Concert Review – Exodus & Testament (Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 04/15/2015)

A magnificent lesson in Thrash Metal, directly from the dark roots of Toronto.

OPENING ACT: Shattered Sun

Testament-Exodus-2015It’s somehow ridiculous that there was ONLY ONE CONCERT scheduled from the Dark Roots of Thrash II Tour in Canada. Fortunately for me, but not as much for most of our headbanging brothers in B.C., Alberta and other distant locations, the city chosen was Toronto, Ontario, more specifically the Phoenix Concert Theatre. Well, at least for the first time in months we didn’t have any snow, rain, bitterly cold temperatures or any other of the wonders of the winter on a concert night in the city. Quite the contrary, the weather was beyond perfect for a lesson in Thrash Metal.

The attraction responsible for warming up all thrash metallers at the venue was American Metalcore band SHATTERED SUN, who by the way are managed by Chuck Billy’s own company Breaking Bands LLC. Although Metalcore is not among the most reasonable options for pumping up a crowd avid for brutal old school Bay Area Thrash Metal, they had a good performance and didn’t disappoint the crowd with their mix of heavy and melodic music, with the addition of keyboards being a fresh element to the night. I can’t tell much about their setlist, only that they’re promoting their soon-to-be-released new album entitled Hope Within Hatred, which should be available within a few days. If you’re a fan of the genre, here’s a good choice for your collection.

Band members
Marcos Leal – vocals
Daniel Trejo – guitar
Jessie Santos – guitar
Joseph Guajardo – bass
Henry Garza – keyboards, samples
Robert Garza – drums

EXODUS

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Exodus @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 04/15/2015

Holy. Fuckin’. Shit. EXODUS do not only kick fuckin’ ass when they’re on stage, they ALWAYS teach us motherfuckers a lesson in fuckin’ violence. It’s incredible how such an old band (in a good way, of course) still sounds so fresh and captivating until today, and that’s in my opinion mainly due to the fact they keep releasing awesome albums like their latest installment, the absurdly excellent Blood In, Blood Out. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the madness started, with two of the best songs from the new album: the insane Black 13 and the mosh pit-anthem title-track Blood In, Blood Out, which worked so well live to the point if they had left the stage after only two songs it would have been awesome anyway.

Right after that frantic start, Exodus offered us a sequence of Thrash Metal classics to drive all fans crazy into the circle pits (adding some bruises to our personal collections), with highlights to masterpieces such as A Lesson in Violence, The Last Act of Defiance and my favorite Exodus songs of all time, the impeccable Blacklist (“You’d better start runnin’ / Cause you know that I’m comin’ / Cocked and loaded and I never miss / I’m onto your game / And I’m layin’ the blame / And I’m addin’ your name to my blacklist”), The Toxic Waltz and Strike of the Beast, the latter including a smaller version of the infamous wall of death for our total delight. However, I was truly happy to see they didn’t “forget” about the Rob Dukes-era and added two of the most exciting songs of that period, Iconoclasm and Children of a Worthless God. Maybe next time they can play even other songs from that era, such as “Hammer and Life” and “Deathamphetamine”?

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Kill the Kardashians, Gary!

In regards to the band members, there were tons of highs, but one significant low. Actually, the low was not the band’s fault, as bassist Jack Gibson wasn’t allowed to enter Canada due to issues with the law. We accept Justin Bieber living here doing all the shit he does, and I don’t care he’s Canadian, but we cannot let good old Jack into the country? That’s ridiculous. Anyway, the dude that replaced him (sorry, I forgot his name, but he also helps Exodus when Gary Holt is with that “other Thrash Metal band”, and Gary even played an excerpt of “Raining Blood” just to remind the crowd about that) did a pretty good job supporting Gary Holt, Steve “Zetro” Souza & Co. during the entire concert. Talking about Zetro and Gary, I guess they can be considered the “new” dynamic duo of old school Thrash Metal so in sync they’ve been since Zetro’s return last year. While Zetro leads the fans into the mosh pits with his raspy voice (is it true it was his first time in Toronto in 10 years?), Gary simply delivers the most motherfuckin’ extraordinary riffs and solos in the world of heavy music. I’m not going to extend my speech about how great Gary is, as I believe I’ve already said enough in previous album and concert reviews, but there’s one thing that must be mentioned that enhanced his performance even more last night: who didn’t love his KILL THE KARDASHIANS T-shirt?

As Zetro said immediately after Exodus played the classic Bonded by Blood, we are all bonded not only by blood, but by our passion for Heavy Metal, and he’s 100% right. We love metal music, we love Exodus, and we cannot wait for them to get back to Toronto to teach us another lesson in Thrash Metal. Remember we are all part of Exodus’ “blacklist”, which means it shouldn’t take long for that to happen, I hope.

Setlist
1. Black 13
2. Blood In, Blood Out
3. Iconoclasm
4. Children of a Worthless God
5. A Lesson in Violence
6. Salt the Wound
7. The Last Act of Defiance
8. Blacklist
9. Bonded by Blood
10. War Is My Shepherd
11. The Toxic Waltz
12. Strike of the Beast

Band members
Steve “Zetro” Souza – vocals
Gary Holt – lead and rhythm guitars
Lee Altus – lead and rhythm guitars
Jack Gibson – bass*
Tom Hunting – drums, percussion

*Missed the concert for not being allowed to enter Canada due to issues with the law.

TESTAMENT

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Testament @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 04/15/2015

There was an essential short break between concerts for recovering our energies and enjoying a cold beer, and I’m being serious when I say “essential” because what TESTAMENT did during their flawless concert was inhuman. Playing only songs from their first three albums, The Legacy (1987), The New Order (1988) and Practice What You Preach (1989), Chuck Billy and his crew showed no mercy on our bodies and souls with an avalanche of old school Thrash Metal classics. How not to go wild with songs like Over the Wall, Do or Die or The New Order? Although their latest albums (The Formation of Damnation and Dark Roots of Earth) are Heavy Metal masterpieces, being able to witness a tour only composed by old classics is always interesting.

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Testament @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, ON, 04/15/2015

From all songs in their setlist, I would say my favorites were Eerie Inhabitants, C.O.T.L.O.D., Practice What You Preach, and especially the devastating tunes Disciples of the Watch and Into the Pit. The song already has “pit” in its name, but it was when Chuck demanded we all slammed into the fuckin’ pit that things got pretty serious. In summary, it was an amazing setlist, which ignited some nonstop headbanging and lots of smiles among the fans who answered Chuck’s call and were having a great time into the circle pit.

Moreover, there’s one thing that amazes me in Testament, and that’s the musicians involved. All five are superb with their instruments, delivering top-notch Heavy Metal, which always makes me wonder why there are metalheads in the world that still don’t know who Testament are. Chuck’s voice is unique (as thunderous as it can be), Gene Hoglan redefines the meaning of the word “stone crusher”, and I have no words to describe Alex Skolnick. Honestly, I didn’t know if I slammed into the pit or if I stayed there just watching him play his guitar so jaw-dropping his technique is (not even when he suffered from technical difficulties he looked less incredible). Watching Gary Holt AND Alex Skolnick delivering the most awesome Thrash Metal riffs and solos you can imagine on the same night was a true blessing. Those guys definitely practice what they preach.

Setlist
1. Over the Wall
2. The Haunting
3. Burnt Offerings
4. Raging Waters
5. The Preacher
6. Do or Die
7. First Strike Is Deadly
8. A Day of Reckoning
9. Apocalyptic City
10. Eerie Inhabitants
11. The New Order
12. Trial by Fire
13. Into the Pit
14. Alone in the Dark
15. C.O.T.L.O.D.

Encore:
16. Practice What You Preach
17. Disciples of the Watch

Band members
Chuck Billy – vocals
Eric Peterson – guitar
Alex Skolnick – guitar
Steve Di Giorgio – bass
Gene Hoglan – drums

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Concert Review – Slayer (Kool Haus,Toronto, ON, 11/21/2013)

Is it a tornado? Is it a tsunami? No, it’s motherfuckin’ OLD SCHOOL SLAYER NIGHT in Toronto!

OPENING ACTS: 4ARM and Gojira

Yesterday night was one of those things that will be forever in our minds, hearts, aching necks and torn muscles. I must admit I was really tired after a full day at work, and driving from Oakville to Toronto when it’s raining it’s not fun at all, but what happened at the Kool Haus last night was worth every minute spent in traffic downtown.

Before I start, I have to say something amazing I saw lat night, which was the huge number of parents with their small kids at the concert. There was this father with his son, who was pretty excited for the concert, so I asked him how old his boy was and he said “he’s 11 now”. That’s about when I started listening to Slayer! That made me sleep better this night (even with my neck killing me), knowing the future of mankind doesn’t look so bad while we still have headbanging kids like that.

The first band of the night was 4ARM, from Melbourne, which means we have another good Metal band from Australia now. It was a decent concert that I liked a lot, even though I knew nothing about their career. Quick question: why do over 50% of the metalheads today, including band members, look so much like Jesus Christ even when singing about Jesus being a lie is their favorite topic? Anyway, that was a good warm-up for the rest of the night and a good chance to enjoy some beers while listening to some fuckin’ heavy tunes.

Then came Gojira, or Godzilla in Japanese, which by the way was the original name of the band. If you like to bang your head non-stop like a mutherfucker, you must listen to this neck-breaking French band: they are far from being the fastest band in the world, but they’re as heavy as an obese elephant and perfect for having a beer and smashing your neck. I don’t know a lot about the band; however, songs like L’Enfant Sauvage and The Heaviest Matter of the Universe sounded excellent for live concerts. Merci beaucoup, Gojira, for such a nice performance!

And it was so funny between Gojira and Slayer, when the DJ was playing some AC/DC songs and some guys (including myself) started singing “Aaaaaaaa… SLAYER! Aaaaaaaa… SLAYER!”, instead of “thunder” in Thunderstruck. There are things that only Slayer fans can do.

SLAYER

IMG_1445Whoever is responsible for the management of the venue can definitely change its name to “Kool Hell” or “Slaughter Haus” from now on. I think any Slayer concert should be used for human population control, especially if it’s an OLD SCHOOL SLAYER NIGHT like last night in Toronto. The mosh pits were insane; it was like Hell on Earth! In fact, the entire venue was a mosh pit.

Talking about the concert itself and the band, and I know it doesn’t matter what or how I say it here, I’ll never be able to describe in words the perfection of the show. I’ve seen Slayer live a lot of times (how the hell am I still alive?), and they’ve never disappointed me. Slayer always delivers a brutally awesome performance on stage, no matter where they are. When the intro to the classic Hell Awaits started and the white sheet that was covering the stage went down, there they were: Tom, Kerry, Gary and Paul, all ready for some fuckin’ Thrash Metal, and the fans answered the best way possible with a crazy mosh pit.

After that it was a sequence of old classics to make all diehard fans go crazy: the fast Antichrist and Necrophiliac, the cool Mandatory Suicide and Captor of Sin, and then we had the havoc anthem War Ensemble. There’s nothing I can say about this song except HOLY FUCKIN’ SHIT! And when I thought I could have a break and breathe for a few seconds, they come with an avalanche of classics including some of my all-time favorite Slayer songs such as At Dawn They Sleep, Die by the Sword and Spirit in Black. Do you want to rest now? No, you don’t, because the next song is Seasons in the Abyss, which was sung out loud by all fans at the venue in a celebration of Thrash Metal.

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R.I.P. Jeff Hanneman!

Although we all love Jeff Hanneman (RIP) and respect that amazing punk attitude he brought to Slayer, we have to admit Gary Holt is a beast and a perfect fit for Slayer. I don’t want him to leave/end Exodus, no way, but the Thrash Metal riff master adds so much value to Slayer that it’s impossible to think of anyone else that could replace him now. And as a tribute to one of the most underrated guitar masters of all time, Kerry and Tom decided to add the magnificent Strike of the Beast to their entire tour. Holy shit, that was brutal and unforgettable! And just when things didn’t seem they could get more awesome, Slayer provides us another annihilating sequence with Dead Skin Mask (also sung by everybody there), one of the most violent songs in the world and one of my favorites Raining Blood, and the fuckin’ old school Black Magic. Was it the end (of the world)? No, there was still time for the encore, the famous one with the Heineken/Jeff Hanneman flag on the back with the obscure South of Heaven and my top Thrash Metal track of all, the slashing anthem Angel of Death. Although in my opinion Dave Lombardo shouldn’t have left Slayer, I feel really good with the monster Paul Bostaph on drums, and what he did in Angel of Death just confirmed my feelings.

Finally, it’s always a pleasure to see Tom Araya and Kerry King playing live. The first is always so serene and enjoys so much having a good time with the fans (he even  demanded the security guys to bring back one fan that was supposedly doing something wrong and was about to be expelled), while the other is an unstoppable shredding machine with his pretty evil guitar.

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I swear I tried hard to find a Metallica T-shirt, but there was none. The Kool Haus in Toronto was a huge SLAYER NATION (the T-shirt I got yesterday!) last night, with no room for pussies. Well, there were many girls there, but they were not pussies at all (although they do have one): they were slamming in the pit with no mercy of the poor (or lucky?) guys close to them. Next time someone tells me Metallica is heavier than Slayer, I’m going to slap that stupid idiot in the face.

I didn’t see a single person that was just “OK” when that Armageddon came to an end. Quite the contrary, everybody was exhausted, sweating like a pig, but with an immense smile on their faces. I unfortunately hit a guy’s nose with the back of my head, and it might have hurt a lot on him (I feel so sorry for that guy). I also got a kind of a bruised eye, but nothing compared to a guy with a full black eye I saw when the show was over. My neck and the rest of the body hurt like if I was smashed by a steamroller, but hey, that’s FUCKIN’ SLAYER! No ballads, no acoustic shit, just pure fuckin’ Heavy Metal. Was it raining in Toronto when the show was over? Yes, but who cares? Inside the venue it was RAINING BLOOD, and I can’t wait to see my Thrash Metal heroes live again.

Slayer Setlist Kool Haus, Toronto, ON, Canada, North American Tour 2013

Band members

Tom Araya – lead vocals, bass guitar
Kerry King – guitars
Gary Holt – guitars
Paul Bostaph – drums