Concert Review – Epica & Moonspell (The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 01/22/2016)

An electrifying fusion of Melodic Death Metal, Dark Metal and Symphonic Metal from distinct parts of the world storms the Opera House in Toronto in a memorable celebration of music.

OPENING ACT: Starkill

The North American Enigma PosterAlthough the winter hasn’t been too harsh so far in the city of Toronto this year, there’s nothing better than warming it up even more with some high-quality metal music from different parts of the world, all at the same place and time, don’t you agree? That’s what happened this Friday at the nice and cozy The Opera House, where fans could witness the riveting fusion of Melodic Death Metal from the United States, Dark Metal from Portugal and Symphonic Metal from the Netherlands on a cold but (thankfully) snowless night.

And I was finally able to get a full concert in Toronto from the very first second, without missing anything, starting with the young and restless metallers from STARKILL. Still promoting their latest album, the good Virus of the Mind, from 2014, this talented American quartet distilled their Melodic Death Metal in a precise way, warming up the crowd for the main attractions yet to come. Lead singer/guitarist Parker Jameson and guitarist Tony Keathley seemed very comfortable on stage and also among the crowd right after their concert was over, having a few beers with their fans, therefore showing how humble these guys are too. Despite adding a couple of nice unreleased songs to their setlist (entitled Burn Your World and Cloudless), in my opinion they truly thrived with songs from their two studio albums, in special the excellent Be Dead or Die and Fires of Life. I just wish they had played a faster song such as “Breaking the Madness” or “Skyward” instead of Before Hope Fades to close the show, but that was just a minor detail in their solid overall performance.

Setlist
Be Dead or Die
Burn Your World
Cloudless
Fires of Life
Virus of the Mind
Before Hope Fades

Band members
Parker Jameson – lead guitar, vocals
Tony Keathley – guitar, backing vocals
Shaun Andruchuk – bass guitar
Spencer Weidner – drums

MOONSPELL

IMG_1037About 24 hours before the moon in the city transitioned from First Quarter to Full Moon, and after an interesting alternate version of La Bafomette working as an intro, the iconic Portuguese Dark Metal wolf pack MOONSPELL stormed the Opera House with their obscurity, heaviness, electricity and undisputed talent. I really don’t know what to say about their performance so perfect it was. Perhaps that it took me too long to watch those old school Gothic metallers live for the first time? Anyway, their live concert is so damn brilliant it feels like an enhanced version of their studio albums, especially the performance by frontman Fernando Ribeiro. There’s so much passion emanating from his voice, either through his deep clean vocals, through his powerful growls or through his “real-time poetry” (or even when he made a joke about the guys from Starkill being so young they could be his children),  that it’s impossible not to get completely mesmerized and stunned by him during the entire show.

IMG_1032Of course, the rest of the band contributes enormously to the perfection of their music, with highlights to the polished and soulful riffs and solos by guitarist Ricardo Amorim, and to the sinister notes by keyboardist Pedro Paixão. There’s an absolute attention to detail coming from each musician involved, turning the experience of seeing Moonspell live into something unique. In addition, when you have such a masterpiece like their 2015 album Extinct guiding the setlist, with incredible compositions like Breathe (Until We Are No More), Extinct and The Last of Us complementing their old classics Night Eternal, Opium, Vampiria and Full Moon Madness, it’s extremely easy to put a sincere smile on the faces of the fans that attended the concert.

My only complaint is that their setlist was way too short and didn’t live up to their dark legacy. When the show was over after a little less than one hour, I was eager for more of their Gothic Metal, something you can expect from such an amazing band with a dazzling career like Moonspell. Well, they haven’t risen to stardom for no reason, right? If they had another 20 or 30 minutes to showcase more of their beautiful music, maybe by adding songs like “White Skies” and “Scorpion Flower” to their setlist, the night was going to be epic and, more important than that, more than eternal for us mere mortals. I cannot wait to see the “gajos” from Monspell live again, and next time, before the lights go out and before our time is gone, they better be the headliners or we riot!

Setlist
La Bafomette (Intro)
Breathe (Until We Are No More)
Extinct
Night Eternal
Opium
Awake
The Last of Us
Funeral Bloom
Vampiria
Alma Mater
Full Moon Madness

Band members
Fernando Ribeiro – vocals
Ricardo Amorim – guitars
Pedro Paixão – keyboards
Aires Pereira – bass
Miguel Gaspar – drums

EPICA

IMG_1069However, as most fans at the venue were there to see the main attraction of the night, the Dutch metallers from EPICA, I had to cope with the fact Moonspell’s concert was over and get ready for another good performance by the red-haired bombshell Simone Simons and her loyal crew. Due to personal reasons, they had to cancel their concerts in Toronto, Chicago and Minneapolis last September, which is why I believe their fans at the Opera House were so excited this Friday night.

Blending old classics with newer songs from their 2014 album The Quantum Enigma, Epica captivated the hearts of most people at the venue, with Simone connecting every single moment with the fans. As it happened with Moonspell, songs like The Second Stone and The Essence of Silence, despite not being classics yet, set fire to the crowd and boosted even more the impact of their classics, creating a very positive atmosphere among the crowd. And what can I say about the weird keyboards by Coen Janssen? What the hell was that? I mean, it looks cheesy, but it ends up working well with the music. If you like Epica, you know what I’m talking about.

IMG_1066There was just one minor issue with Epica’s performance, that being Moonspell. Well, not actually Moonspell, but the quality of the sound by the Portuguese metallers was way above what Epica provided the fans, which in the end felt odd. Sometimes their music sounded a bit muffled or tangled, not as clean as their studio versions, with Simone’s voice sounding lower (and almost inaudible in some moments) than all instruments. Nothing that could diminish the excitement among the fans at the venue, though, and obviously nothing that would make the night less memorable. If that mix of different subgenres of heavy music from distinct countries will ever happen again, only time will tell. In the meantime, all that’s left for us is keep those good moments deep in our hearts and wait until these bands come back to Toronto (especially Moonspell, in my case) for another shot of top-notch Heavy Metal.

Setlist
Originem (Intro)
The Second Stone
The Essence of Silence
Sensorium
Unleashed
Martyr of the Free Word
Cry for the Moon (with drum solo)
Storm the Sorrow
The Last Crusade
The Obsessive Devotion
Victims of Contingency
Design Your Universe

Encore:
Sancta Terra
Unchain Utopia
Consign to Oblivion

Band members
Simone Simons – lead vocals
Mark Jansen – rhythm guitar, harsh vocals
Isaac Delahaye – lead guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals
Rob van der Loo – bass guitar
Coen Janssen – keyboards, piano
Ariën van Weesenbeek – drums, harsh vocals

Advertisements

Album Review – Starkill / Virus Of The Mind (2014)

These promising American death metallers return with an interesting mix of symphony, harmony and darkness.

Rating4

starkill_coverAs promised HERE, it’s time to review Virus Of The Mind, the brand new album by one of the most promising Melodic Death Metal groups in the market today (and they’re not from Sweden this time), American band Starkill. Sounding like a hybrid of Behemoth and Arch Enemy, with lots of symphonic elements and the band’s own unique dark touch, this is an excellent choice for fans of a more contemporary Symphonic and Melodic Black/Death Metal, which is at the same time brutal but very harmonious.

Born in 2008 in Bloomington, Indiana under the name of Ballistika and then Massakren, before changing it once and for all to Starkill and moving to Chicago, Illinois, the band was kind of “catapulted” to significant stardom at the end of 2012 when they signed to Century Media Records, releasing their debut album Fires Of Life in 2013. Now with Virus Of The Mind they sound even more prepared for reaching new heights, especially due to their capacity of mixing so many different genres and subgenres of heavy music such as Melodic Death Metal, Power Metal, Thrash Metal and Symphonic Black Metal in the most professional and polished way possible.

And their symphonic vein can be noticed from the very beginning of the opening track, Be Dead or Die, where the awesome keyboard lines blend perfectly with its Power Metal-ish drums at the speed of light by Spencer Weidner, all guided by one of the band’s trademarks, the harsh growls by Parker Jameson. Winter Desolation follows a more Melodic Death Metal line, especially its riffs and solos à la Arch Enemy, and the first “batch” of clean vocals is a welcome addition in order to expand their music range, while Breaking the Madness elevates the adrenaline of the listener, being perfect for live performances. Moreover, despite the vocals being so harsh, it’s easy to understand the dark and interesting lyrics Parker is singing (“Madness permeates / Into my body and my mind, it starts to break / Bit there is fucking nothing left to take / Nothing to feel / Trapped in the labyrinth, losing sight of what is real / So hard to tell which way to go”).

The title-track Virus of the Mind is a very symphonic tune where the smooth keyboard notes make an interesting paradox with the harsh vocals, while the also atmospheric and dark Skyward focus on the synergy between its guitar effects and keyboard notes. Before Hope Fades, one of the singles of the album, is a good reason why they should stick to fast and heavy music: it sounds a lot like the bland material from the last couple of albums by Nightwish (except for the vocals, of course), being so pop and generic it doesn’t represent at all the true heavy music the band is capable of doing. At least they get back on track with some Symphonic Black Metal the likes of Dimmu Borgir in Into Destiny, albeit the clean vocals do not sound as if they belonged to this song.

starkillThe last part of Virus Of The Mind has its awesome and pretty bad moments at the same time, starting with the amazing apocalyptic musicality in God of This World, focusing heavily on its keyboards and the more obscure and violent lyrics (“I shall smite the earth with a curse / Enemies to ashes on the soles of my feet / Shedding blood as long as it takes / To cease this engine of grief”), followed by My Catharsis, where all elements of Melodic Death Metal can be found: very technical guitar solos, fast drums, heavy riffs and huge doses of guttural vocals. And finally, Convergence, which was supposed to sound more epic, but in fact it doesn’t live up to the expectations and ends up being just filler and, consequently, the worst song of the whole album by far.

In summary, the second installment by those American death metallers is not only a nice and professional combination of harmony and darkness, but above all it also helps consolidate Starkill in the heavy music scene today as one of the most promising names in Melodic Death Metal. Well, I guess we can already stop calling them “promising”, as they’re indeed a reality, right? And if they keep providing us such enjoyable music, maybe one day they can go even further and reach the status of classic.

Best moments of the album: Be Dead or Die, Breaking the Madness and God of This World.

Worst moments of the album: Before Hope Fades and Convergence.

Released in 2014 Century Media Records

Track listing
1. Be Dead or Die 4:36
2. Winter Desolation 5:16
3. Breaking the Madness 3:55
4. Virus of the Mind 4:47
5. Skyward 4:05
6. Before Hope Fades 4:52
7. Into Destiny 4:02
8. God of This World 5:39
9. My Catharsis 3:54
10. Convergence 4:18

Band members
Parker Jameson – lead guitar, vocals, keyboards
Tony Keathley – guitar, backing vocals
Shaun Andruchuk – bass guitar
Spencer Weidner – drums

Concert Review – Arch Enemy & Kreator (The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 10/29/2014)

Mosh pits, mosh pits! We’ve got mosh pits! Come grab your mosh pits!

OPENING ACTS: Starkill and Huntress

arch enemy_kreator_natour2014Unfortunately, due to the absolutely insane traffic to get from Oakville to The Opera House in Toronto at 6pm on a Wednesday (plus the fact there were TWO accidents on the highway, making things even worse), I missed BOTH opening acts, American Melodic Death Metal band STARKILL and American Heavy Metal band HUNTRESS. Well, I got the very last song from Huntress and it was truly kick-ass for the less than 5 minutes I had to see them, but I cannot say I actually saw those two bands in action. I’m really sorry, guys! It’s the price to pay when you live in the suburbs and have to work for the entire day before going to concerts, but I’ll try to review Starkill’s 2014 new album Virus of the Mind as soon as possible and a new Huntress album whenever it’s released in the future for sure. And Jill Janus is so beautiful, she will be a Metal Chick of the Month one day here at The Headbanging Moose.

KREATOR

IMG_3046Fuckin’ brutal, fuckin’ sick, fuckin’ awesome, and all other “fuckings” you can think of. German Thrash Metal behemoths KREATOR delivered a motherfuckin’ amazing nonstop violent concert, tearing the house down with their classic, fast and furious heavy music. Mille Petroza drove the fans crazy each time he screamed “TORONTO!”, demanding every single person at The Opera House to slam into the mosh pits and scream as loud as possible. And what can be said about drummer Jürgen “Ventor” Reil? One day we’ll see the guy arrested for excessive violence against his drum kit.

The band’s setlist was also a lesson in violence, with classics such as Violent Revolution, Extreme Aggression, Phobia, Voices of the Dead and Impossible Brutality putting a smile on everyone’s faces, as well as some bruises along our bodies, of course. However, there were three songs that reached perfection and made their whole performance even more memorable: the sensational Enemy of God (my favorite Kreator song of all time), the new and boisterous Phantom Antichrist, and the last song of the setlist, Pleasure to Kill, which left a beautiful trail of devastation at the venue. The only problem with their performance and with the whole festival for me was: who was (were) the motherfucker(s) farting every 5 seconds during the concerts? C’mon, what had you eaten before getting to the venue? Rotten food? Five pounds of pulled pork? Rat meat? That smell was destroying my respiratory system, you sick bastard(s).

IMG_3055Anyway, I guess one of the top moments in everyone’s memories will be the infamous “Wall of Death”, especially for the ones who were at the opposite side of a giant fat bastard. Even at such a small venue, we did it, and it was so cool I saw people eager for more walls of death at every song played. Moreover, it’s always a pleasure to see metalheads picking other metalheads up whenever there was a fall, showing how respectful and united we are. Also, it amazes me to see more and more girls, Asians, Latin Americans and people from any other nationalities, religion, sexual orientation etc. at Heavy Metal concerts. I’m not going to be arrogant and say we are the evolution of mankind, but at least we’re trying harder and getting better results than any other “organized” society in the world, and that makes me really proud to be a metal fan.

Setlist
1. The Patriarch
2. Violent Revolution
3. Civilization Collapse
4. Extreme Aggression
5. Phobia
6. Enemy of God
7. Voices of the Dead
8. Endless Pain
9. Victory Will Come
10. Mars Mantra
11. Phantom Antichrist
12. Impossible Brutality
13. Hordes of Chaos (A Necrologue for the Elite)
14. Pleasure to Kill

Band members
Miland “Mille” Petrozza – vocals, guitar
Sami Yli-Sirniö – guitar
Christian “Speesy” Giesler – bass
Jürgen “Ventor” Reil – drums, vocals

ARCH ENEMY

IMG_3072When ARCH ENEMY open their concert with the superb Enemy Within, one of the best Melodic Death Metal songs in the history of music, you know it’s going to be a wild night. From the very first to the very last minute of their incredible performance, Michael, Alissa & Co. perfectly commanded the crowd with a flawless setlist, full of insane classics blended with newer songs. Maybe the only change I would have done to their setlist was replacing  the boring You Will Know My Name, which wasn’t that good live, with something more brutal like “Diva Satanica” or “I Am Legend/Out For Blood”, but that’s just my opinion. In regards to the other new songs from War Eternal, both War Eternal and As the Pages Burn sounded A LOT better live, with the latter being responsible for a humongous circle pit.

And how not to get thrilled with masterpieces like Ravenous, Revolution Begins, My Apocalypse, Dead Bury Their Dead, Blood on Your Hands and Nemesis? So many good moments I don’t even know what to say. Even less bestial songs like Under Black Flags We March, with Alissa White-Gluz waving the Arch Enemy flag for the delight of all fans, and No Gods, No Masters, where she led an intense jumping up and down during the entire song, were brilliant. By the way, although all songs played are classics or powerful enough to even wake up the dead, it was the band members’ individual performances that made the night truly memorable. Nick, Sharlee and Daniel were amazing, Alissa was a beast, and Mr. Michael Amott makes playing the guitar look so fuckin’ easy I want to buy one right know and start shredding, even if I have no idea on how to do it. Seriously, how can he be that awesome? It’s unbelievable how smooth, technical and soulful his guitar lines are. Snow Bound, oh, Snow Bound!

IMG_3087Talking about Alissa, our Canadian goddess was absolutely stunning, electrified, and more than happy and excited to be playing in Canada for the first time since joining Arch Enemy earlier this year. The smile on her face while holding the Canadian flag up high was priceless (and she looks gorgeous either smiling or playing the badass angry woman, no matter what). Now I truly know why Angela Gossow herself chose Alissa to replace her as the frontwoman of one of the most influential Melodic Death Metal bands of all time.

The Opera House will never be the same after all those hours of endless mosh pits, fists and horns in the air, and PURE FUCKIN’ METAL. They should change the name of the venue from now on to “The Mosh Pit House” or something like that. It was totally awesome, and I’m sure everyone that attended the festival will agree with me. At the end of the day, getting back to Oakville, waking up at 6am the next morning to work and go to the gym in the evening was extremely hard due to all the glorious pain flowing through my body, but nothing that some more Arch Enemy in my car and in my MP3 player couldn’t take care of. Mosh pits anybody?

Setlist
1. Tempore Nihil Sanat (Prelude in F minor)
2. Enemy Within
3. War Eternal
4. Ravenous
5. Revolution Begins
6. My Apocalypse
7. You Will Know My Name
8. Bloodstained Cross
9. Under Black Flags We March
10. As the Pages Burn
11. Dead Eyes See No Future
12. No Gods, No Masters
13. Dead Bury Their Dead
14. We Will Rise

Encore:
15. Khaos Overture
16. Yesterday Is Dead and Gone
17. Blood on Your Hands

Encore 2:
18. Snow Bound
19. Nemesis
20. Fields of Desolation (outro)
21. Enter the Machine

Band members
Alissa White-Gluz – vocals
Michael Amott – lead guitars
Nick Cordle – lead guitars
Sharlee D’Angelo – bass
Daniel Erlandsson – drums

This slideshow requires JavaScript.