from all the starving walkers outside. He gets his “comics” armor and helmet, a machine gun, and is ready to rumble in the middle of a big herd of zombies trying to bite him at all costs. On his way out, he sees poor Tara alone and hopeless inside a “cage” outside, without caring about anyone, not even about her own life. Fortunately, Glenn wakes her up and they both escape from the prison, and that was probably their farewell to it. From the bottom of my heart, the prison deserves a special tribute for being so strong and important to Rick’s team for a long time.

And finally, they might have escaped unharmed from the prison, but things are not going to get any better to them after meeting the fan-favorite Sergeant Abraham Ford and his crew, formed by the gorgeous Rosita Espinosa and the weird Dr. Eugene Porter. What are they going to do with Glenn and Tara? Are they going to take them to “Terminus”? Will “Terminus” be the new prison? What about Rick, Carl and Michonne, when are they going to meet any of the other survivors? Is it going to be at “Terminus” only? This is going to be awesome without a shadow of a doubt.

Inmates (FULL EPISODE)