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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Concert Review – Gojira (Metropolis, Montreal, QC, 10/21/2016)

And Gojira melted the spinal cords of all metallers in Montreal with the scorching magma flowing from their kick-ass neck-breaking music.

OPENING ACTS: TesseracT

gojira-fall-2016If you can move your neck, feel your back, walk and breathe normally, that means you didn’t attend the pulverizing performance by French icons Gojira this Friday at the neat and well-located Metropolis in Montreal, Quebec. Who cares if it was only 8 degrees outside and raining nonstop? It was a night of heavy music played to perfection, which means no weather could stop us metallers from leaving our places and head to the venue to bang our fuckin’ heads to the most important metal band in the history of France. Very few times I’ve seen such flawless interaction between band and crowd, a night that will forever be kept inside our hearts and remembered as the night Gojira beautifully conquered “La Métropole du Québec”.

img_1842Before we get to the Armageddon generated by Gojira, let’s talk about the opening act, British Progressive Metal/Rock band TESSERACT. Founded in 2003 and having released three full length albums and a few EP’s, including the 2016 EP Errai, The band formed by the talented musicians Daniel Tompkins, Acle Kahney, James Monteith, Amos Williams and Jay Postones provided the fans at the venue a very professional and technical performance, but that didn’t mean it was exciting. Quite the contrary, their whole concert felt like one endless 45-minute song so tiresome it was. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between songs, and I was about to fall asleep after just a few minutes. Well, there were many fans that had a good time during their concert, but for fans of old school stuff like Slayer, Pantera and Anthrax, for example, the concert never really clicked. They are all awesome musicians, especially Amos with his brutal and thunderous bass sounds, but overall they sound like a less metallic version of the latest (boring) album by Dream Theater. If you enjoyed the concert that’s fine, I respect it, but we must admit there were tons of other better choices to warm up the crowd for the main attraction of the night.

Setlist
Phoenix
Concealing Fate, Part 2: Deception
Concealing Fate, Part 3: The Impossible
Of Matter – Proxy
Of Matter – Retrospect
Dystopia
Survival
Of Mind – Nocturne 

Band members
Daniel Tompkins – vocals
Acle Kahney – guitar
James Monteith – guitar
Amos Williams – bass
Jay Postones – drums

GOJIRA

img_1843After TesseracT was over I was feeling so bored I chugged a beer to see if that would wake me up, but I didn’t realize that wasn’t necessary because when GOJIRA started, they needed less than a second to make my blood boil again with excitement. I’m pretty sure they are considered the active volcano of their hometown Bayonne in France, in special after the release of the marvelous Magma earlier this year. When the heavier-than-hell Only Pain kicked off the concert, that’s exactly what every single person present on the floor section felt: a lot of pain in their entire bodies caused by the demented circle pits that started right at the first notes played by Gojira, and that madness didn’t stop until the very end of the night.

After that spine-crushing beginning, Gojira showed no mercy for our souls and blasted three songs made in the depths of hell aiming at destroying our necks, the amazing The Heaviest Matter of the Universe (obviously played by one of the heaviest bands on the entire planet), and their two newborn classics Silvera and Stranded. Yes, they played those three in a row for our total delectation. Not that after that it wasn’t heavy, because they only played brutal material, as for example the bestial Backbone, but that initial sequence was memorable. The only moment of peace was during Terra Inc., but that didn’t last long because Wisdom Comes came crushing our souls like there was no tomorrow. There were beer flying all over the places, fists and horns in the air, pure anarchy and tons of screaming and headbanging. I was just sweating like a wild boar, with my Pantera T-shirt, my pants and even my underwear soaking wet with my own sweat, with many other people’s sweat and with a considerable amount of beer.

img_1851I really don’t know what to say about the rest of their setlist as everything was superb, like for instance the demonic Oroborus and Vacuity. Perhaps the moment where the connection between band and fans reached its peak was during the stunning circle pit generated by the melancholic hymn Pray, a song you don’t usually expect to see that type of aggressiveness coming from the crowd. Or maybe it was when bassist Jean-Michel Labadie threw himself into the crowd in wat can be called an “enhanced stage-diving” as he was still holding (and playing) his low-tuned ax? Anyway, brothers Joe and Mario Duplantier, as well as Jean and guitarist Christian Andreu, were absolutely flawless with their instruments, captivating everyone with their powerful performances during the entire concert. Furthermore, Mario’s drum solo even made me forget how boring drum solos usually are, just for you to have an idea of how good he was.

Well, it’s already Sunday night, I’m back to Toronto and my neck still hurts to the point I have to move around like the old Robocop from the 80’s, but it’s that kind of pain we all love to endure after such an incredible concert of first-class heavy music. I might be getting old for the level of devastation brought forth by Gojira in Montreal, but you know what? The day I cannot get into a pulverizing mosh pit like that, the day I don’t consider the pain in my body caused by a Heavy Metal concert a good thing, I’ll call it a day. Merci beaucoup pour cette nuit incroyable, Gojira! À bientôt, j’espère!

Setlist
Only Pain
The Heaviest Matter of the Universe
Silvera
Stranded
Flying Whales
The Cell
Backbone
Terra Inc.
Wisdom Comes
Drum Solo
The Shooting Star
Toxic Garbage Island
Pray

Encore:
Clone
Oroborus
Vacuity

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

Album Review – Gojira / Magma (2016)

A rich and sophisticated album about death, overflowing anger, sadness and pain, beautifully crafted by one of France’s most prominent and innovative bands of all time.

Rating4

gojira_magmaLosing someone you love is never easy, it doesn’t matter how tough you think you are. You move on and try to live your life without that person, but you’ll always remember your (good and bad) days with him or her, and true sadness will fill your heart even if it’s just for a single moment. At the same time French brothers Joe and Mario Duplantier had to cope with the loss of their beloved mother, only a few months after relocating from Bayonne, France to New York City and building their own music studio in Queens, they were in the process of writing and composing the music for Magma, the sixth studio album from their Progressive/Groove Metal band Gojira. Hence, those negative feelings became an inner part of their compositions, and as there’s nothing better in the entire world to externalize grief, dismay and anger than heavy music, the final result in Magma is beautiful and intense.

“When you read Joe’s lyrics, for me, I cry right away. They’re very deep and to the point. No bullshit. We recycle our sadness and depression in the music”, stated Mario about the lyrical aspect of the album. In addition to that, the duration of the songs in Magma are designedly shorter than in From Mars to Sirius (2005) and L’Enfant Sauvage (2012), as explained by Joe. “We want a short album. Something less epic than what we usually do. People’s attentions are shorter now. So a lot of the songs are four minutes”, also mentioning their experimentations with some Pantera-inspired riffs, something new to them, to make their music even more impactful than usual. The freakish artwork by American artist Hibiki Miyazaki (you can check the process pics of the artwork HERE) simply complements all the darkness and pain found in Magma, adding an extra touch of desolation to the album.

The somber and heavy atmosphere in the opening track, the soulful The Shooting Star, gets even more profound due to the outstanding work done by Joe and his bandmates Christian Andreu and Jean-Michel Labadie with their stringed weapons, especially the menacing bass lines by Jean-Michel. Moreover, as aforementioned we can already witness the most sincere type of sorrow flowing through Joe’s vocals, something that only makes the whole song more captivating. Gojira’s trademark neck-breaking riffs are showcased in the sensational Silvera, obviously boosted by the precise and intricate beats by Mario. Joe invests into angrier vocals and deeper growls, with highlights to the mesmerizing riffs and the violent aura generated by all instruments, all complemented by a passionate solo before the song’s climatic ending.

Following that powerful chant we have another marvelous tune transpiring anguish and pain entitled The Cell, presenting an electrifying start (thanks to the wicked drumming by Mario) and the best elements of Groove and Progressive Metal put together. The bass guitar by Jean-Michel is always thunderous no matter the speed and heaviness of the song, which is not only the case in this exciting tune but also in Stranded, with its direct and imposing sonority led by the band’s strident riff, one of the core ingredients that make the music by Gojira so distinguished. Although this is one of those songs to destroy your neck by banging your head like a maniac, you should also pay good attention to its lyrics, which just prove how sad Joe was while writing them (“A growing sickness in the heart / Defective, lack of control / The cure is somewhere in the silence / But I’m crushed by the noise inside”).

gojira 2016Jean-Michel leads the short and eerie bridge Yellow Stone before the title-track Magma brings forward more of the band’s anguished lyrics (“The poison slowly spreads / Through the body and the mind / Close your eyes and drop your things / Be ready to fly”), flawless instrumental and atmospheric passages. Furthermore, it’s interesting how the music evolves to a darker sounding before getting back to its heavy but serene ambience. Despite beginning as heavy as hell, Pray is by far the saddest of all songs, a journey through Joe’s darkest thoughts and his personal view on what faith is while the rest of the band keeps blasting their complex, metallic and punchy lines. And if that can be considered the saddest track in Magma, Only Pain is the one emanating the highest amount of anger, with its bass and riffs piercing and blacknening your mind. Furthermore, Joe barks and screams “only pain, all in vain” in full force, providing the listener an extra taste of his pain.

The two final tracks in Magma are pure melancholy, starting with Low Lands. How not to start crying while listening to its lyrics (“While you drift away / From all the plagues of this world / You’re put out of misery, giant monster / You won’t have to face it again / Every step of the way gets you higher”)? This is a very introspective composition with some thrilling tempo changes, a song I’m sure Joe, Mario and the others are very proud of having created together. And the somber acoustic outro Liberation feels like a very personal goodbye from Joe and Mario to their deceased mother, with no words being necessary to send the desired message.

Honestly, I have no idea if Magma will please all fans of Gojira, mainly due to the small but significant changes applied to their musicality in comparison to their previous releases. Magma might not be the “evolution in music” most were expecting from such innovative and lionhearted musicians, but it’s indeed a sophisticated album written from the bottom of the hearts of each band member, overflowing anger, pain and distress from every note played. Similarly to what the chameleon David Bowie (R.I.P.) did with his masterpiece Blackstar, using it as his swan song when his inevitable death was getting near, Magma is the perfect example of how death and high-quality music always walk hand in hand.

Best moments of the album: Silvera, The Cell, Stranded and Only Pain.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Roadrunner Records

Track listing
1. The Shooting Star 5:42
2. Silvera 3:33
3. The Cell 3:18
4. Stranded 4:29
5. Yellow Stone (Instrumental) 1:19
6. Magma 6:42
7. Pray 5:14
8. Only Pain 4:00
9. Low Lands 6:04
10. Liberation (Instrumental) 3:35

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