Concert Review – Blaze Bayley (Hard Rock Café, Toronto, ON, 10/17/2014)

The Messiah blessed his loyal fans with pure Heavy Metal at Indie Week Canada 2014 in Toronto.

OPENING ACTS: Laugh At The Fakes, The Blackcloud Syndicate, Spewgore and Phantom

blaze bayley torontoOn a very pleasant not-so-cold night in the heart of Toronto during Indie Week Canada, from October 15 to October 19, Hard Rock Café was invaded on October 17 by around 150 metalheads to support four amazing local bands, with the icing on the cake being an electrifying performance by the “Messiah” Blaze Bayley, as part of the festival’s Metal Showcase.

I can’t say I was expecting more or less people than that, probably a little more due to the presence of such a great musician as Blaze, but one thing that I loved about the festival was the sense of family among all bands and fans at the venue, including Blaze himself who spent a lot of time talking to fans, taking pictures and signing stuff, as well as being able to put some faces to names like Jon Asher, from Asher Media Relations. You will read more about this great guy from Montreal, his business and the bands he works with here at The Headbanging Moose for sure.

IMG_2993The first attraction to hit the stage was Rock/Metal band LAUGH AT THE FAKES, from Toronto, Ontario. Those guys play a nice mix of Rock N’ Roll, Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, very old school but with a more polished sounding, and they surely entertained everyone already at Hard Rock Café before 9pm. Although it was impossible to get or memorize the setlists of any of the opening bands, I know Laugh At The Fakes played a pretty cool song called Killing Time, from their debut album Dethrone the Crown, which will  be released pretty soon and, of course, reviewed here at The Headbanging Moose.

Band members
Everett Mason – guitar, vocals
Kevin Daliri – guitar
Galen Weir – bass
Chris Avalos – drums

IMG_2997After some Rock N’ Roll and a short beer break, it was time for Thrash Metal/Hardcore band THE BLACKCLOUD SYNDICATE, also from Toronto, Ontario, to speed things up with their visceral music, with highlights to the wicked performance by lead singer Miko Zolefrapanidis. The guy was on fire, probably inspired by Blaze’s usual performance. In regards to the songs, I truly enjoyed a song named Protest the Riot and their cover version for Billy Idol’s classic Rebel Yell, both from their 2013 release called Rage in Common.

Band members
Miko Zolefrapanidis – vocals
Giuseppe D’Angelo – guitar
Graham Scott Anthony – guitar
Shawn Davidson – bass
Glenn Novak – drums

IMG_3003And there was more violence to come with the third indie band of the night, Thrash Metal/Hardcore veterans SPEWGORE, from Brampton, Ontario. Led by vocalist Bill Brown, the band took the proverbial phrase “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” seriously, as they were able to deliver an almost full setlist in a very limited amount of time. If you enjoy fast, short and brutal hardcore songs, go after the music by this Canadian band. They truly delivered a nonstop energetic concert at the festival.

Band members
Bill Brown – vocals
Steve Macpherson – guitars
Ken Gibson – bass
Mark Macpherson – drums

IMG_3004The last attraction before the Messiah was Heavy Metal band PHANTOM, from Toronto, Ontario, and let me tell you those guys make the expression “New Wave Of Canadian Heavy Metal” more real than ever! What an amazing band, with powerful songs such as their new single Blood & Iron being the perfect warm-up for Blaze Bayley. Kudos to D.D. Murley, Necro Hippie and J.J. Blade for keeping the fire of Heavy Metal burning, and for reminding us why the 80’s were the best decade in the history of music by far.

Band members
D.D. Murley – lead vocals and guitar
Necro Hippie – bass guitar
J.J. Blade – drums and backing vocals

BLAZE BAYLEY

IMG_3015Coincidence or not, when the clock hit two minutes to midnight, BLAZE BAYLEY began his flaming performance at Hard Rock Café, accompanied by the extremely competent Iron Maiden tribute band MAIDEN QUÉBEC, from Montreal, Quebec, who were by the way supporting Blaze in all of his Canadian dates.

Celebrating 20 years of the controversial, obscure and awesome album The X Factor, Blaze and Maiden Québec presented a very interesting mix of his first solo albums (when his band was called only BLAZE) and Iron Maiden songs. And it wasn’t a perfect mix, just an interesting one, because unfortunately there were absolutely no songs from his best solo albums, the masterpieces The Man Who Would Not Die and Promise and Terror, which I can understand based on the fact Blaze is a 100% solo artist now, relying on local bands to build his setlist wherever he goes. I know it might be hard for any band to learn too many “new” songs in a short period of time, and so adding songs Maiden Québec are used to play like Running Free, Whathchild and Wasted Years was the most viable solution for all musicians involved.

IMG_3024Anyway, despite those minor limitations, it was indeed a great performance by “the man who will not die”, with highlights to songs such as The Brave, Silicon Messiah and Kill and Destroy, together with his Maiden-years songs When Two Words Collide (which I saw live only once, during the Virtual XI World Tour in 1998), Lord of the Flies, the all-time classics Futureal and Man on the Edge, and the more-than-perfect The Clansman. How can a normal person not get all fired up with this epic song, especially after Blaze’s inspiring words about living our lives, about feeling the sense of true freedom? This song always makes me want to be Scottish, I just love it!

IMG_2998

The Messiah is among us!

But the most important detail of the whole concert was, of course, Blaze Bayley himself. There’s an expression in Brazilian Portuguese that summarizes the state of a person when he is fearless, brave, lionhearted, and 100% ready for war: we say that person has “sangue nos olhos”, or blood in his eyes in English (not in a surgical way, of course), and that’s exactly how I see Blaze Bayley every single time he’s on stage. He gives it all, no matter if he’s playing for 50 or 50,000 people, and he literally demands each and every motherfucker from the crowd to join him in an incredible metal music havoc. You cannot hide from Blaze, he will see you standing still and kindly ask you “Hey, you, motherfucker! Come on!”, it doesn’t matter if you worked for over eight hours, if you’re fuckin’ exhausted nor if it’s already 1:30am. And that’s how true independent Heavy Metal is done.

Setlist
1. Lord of the Flies
2. When Two Worlds Collide
3. The Brave
4. Ghost in the Machine
5. Silicon Messiah
6. Ten Seconds
7. The Clansman
8. Futureal
9. The Launch
10. Soundtrack of My Life
11. Kill and Destroy
12. Man on the Edge
13. Running Free
14. Wrathchild
15. Iron Maiden
16. Wasted Years

Band members
Blaze Bayley – vocals

Maiden Québec (Canadian tour support band)
Pat Lalonde – vocals
Steven Bergeron – lead guitars
Leandro Alves – lead guitars
Math Gagnon – bass
Jef Rastoldo – drums

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Album Review – Grave Digger / Tunes of War (1996)

Don’t forget to grab your sword and shield before listening to this masterpiece.

Rating2

Tunes_of_warIt looks like the end of the 90’s was a special period for concept Heavy Metal albums: we had the perfect Cruelty and the Beast, which I talked about a couple of months ago here, and another masterpiece from the German Power Metal band Grave Digger, the album Tunes of War. I guess I don’t need to say how awesome an album entirely dedicated to Scotland and its struggle for independence from England can be, right? It was also the first album in the band’s trilogy of concept albums inspired in the medieval times which was continued by Knights of the Cross (1998) and Excalibur (1999).

I had the pleasure to talk to all members of the band during a special acoustic performance at a Heavy Metal pub in São Paulo (Brazil) back in 1996, one day before their full gig for the Tunes of War tour. They explained me how the album was created, all the ideas they had, their trip to Scotland to better understand the country’s history and so on, and that’s probably the reason why Tunes of War is so good and precise: it follows the true facts that happened between the 11th and the 18th centuries with the Scottish clans, and all the horror, blood and death in their path for freedom.

Tunes of War starts with THE BEST intro of all time, The Brave,  a mighty Heavy Metal version of “Scotland the Brave” (or “Alba an Aigh”, in Gaelic), considered by many the unofficial Scottish national anthem. There’s no way a regular person won’t feel inspired and ready for war while listening to it. What the band did with this song was amazing, and a perfect intro to one of their best songs of all time, Scotland United. It’s an instant classic with a chorus tailored for any army in the world (“United, united we stand / United, forever and ever!”). The next song, The Dark of the Sun, also has a strong melody with its lyrics exalting the Scottish warriors, while William Wallace (Braveheart) has one of the most furious riffs I’ve ever listened to in my life, and as you can see its dedicated to the life of the great William Wallace, one of the main leaders during the Wars of Scottish Independence who was spectacularly portrayed by Mel Gibson in the Oscar-winning masterpiece Braveheart (which I saw for the 1000th time this week).

Grave_Digger-Tunes_Of_WarIn The Bruce (The Lion King), the band shows a very obscure side, almost as if they were a Doom Metal band, getting back to their traditional Power Metal with The Battle of Flodden. Then comes a very beautiful but sad ballad, called The Ballad of Mary (Queen of Scots), where we see Chris Boltendahl’s voice in a completely different way. By the way, this song has such dark and melancholic lyrics that it might suddenly make you cry especially if you can feel all the pain in it. The Truth, Cry for Freedom (James the VI) and Killing Time are considerably short songs, but very effective in the whole storyline, and all amazing for any of the band’s live performances.

The last few songs are kind of paradoxical: while Rebellion (The Clans Are Marching) is just perfect with its amazing riffs, lyrics, and one of the greatest chorus in the history of Heavy Metal (“The clans are marching ‘gainst the law / Bagpipers play the tunes of war / Death or glory I will find / Rebellion on my mind!”), Culloden Muir sounds quite boring if compared to all other songs. There’s still an outro called The Fall of the Brave, which in my opinion perfectly represents the end of a battle with all the corpses and blood on the war field, and if you have the special edition you’ll be able to enjoy three of Grave Digger’s old classics, all excellent for a beer and some mosh pits: Heavy Metal Breakdown, Witchhunter and Headbanging Man.

Grave Digger has always had wonderful front covers (take a look at this one from Heart of Darkness, for example), and in Tunes of War it’s no different. Regarding the lyrics, as I said, they are all profound and tell the whole story in the best way possible. Of course, nothing would be possible without Grave Digger’s awesome musicians, especially their leader and founding member Chris Boltendahl, owner of a unique voice in the world of Heavy Metal.

To sum up, a brilliant concept album from one of the greatest Power Metal bands in the world, and by far their best album of all time. Only Iron Maiden’s The Clansman is more brilliant than the songs from Tunes of War, but it’s just one song anyway. Moreover, this winter in Canada has been one of the worst of all time, with frigid temperatures and extremely stressful morning and evening commutes due to all the snow, ice storms and freezing rain, so why not getting ready for this “ice cold battle” on the streets enjoying this great album in your car? I definitely will.

Best moments of the album: Scotland United, William Wallace (Braveheart) and Rebellion (The Clans Are Marching).

Worst moments of the album: Culloden Muir is the only song that is not totally awesome in the whole album.

Released in 1996 GUN Records

Track listing
1. The Brave (Intro) 2:23
2. Scotland United 4:35
3. The Dark of the Sun 4:33
4. William Wallace (Braveheart) 5:01
5. The Bruce (The Lion King) 6:58
6. The Battle of Flodden 4:06
7. The Ballad of Mary (Queen of Scots) 5:00
8. The Truth 3:50
9. Cry for Freedom (James the VI) 3:17
10. Killing Time 2:53
11. Rebellion (The Clans Are Marching) 4:05
12. Culloden Muir 4:08
13. The Fall of the Brave (Outro) 1:56

Special digipack bonus tracks
14. Heavy Metal Breakdown
15. Witchhunter
16. Headbanging Man

Band members
Chris Boltendahl – Vocals
Uwe Lulis – Guitars
Tomi Göttlich – Bass
Stefan Arnold – Drums