Concert Review – Cannibal Corpse (The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 11/15/2019)

Over 30 years of evisceration, torture, mutilation, killing, blood and cannibalism in an awesome night of first-class Death Metal in Toronto.

OPENING ACTS: Perdition Temple and Thy Art Is Murder

I can’t describe in words how happy I am whenever a metal concert is scheduled for a Friday or Saturday night in Toronto, especially when the music in question is old school Death Metal. I mean, we need at least one full day to recover from all the insanity going on in the circle pits, right? And that’s probably why all fans at The Opera House this Friday, November 15 went the extra mile in terms of energy, rage and madness, slamming like it was their last night on earth to the sound of Perdition Temple, Thy Art Is Murder and my favorite Death Metal band of all time, the almighty Cannibal Corpse, pulverizing everything and everyone that crossed their path on a cold but fantastic night in Toronto.

It took forever for the concerts to start, probably because of the huge line that was formed at the door, with security even doing the checks while people were still in line and not right at the entrance. That was an indication that The Opera House was going to be jam packed (and it actually was), and after tons of non-metal songs played by the house DJ for a reason beyond my understanding (well, at least when he played Toto’s classic Africa some metalheads had a good time singing it), the first attraction of the night, Tampa, Florida-based Black/Death Metal horde PERDITION TEMPLE, finally hit the stage and began their short but solid setlist. Formed in 2009 by guitarist Gene Palubicki (from old school cult act Angelcorpse), the trio comprised of Gene together with bassist and vocalist Alex Blume and drummer Ronnie Parmer played a well-balanced setlist including songs from all of their releases, with songs like To Bleed at War, The Tempter’s Victorious and Goddess in Death already igniting some decent circle pits in the floor section. I personally enjoyed their performance a lot, and if you’re curious to know how the music by those Ameircan metallers sounds, simply check their official BandCamp page and, who knows, you might end up adding one of their albums to your devilish collection.

Setlist
The Tempter’s Victorious
Plague Camp
Testament to Annihilation
To Bleed at War
Goddess In Death

Band members
Alex Blume – vocals, bass
Gene Palubicki – guitars, vocals
Ronnie Parmer – drums

After a short break where most fans went either to the bar to grab some cold beer or to the bathroom to make room for more beer,  it was time for Sydney, Australia-based Deathcore outfit THY ART IS MURDER to show Toronto what they got, giving a lesson in slamming with their heavy-as-hell and politicized compositions. Comprised of vocalist Chris “CJ” McMahon, guitarists Sean Delander and Andy Marsh, bassist Kevin Butler and drummer Jesse Beahler, this excellent Deathcore unity from Down Under blasted a demolishing setlist including songs from their newest album Human Target, such as Make America Hate Again and New Gods, which by the way I thought sounded amazing live, with older hits like Reign of Darkness, Fur and Claw and Puppet Master, driving the fans nuts while crushing their skulls inside the humongous mosh pit that dominated the entire floor section as soon as the band began their show. I must say CJ McMahon is not only an extremely talented vocalist, delivering his trademark deep, guttural growls and his inhuman screeches, but he’s also a very charismatic and humble guy, making it visible to everyone at the venue how happy and impressed he was with the reception by his Torontonians fans. After all was said and done, I was able to confirm Thy Art Is Murder is indeed one of the best bands hailing from the current metal scene in Australia, both in studio and when on stage, and after witnessing them live for the first time ever I can’t wait to see when those guys will get back to Toronto for another round of their unrelenting Deathcore.

Setlist
Death Squad Anthem
Make America Hate Again
Fur and Claw
Slaves Beyond Death
Holy War
No Absolution
Human Target
The Son of Misery
New Gods
Reign of Darkness
Puppet Master

Band members
Chris “CJ” McMahon – vocals
Andy Marsh – lead guitar
Sean Delander – rhythm guitar
Kevin Butler – bass
Jesse Beahler – drums

CANNIBAL CORPSE

The wait for the one and only Death Metal institution CANNIBAL CORPSE was finally over when it was getting close to 9:30pm, and from the very first note of the opening track Code of the Slashers, from their latest opus Red Before Black, released in 2017, until the closing moments from their gruesome all-time classic Hammer Smashed Face, it was pure Armageddon in the form of ass-kicking Death Metal. The unstoppable vocalist George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher (I still don’t know how he can headbang like a beast for so long), guitarists Rob Barret and Erik Rutan (the lead singer and guitarist for Hate Eternal who is filling in on guitar during this tour due to the arrest of guitarist Pat O’Brien), the phenomenal bassist Alex Webster, and the precise drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz set The Opera House on fire with their visceral and absolutely perfect Death Metal, playing “horror classics” from almost all of their albums (which you can find on sale from their own BandCamp page), including my favorite Cannibal Corpse song of all time, Devoured by Vermin, from their 1996 album Vile, and the sensational Kill or Become, from their 2014 album A Skeletal Domain, where you could see several fans “firing up their chainsaws” together with Corpsegrinder. It was so insane I could barely take my phone out for some decent pictures.

Every single time I watch Alex Webster live I get more and more impressed with his technique, feeling and groove, proving why he’s in my opinion the best extreme music bassist of all time. As a matter of fact, how many Death, Thrash and Black Metal bands have bassists that you can actually listen to in detail while performing live? Not only that, but the band’s setlist was also impressive as already mentioned, and that’s probably one of the reasons why Alex and the guys were so brutal and awesome on stage this Friday. Songs like Red Before Black, Gutted, Make Them Suffer and Stripped, Raped and Strangled were the catalyst of some of the most demented circle pits you can imagine, while Scourge of Iron and the demonic Evisceration Plague were perfect for breaking our necks headbanging like maniacs. Another thing that was really entertaining during the band’s flawless performance were all the jokes by Corpsegrinder, showing that behind that brutal headbanging beast there’s a very kind and fun guy. When he offered “NOTHING” from the bottom of his heart to the fans we could see how excited he was with the warm and violent reception from the crowd. And what to say about his personal intro in I Cum Blood, where he dared the fans to try to headbang like him (and, of course, we would all fail miserably in his own words)? That’s what I call a frontman, my friends, never letting the energy go down and always reminding us why the band has been on the road alive and kicking since 1988. When the show was over, you could see many, many fans dripping wet of their own (and others’) sweat and beer leaving the venue without a jacket when the temperature was around -5oC, mostly due to the adrenaline still flowing through their veins, and you know what? That’s when you know there was a damn good Death Metal night in Toronto, obviously spearheaded by our beloved Cannibal Fuckin’ Corpse.

Setlist
Code of the Slashers
Only One Will Die
Red Before Black
Scourge of Iron
Staring Through the Eyes of the Dead
The Wretched Spawn
Devoured by Vermin
Unleashing the Bloodthirsty
Gutted
Kill or Become
A Skull Full of Maggots
Evisceration Plague
Firestorm Vengeance
Death Walking Terror
I Cum Blood
Make Them Suffer
Stripped, Raped and Strangled
Hammer Smashed Face

Band members
George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher – vocals
Erik Rutan – lead guitar
Rob Barrett – rhythm guitar
Alex Webster – bass
Paul Mazurkiewicz – drums

Album Review – Halcyon Reign / The Voyage (2019)

Dealing with the metaphoric beasts we all hide from, the debut album by this Australian trio will take you on a theatrical journey through the realms of prog.

Formed in 2016 in the city of Sydney, Australia, a Progressive Metal three-piece act that goes by the name of Halcyon Reign has just released their debut opus entitled The Voyage, offering the listener a prog feast recommended for fans of iconic bands such as Mastodon, Twelve Foot Ninja and Karnivool. Recorded and mixed by Adam Jordan at Main Street Studios, mastered by Don Bartley  at Benchmark Mastering, and featuring an interesting album art by Edi Udo at Edi Udo Illustrations, which seems to be a tribute to Mastodon’s Leviathan and Gojira’s From Mars to Sirius (and I’m pretty sure those are two of the band’s main influences), The Voyage deals with the metaphoric beasts we all hide from, with those theatrical beastly metaphors being embraced by an atmospheric, intricate and groovy sound blasted by lead singer and guitarist Lachlan Arvidson, bassist Luke Delbridge and drummer Simon Bowles, resulting in a fresh, full-bodied experience for any type of metalhead in search for a good balance between heaviness and creativity.

Emerging from the underworld of prog, the band comes ripping in the opening track ‘Welcome Reality’, a multi-layered musical journey through the realms of Progressive Metal where Lachlan’s classic metal vocals match the music perfectly, not to mention the great job done by Luke with his thunderous bass lines, feeling like a hybrid of Mastodon and Tool. Then a serene intro evolves into an even more progressive and intricate creation by the trio titled The Kraken, with Simon bringing a blend of Progressive, Doom and Heavy Metal with his beats while Lachlan fires his slashing riffs and potent vocals nonstop. Moreover, this great tune is full of breaks and variations, with its mesmerizing instrumental ending being tailored for admirers of the genre. And Peleliu is another classy composition by Halcyon Reign, showcasing the duo Lachlan and Luke in absolute sync with their stringed weapons, supported by Simon’s spot-on beats. Alternating between heavier and more complex moments and gentle, melancholic passages, the final result gets close to that sonic extravaganza the one and only Dream Theather enjoy doing all the time.

If you think The Voyage has been beyond amazing so far, get ready for almost ten minutes of dense, top-of-the-line metal music in Beyond The Cape, where Lachlan sounds at the same time delicate and infuriated on vocals. Furthermore, Luke and Simon make the earth tremble with their respective beats and bass punches, and they keep pounding their weapons with tons of precision and feeling until the song’s epic and enthralling finale. After such lecture in Progressive Metal, an atmospheric, futuristic bridge named Last Horizon sets the stage for the trio to shine once again in the title-track The Voyage, bringing to our ears and minds more of their beautifully crafted music, uniting progressiveness and heaviness in great fashion. Not only the sound of guitars and bass will pierce your ears mercilessly, but the music also brings hints of Sludge Metal to the band’s core essence, and that healthy amalgamation of styles makes the song feel like two or three songs in one, with the three band member jamming freely and stunningly until all fades into a space void.

The past decade has been more than just great for heavy music from Down Under, with countless excellent groups like Halcyon Reign showing the world everything they got, and if you want to show your support to this up-and-coming Australian triumvirate of Progressive Metal you can purchase The Voyage from their own BandCamp page, from Apple Music, from Amazon or from CD Baby, as well as listen to the album in full on Spotify. Also, don’t forget to give them a shout on Facebook, therefore joining Lachlan, Luke and Simon on their theatrical trek through space and progressive lands and, of course, inspiring them to keep delivering first-class metal music for all of us lovers of the underground scene.

Best moments of the album: The Kraken and Beyond The Cape.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Independent

Track listing
1. ‘Welcome Reality’ 6:14
2. The Kraken 8:18
3. Peleliu 5:09
4. Beyond The Cape 9:15
5. Last Horizon 1:27
6. The Voyage 7:28

Band members
Lachlan Arvidson – vocals, guitars
Luke Delbridge – bass
Simon Bowles – drums, vocals

Album Review –Tamerlan Empire / Age of Ascendancy (2018)

Behold the rise of a metal empire and their marvelous fusion of Symphonic Black Metal with Central-Asian and Middle-Eastern melodies and rhythms.

It’s time to travel once again to Sydney, Australia to behold the rise of a metal empire that will leave you speechless after listening to its marvelous fusion of Symphonic Black Metal with Central-Asian and Middle-Eastern melodies and rhythms. I’m talking about Tamerlan Empire, a savage horde formed in 2011 by drummer Khan, with the band’s name and lyrical content being inspired by Tamerlan (also known as Timurlan, Amir Temur, Timurleng or Timur Khan), a powerful Mongol/Turkish emperor from the 14th century. Not only their songs are about the emperor’s battles and conquests, but they have also drawn a much deeper influence from his dark brutal side and strategic mind, with his detailed forward-thinking always being many steps ahead of the enemies and allies.

Playing what can be called “Turkic/Uzbek Middle-Eastern Symphonic Black Metal”, an aggressive and very unique atmospheric style of Black Metal, Tamerlan Empire are releasing their highly anticipated debut album entitled Age of Ascendancy, perfectly describing the overlord’s meteoric rise and his great interest and contribution to science, politics, architecture, astronomy and literature during his reign, as well as the era in general where empires strove for dominance through war, bloodshed and destruction. And this distinct band, comprised of Ghorr on vocals and guitar, Ferus on the guitar, Vezir on keyboards and orchestrations, and Khan on drums and percussion, more than succeeded in translating the grandiosity of the empire ruled by the aforementioned warlord, creating an unparalleled, multi-layered sound that will certainly please all fans of the orchestral vein of extreme music.

The title-track Age Of Ascendancy is an epic, cinematic intro that effectively sets the stage for the symphonic onslaught titled Battle Of Tyrants, a song that begins in full force with the orchestrations by Vezir enhancing the overall impact on your ears and mind. Put differently, this grandiose, intricate hymn will make you feel you’re in the middle of the battlefield, with Khan sounding impressive behind his drums. Even more atmospheric and imposing, Vengeance In Blood presents Ghorr and Ferus delivering melodious and aggressive riffs nonstop, while Khan keeps smashing his drums mercilessly. Furthermore, Ghorr’s enraged growls live up to the legacy of Symphonic Black Metal, sounding vile and piercing, and therefore making me think if we can call Tamerlan Empire the “Dimmu Borgir from the East”. And be prepared for another feast of blackened sounds entitled Ottoman’s Demise, a headbanging tune led by the blazing guitars by Ghorr and Ferus, spiced up by the uniqueness of Middle-Eastern music and sounding utterly dense and bold from start to finish.

Slightly less epic and a lot more devastating, Ascension of Iron showcases all band members in their fastest and most furious mode, with the musicality being led by the classic blast beats by Khan while Ghorr keeps barking like a demon; whereas in Behest Of The Chosen we’re treated to a whimsical intro where classic Middle-Eastern elements and percussion are suddenly joined by a gripping and dark sonority, feeling very rhythmic, mesmerizing and detailed until its atmospheric grand finale. Tribal beats ignite another superb metal extravaganza by Tamerlan Empire named Winter March, the perfect soundtrack to an epic adventure presenting what’s perhaps the strongest balance between Black Metal and Middle-Eastern music, with Vezir sounding absolutely fantastic with his keys and orchestrations, followed by Dominion Of Ashes, leaning towards modern Symphonic Black Metal and also presenting elements from traditional Norwegian Black Metal, but with its core essence still bringing the band’s unique Middle-Eastern Black Metal. In addition, the deranged vocals by Ghorr remind me of Marduk’s Mortuus, which of course translates into sheer violence and awesomeness.

Then phantasmagoric keys kick off the demolishing Marauder’s Mark, taking the band’s onrush of blackened sounds to a whole new level and also presenting some interesting breaks and variations to add a few extra layers to the overall result; and Of Dust Returned, which sounds similar to its predecessor but bringing even heavier and darker nuances. In other words, this is contemporary Black Metal blended with Symphonic and Atmospheric Black Metal, with its in-sync keys and guitars generating a truly Stygian ambience. And there’s time for one last blast of their unparalleled Black Metal with the magnificent Scattered Sands, a climatic conclusion to such incredible album of extreme music showcasing an interesting paradox between Ghorr’s devilish gnarls and the ethereal sounds emanating from Vezir’s keys. Furthermore, what I’m about to say might sound weird for some of you, but I can easily visualize a lustful woman doing a heavier-than-usual belly dance to this amazing metal tune.

If you have what it takes to join the empire of flammable and epic Black Metal ruled by this up-and-coming Australian horde, simply go check what they’re up to on Facebook, listen to their music on Spotify and on ReverbNation, and grab your copy of Age of Ascendancy (which by the way is available for a full listen on YouTube) from the Metal Hell Records’ BandCamp or webstore (as a regular CD version or as a special bundle that includes the CD plus a metallic gold embroidered logo patch, a 1.25″ pin back button, a vinyl logo sticker, and a download code for the digital version of the album), as well as from CD Baby, iTunes or Amazon. And after putting your hands on such distinct album, I dare you to not get completely addicted to the band’s vibrant and bold Middle-Eastern Symphonic Black Metal.

Best moments of the album: Vengeance In Blood, Ascension of Iron, Winter March and Scattered Sands.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Metal Hell Records

Track listing
1. Age Of Ascendancy 1:57
2. Battle Of Tyrants 4:49
3. Vengeance In Blood 5:02
4. Ottoman’s Demise 5:44
5. Ascension of Iron 4:54
6. Behest Of The Chosen 7:39
7. Winter March 7:00
8. Dominion Of Ashes 4:54
9. Marauder’s Mark 5:32
10. Of Dust Returned 5:13
11. Scattered Sands 7:10

Band members
Ghorr – vocals, guitars
Ferus – guitars
Vezir – keyboards, orchestration
Khan – drums, percussion

Live musicians
Yassa – vocals
Ramz – bass

Album Review – Rise of Avernus / Eigengrau (2018)

Blending elements from progressive and symphonic music with the most obscure side of Extreme Metal, all enfolded by majestic orchestrations, here come Rise of Avernus with their heaviest and darkest opus thus far.

Eigengrau (German: “intrinsic gray”, lit. “own gray”; pronounced [ˈʔaɪ̯gn̩ˌgʁaʊ̯]), also called Eigenlicht (Dutch and German: “own light”), dark light, or brain gray, is the uniform dark gray background that many people report seeing in the absence of light.

Since their inception in 2011, Australian Dark Orchestral Death/Doom Metal horde Rise of Avernus has been making a name for themselves throughout the metal community with their unique style blending elements from progressive and symphonic music with the darkest side of Extreme Metal, all enfolded by majestic orchestrations. Within the short time since the release of their 2012 debut EP, they’ve followed a relentless touring schedule, supporting some major international acts such as Apocalyptica, Enslaved, Eluveitie, Prong, Septicflesh, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Rotting Christ and Sigh along the way. Now in 2018 it’s time for this Sydney-based blackened squad to spread their devilish wings all over the world once again with Eigengrau, their fourth studio release and, more important than that, their heaviest and darkest opus thus far.

Featuring a Stygian artwork by world renowned artist Seth Siro Anton (aka Spiros Antoniou from Septicflesh), Eigengrau is the experience of seeing a deep grey shade in the total absence of visible light, or what one may refer to as a “perfect darkness.” Upon this canvas, an individual can project their subconscious, their processes, their anxieties and their fears. Thematically, Eigengrau explores the fluidic nature of these self-created experiences, how they can be shaped and how they may change at the point of one’s own death. Other tracks go on to explore the intricacies of personal realities, influenced by external factors or via spiritual and religious indoctrination. The nature of self-realization and being forced to confront weakness to overcome it. The distinct sound of the album reflects these altered states, oscillating between delicate movements and nightmarish grandiosity.

And Rise of Avernus’ nightmare of tenebrous and imposing sounds begin in full force in the opening track Terminus, showcasing a movie-inspired start before becoming a majestic fusion of the extreme music by bands like Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir, Behemoth and Necronomicon with a raw Death Metal twist. Furthermore, Ben VanVollenhoven, the (black) heart and soul of the band, sounds insanely infernal on vocals, as well as Andrew Craig and his thunderous drums. Following such fantastic beginning we have Ad Infinitum (or “to infinity”), a neck-breaking, symphonic tune led by the atmospheric keys by Mares Refalaeda where Ben once again brings sheer darkness to the musicality with his demonic voice, resulting in a flawless combination of Atmospheric and Symphonic Black Metal.

Then we have a movie score-inspired beginning to yet another venomous feast by Rise of Avernus titled Gehenna, showcasing a beautiful but still obscure mid-tempo rhythm led by the guitars by Ben, who also provides a powerful performance with both his harsh and clean vocals (not to mention how awesome all orchestrations are); while Eigenlicht offers the listener almost eight minutes of a descent into the pitch black crypts of Hades, presenting smooth guitar lines by Ben and the always gripping keys by Mares, with the atmospheric break halfway through it being a thing of beauty. To sum up, this is Symphonic Black Metal at its finest, with the whole music ending in dense and ferocious fashion for our total delectation. And there’s’ still a lot more to go in Eigengrau, with tribal beats igniting another sonic extravaganza named Tempest, where Ben sounds more hellish and cavernous than before while Andrew and Mares fill all empty spaces with their burning instruments, resulting in a flawless mix of orchestral and heavy music.

Forged in Eidolon brings forward an ominous intro rising from the pits of hell directly into your mind, with the spectral orchestrations and keyboards by both Ben and Mares imprisoning your soul in the metallic realm of evil reigned by Rise of Avernus. Then serene sounds are joined by a wave of sublime orchestrations in Mimicry, creating the perfect ambience for the demonic growls by Ben and enhanced by the astounding keys by Mares. And as the closing act to this impressive album we have Into Aetherium, a wondrous composition that starts with almost three minutes of an instrumental blast of melancholic and obscure Symphonic Black Metal before all hell breaks loose, darkening our thoughts and hearts during its eight minutes of duration. Led by the bestial drums by Andrew, this fiendish hymn sets the perfect landscape for Ben to continue his path to the underworld, gnarling like an evil entity until the song’s mesmerizing and grandiose ending.

What are you waiting for to show your support for Rise of Avernus and purchase your copy of Eigengrau, one of the best extreme albums you can find out there, blending the aggressiveness of Death, Doom and Black Metal with the finesse and epicness of orchestral music? Eigengrau is available through Rise of Avernus’ own BandCamp page or Big Cartel (where by the way you can also find an album + patch + shirt bundle and an album + patch + pin + shirt + canvas/artwork bundle), as well as through the Aural Music webstore as a regular CD format or as a very special woodbox edition, if all of those versions of the album are still in stock, of course (which I doubt due to the insanely high quality of the music in question). Also, don’t forget to pay a visit to Rise of Avernus on Facebook for news, tour dates and other nice-to-know details about the band, and to listen to more of their classy music on YouTube. This is not only the band’s boldest, darkest and heaviest release to date, as aforementioned, but a lesson in extreme music that will certainly figure among the best metal albums of 2018 not only at The Headbanging Moose, but in several other publications all over the world where dark music always prevails.

Best moments of the album: Terminus, Eigenlicht, Tempest and Into Aetherium.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Code666

Track listing 
1. Terminus 5:43
2. Ad Infinitum 4:54
3. Gehenna 5:59
4. Eigenlicht 7:33
5. Tempest 4:51
6. Forged in Eidolon 5:56
7. Mimicry 3:53
8. Into Aetherium 8:03

Band members
Ben VanVollenhoven – vocals, guitar, orchestrations
Mares Refalaeda – vocals, keyboards
Andrew Craig – drums, percussion