Concert Review – Boonsdale Fest 2018 & Wacken Metal Battle Canada Final (The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018)

After a year of silence, Wacken Metal Battle Canada returned in full force in a unique partnership with Boonsdale Fest to decide which underground band would raise the flag of Canadian metal high on “The Holy Land” of heavy music.

INTRODUCTION: BOONSDALE FEST AND WACKEN METAL BATTLE CANADA UNITED

There’s nothing better than a night of ass-kicking heavy music in the always fun month of June in the city of Toronto, and to make things even better how about uniting at The Opera House the 2nd annual Boonsdale Fest, organized by Boonsdale Records and featuring the bands MokomokaiOperus and Borealis, with the 2018 edition of Wacken Metal Battle Canada, where the Best from the West Hammerdrone battled the Best from the East Centuries of Decay for a place alongside the greatest names in the history heavy music at Wacken Open Air later this year. As there was no Wacken Metal Battle Canada in 2017 (each year Wacken allocates 28 slots at W.O.A. for the Metal Battle winners from 28 different countries, and due to the increasing number of countries some are asked to pause for a year to give the chance to others to participate, which was what happened to Canada last year), this year several Canadian independent and underground bands were more than eager to participate in the competition again, with qualifying rounds happening all over the country starting January 12,  until Calgary’s Hammerdrone and Toronto’s Centuries of Decay reached the desired final round in Toronto this Saturday.

In 2016, Wacken Metal Battle Canada crowned Death/Thrash Metal band Profaner as champions, who then by the way advanced to be 2nd place at the international Metal Battle at W.O.A. that same year, so who would be granted the chance to represent Canada at the biggest metal festival in the world in 2018? Well, it’s time to rumble to the heavy music by Centuries of Decay, Hammerdrone, Mokomokai, Operus and Borealis, and wait for guest judges Gustavo Valderrama (Navaja Music, Electric Flow), Tim Henderson (Bravewords.com), Andrew Epstein (Zombitrol Productions, Alan Cross’ A Journal of Musical Things), Chris Gonda (PureGrainAudio.com), Charlie Felix (Sound & Noise, Live Talent), Oscar Rangel (Operus, Ex-Annihilator), Wojtek Sokolowski (Operus) and Luc Lainé (CFLX 95,5 FM) to decide which band would rule them all!

CENTURIES OF DECAY

Centuries of Decay @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

Precisely at 9pm Toronto’s own Progressive/Atmospheric Death Metal act Centuries of Decay hit the stage at The Opera House showing why they were chosen Eastern Canadian Metal Battle champions, led by the deep and very melodic growls by vocalist and guitarist Devin Doucette. Formed in 2014, the quartet released in 2017 their debut self-titled album, available for a listen (and obviously for purchase) at their own BandCamp page, and that album was basically what the metalheads at the venue had the pleasure to witness them playing live. With songs getting close to or even breaking the 10-minute mark, something unimaginable for any artist or band from most non-metal styles that are in pursuit of stardom, Centuries of Decay inspired everyone in the crowd to bang their heads nonstop and feel embraced by their atmospheric music, generating a very nice and interesting feeling in all of us. That’s how exciting progressive and atmospheric heavy music can be, and if these are just the initial steps in the promising career of Centuries of Decay, I can’t wait to see what those four metallers will bring next.

Band members
Devin Doucette – vocals, rhythm guitar
Rob McAllister – lead guitar, backing vocals
Matt Hems – bass
Derrick Doucette – drums

HAMMERDRONE

Hammerdrone @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

After a quick bathroom/beer break, it was time for the winners of the West Hammerdrone to make a lot of noise and crush us with their unrelenting Melodic Death Metal, opening their performance with the violent Dark Harvest, the title-track from their 2017 opus Dark Harvest, which you can buy directly from their BandCamp page, a concept album inspired by the real life but obscure tale of the Scottish terrorist organization the Dark Harvest Commando. Frontman Grahma Harris was on fire during the entire concert, growling and roaring (and also making faces) like a beast, while his bandmates Rick Cardellini (lead guitars), Curtis Beardy (rhythm guitars), Teran Wyer (bass) and Vince Cardellini (drums) delivered a well-balanced fusion of the more harmonious lines from Melodic Death Metal with the sheer heaviness and aggressiveness of old school Death Metal. As a matter of fact, you can download for free a live EP by Hammerdrone titled Rituals of Battle from their BandCamp page, just to give you an idea of how awesome their music sounds live. And after Hammerdrone’s concert was over, I knew the judges were going to have a very difficult time deciding who should be crowned the 2018 champions. Well, at least they had a few more excellent concerts to go until then.

Band members
Graham Harris – vocals
Rick Cardellini – lead guitars
Curtis Beardy – rhythm guitars, backing vocals
Teran Wyer – bass, vocals
Vince Cardellini – drums

MOKOMOKAI

Mokomokai @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

When Peterborough-based four-piece band Mokomokai began blasting their electrifying blend of old school Heavy Metal and Hard Rock, I guess we could say it was the “official” start of Boonsdale Fest, and let me tell you it looked like their Rock N’ Roll party had no time to end. Formed in 2011, and having a distinct name inspired by the preserved heads of Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, the quartet formed by John Ellis on vocals and guitar, Bobby Deuce on the guitar, Jeremy Pastic on bass and J J Tartaglia on drums put everyone at the venue to dance with their flammable music, playing songs from their 2017 album The Poison Whiptail, like the excellent Heavy Metal Sky, as well as a cover version for the classic The Wizard, by Black Sabbath (check out the original version HERE), taken from their 1970 masterpiece Black Sabbath, with John even playing the song’s traditional harmonica. After such high level of adrenaline, I have only one thing to say about Mokomokai: if they visit your hometown, don’t miss the chance to see them kicking some serious ass live.

Band members
John Ellis – vocals, guitar
Bobby Deuce – lead & rhythm guitar
Jeremy Pastic – bass
J.J. Tartaglia – drums 

OPERUS

Operus @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

Perhaps the performance by the following band of the night, Toronto-based Epic Symphonic Metal squad Operus, was the most peculiar of the entire event due to all the unique elements found during their concert (and one of them was definitely not on purpose). Formed in 2005, this six-piece act put on an extremely entertaining and atmospheric show still promoting their 2017 album Cenotaph, featuring Oscar Rangel (ex-Annihilator) on the guitar, cellist Robin Howe adding an extra touch of epicness to the band’s music, masked-frontman David Michael Moote with his passionate and theatrical performance, J.J. Tartaglia back on drums to play a completely different style from Mokomokai, and an injured bassist Wojtek Sokolowski who twisted his ankle right at the beginning of the show, but who refused to stop and managed to play their full set before going to ER (and that’s what I call a true metalhead!). That’s another band I highly recommend you go watch live if they’re scheduled to play at a venue near you, and you can find their latest album available on different platforms such as iTunes if epic and symphonic music is your cup of tea.

Band members
David Michael Moote – lead vocals
Rob Holden – guitar
Oscar Rangel – guitar, backing vocals, growls
Robin Howe – cello, backing vocals
Wojtek Sokolowski – bass, backing vocals
J.J. Tartaglia – drums 

BOREALIS

Borealis @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/09/2018

Last but not least, the festival ended with another very progressive and melodic band named Borealis, formed in 2005 in the Ontarian city of Orangeville, who also delivered a solid and delightful performance playing songs from all of their five full-length albums, such as Revelation, from their 2015 album Purgatory, and The Awakening, from their brand new opus The Offering, released earlier this year. Comprised of lead singer and guitarist Matt Marinelli (who had his bottle of water wisely placed on his mic stand looking like he was going to deliver some “wah wah’s” with his guitar when he was actually just thirsty as hell), guitarist Ken Fobert, bassist Trevor McBride, keyboardist Sean Werlick and drummer Sean Dowell, Borealis did not disappoint their fans, filling all empty spaces in the air with their classy Melodic and Power Metal and keeping everyone pumped up even with the clock getting close to 2am. That’s another band I highly recommend you go check them live as well as go after their discography, because it’s not only top-tier metal music, but the overall production of their albums is also outstanding.

Band members
Matt Marinelli – vocals, guitars
Ken Fobert – guitars
Trevor McBride – bass
Sean Werlick – keyboards
Sean Dowell – drums

AND THE WINNER IS…

Centuries of Decay – 2018 Wacken Metal Battle Canada Winner

…Toronto’s own Progressive/Atmospheric Death Metal squad CENTURIES OF DECAY! It was indeed an amazing concert, and I’m sure they will proudly carry the flag of Canadian metal high during their journey through the holy land of Wacken. Actually, I really wish Wacken Metal Battle Canada could send two bands to the festival, because Hammerdrone were just as demolishing and professional as the Metal Battle winners. At least now more people will get to know Hammerdrone and all other bands of the night, which in the end is the ultimate goal of the Metal Battle and of festivals like Boonsdale Fest, keeping the fire of metal alive by always presenting to us fans new incredible bands from the underground scene. For instance, there was this old school, diehard metalhead (drinking beer at an insane speed of “two tall boys every five minutes”, but who was still able to walk, talk and headbang as if he was having just water) who asked me right after Operus if there was still more to come, and when I said there was still one more band he showed a huge and honest smile and said “this is great, eh?”, and if independent bands can still extract that type of reaction from a veteran like that guy, well, that’s another proof that metal music will never die. Now let’s wait until next year to see which new name will represent Canada at W.O.A. 2019, and if you already have your tickets for the festival this year, don’t forget to go say “hi” and raise your horns to the guys from Centuries of Decay.

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Concert Review – Cradle of Filth (The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 04/11/2018)

Four American boys, four Ukrainian metallers, a multi-cultural Extreme Metal institution and endless mosh pits. That’s what Toronto got in another memorable night of heavy music.

OPENING ACTS: Uncured and Jinjer

My neck and back still hurt today, and I don’t think it’s (just) because of my age, but because the three bands that hit the stage at the small but flammable The Opera House this Wednesday night in Toronto kicked some serious ass from start to finish, igniting nonstop circle pits during the whole night and, as a consequence, making every single fan at the venue more than happy to have spent a few good bucks on their concert tickets. It might be taking a while for the weather in Toronto to warm up in this beginning of spring, but the temperature inside The Opera House on Wednesday was definitely as hot as the fires from the depths of hell for another night of the CRYPTORIANA WORLD TOUR NORTH AMERICA 2018 with the bands Uncured, Jinjer and, above all, the majestic Cradle of Filth.

Photos by Laura Springall – https://www.instagram.com/lspringallphoto/

After having two slices of pizza in order to properly face the hurricane of metal music that was about to come, I headed to The Opera House (which by the way seemed to be sold out) to enjoy the first band of the night, the technical and heavy American Progressive Death/Groove Metal UNCURED. Formed in 2014 in New York City, the quartet comprised of brothers Rex and Zak Cox sharing the vocals and guitar duties (and before you ask, they’re not twins), Jon Kita on bass, and Liam Manley on drums delivered a very solid performance on stage, still promoting their latest album Medusa, released in 2017 (which you can listen in its entirety HERE). Those boys didn’t stop headbanging and shredding not even for a single second, receiving a very positive feedback from the crowd already jammed in the floor section. This is the second time I saw Uncured live and they’re just getting better and better, pointing to a bright future ahead of them. From their setlist I highly recommend the songs Stygian Valley and Myopic (both from Medusa), and their brand new song Terminal, the best of their concert in my opinion. And lastly, I just want to send a quick message to the guy from the crowd that called them “Backstreet Boys”: they might be boys, but they’re talented metalheads, so shut up and try doing something useful for society like what Uncured are doing with their first-class metal music, right?

Setlist
Stygian Valley
Petrified
Myopic
Dilate
Persia (Spontaneous Regeneration alternative version)
Terminal

Band members
Rex Cox – vocals, guitars
Zak Cox – vocals, guitars
Jon Kita – bass
Liam Manley – drums 

Photos by Laura Springall – https://www.instagram.com/lspringallphoto/

After a short break it was time for an explosion of Metalcore made in Ukraine, courtesy of the sexy frontwoman Tatiana Shmaylyuk and her interesting band JINJER. If you’ve never heard of Jinjer, the band was brought into being in 2009 in the city of Horlivka, having already released a few interesting studio albums, like their 2014 opus Cloud Factory (reissued now in 2018, only a couple of years after its original release for reasons beyond my comprehension). Their concert was energetic and straight to the point, with Tatiana leading her henchmen and having a very good interaction with the fans. The only issue for me was the quality of the sound coming from the drums, which sounded during most of their set like the annoying “frying pan beating” sound from Lars’ drums in Metallica’s hideous St. Anger, but nothing that could stop the band and their fans from having a very good time. As I enjoy Tatiana’s deep, enraged growls a lot more than her clean vocals, my top moments of their concert were for sure Who Is Gonna Be the One (from their 2014 album Cloud Factory) and Captain Clock (from their 2016 album King Of Everything), not only warming up the fans at the venue for the main attraction of the night, but also urging everyone to jump up and down and break their necks just like what we always expect from a good Metalcore band.

Setlist
Prologue
Who Is Gonna Be the One
Words of Wisdom
Sit Stay Roll Over
I Speak Astronomy
Just Another
Pisces
Captain Clock
Outlander
No Hoard of Value
Bad Water
Beggars’ Dance

Band members
Tatiana Shmaylyuk – vocals
Roman Ibramhalilov – guitar
Eugene Kostyuk – bass
Vlad Ulasevich – drums 

CRADLE OF FILTH

Photos by Laura Springall – https://www.instagram.com/lspringallphoto/

One thing that always impresses me at The Opera House is the insane speed and very little amount of time the bands and their crew take to switch the whole equipment from one band to another, which is why we didn’t have to wait for too long for another superb, violent and blackened performance by British Extreme Metal institution CRADLE OF FILTH. Spearheaded by the iconic Dani Filth and promoting their latest opus, the excellent Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay, released in 2017, the band didn’t show any mercy on our souls, blasting some of their most visceral, complex and beautiful compositions from their unparalleled career that already lasts for impressive 27 years (and please don’t ask me how Dani can still growl and scream flawlessly like a demon after almost three decades). Well, when you open the show with songs like the aggressive Gilded Cunt and one of my favorite songs of all time, the masterpiece Beneath the Howling Stars, you know the whole concert will be brutal.

The rest of the band was also on fire, providing the perfect instrumental for Dani to thrive on vocals, in special the bestial drummer Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka behind his glass cage (not sure if that cage is for sound or security purposes), and Oshawa-own beauty Lindsay Schoolcraft, who once again could not hide her happiness for playing with Cradle of Filth in front of her very own people. She was fantastic throughout the entire concert, and didn’t even know how to thank the fans for such warm reception. Actually, it’s us fans who have to thank her for such awesome performance, embellishing classic tunes like The Death of Love, Nymphetamine and Her Ghost in the Fog with her powerful voice.

One of the highlights of the night was undoubtedly the execution of the 11-minute extravaganza Bathory Aria, a marvelous and intricate song I honestly never thought I would be able to witness them playing live. Dani explained they’re playing it as the start of the celebrations of 20 years of what’s in my opinion the best Cradle of Filth album of all time, their 1998 concept opus Cruelty And The Beast (and get ready, because Dani mentioned already they’re planning to release a very special 20th anniversary edition of the album). The brand new songs from Cryptoriana also worked really well, with Heartbreak and Séance sounding simply astounding live, proving once again that Cradle of Filth are a band that don’t just defy time, they kick it in the ass and keep delivering awesomeness album after album, year after year, for our total delectation.

Photos by Laura Springall – https://www.instagram.com/lspringallphoto/

One thing I really enjoy about Dani is how fun and somehow cryptic he always sounds when interacting with the crowd (and he knows we love that). When he’s in town, he always makes sure he praises his Canadian fans, he shows his respect for his supporting acts (demanding a huge ovation for Uncured and Jinjer for their excellent performances), and always finds time to make a peculiar joke about something very Canadian. I remember a few years ago when he said he loved getting to Canada during winter, as our Canadian winter is truly unique, and this time he mentioned a lot of times his admiration for Canadian professional tennis player Eugenie Bouchard. I have absolutely no idea why he mentioned “Genie” Bouchard and dedicated so many songs to her, as she has pretty much no connection to heavy music as far as I know. Apart from being a bombshell and for having lots of serious issues in her tennis career, I don’t see why Dani loves her so much. Well, maybe those are the two reasons why, right?

Anyway, after the classic From the Cradle to Enslave, and after almost two hours of nonstop, electrifying mosh pits (even during a dark ballad like Nymphetamine there were people crushing their skulls inside the pit like wild beats), the concert was over and fans could head home, have another beer, take pictures with the guys from Uncured and Jinjer, and start thinking how they would be able to work the following day after a true avalanche of high-quality extreme music, courtesy of four American boys, four Ukrainian metallers, and a multi-cultural outfit that knows better than anyone else in the world how to perfectly blend Extreme Metal with a theatrical performance, fantastic lyrics and endless energy and pleasure for being able to be on stage for all of us fans.

Setlist
ACT I
Ave Satani (Intro)
Gilded Cunt
Beneath the Howling Stars
Blackest Magick in Practice
Heartbreak and Séance
Bathory Aria: Benighted Like Usher / A Murder of Ravens in Fugue / Eyes That
Witnessed Madness
Dusk and Her Embrace
The Death of Love
You Will Know the Lion by His Claw
Creatures That Kissed in Cold Mirrors (Interlude)

ACT II
A Bruise Upon the Silent Moon (Intro)
The Promise of Fever
Nymphetamine (Fix)
Her Ghost in the Fog
Born in a Burial Gown
From the Cradle to Enslave
Blooding the Hounds of Hell (Outro)

Band members
Dani Filth – lead vocals
Richard Shaw – guitars
Marek “Ashok” Šmerda – guitars
Daniel Firth – bass
Lindsay Schoolcraft – female vocals, keyboards
Martin “Marthus” Škaroupka – drums

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Concert Review – Lordi (The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 02/22/2017)

The God Of Thunder finally answered our call, and the most electrifying horde of Rock N’ Roll monsters in the universe stormed Toronto with their sensational, gory and theatrical performance for the first time ever.

OPENING ACTS: Mineta and Bookakee

lordi_toronto_2017The weather in Toronto couldn’t have been better for a night of heavy music, given the fact we’re in the middle of the winter and it was supposed to be freaking cold now. Not only there was no snow or rain, but with a temperature above 10 degrees we simply had the perfect conditions for praising the most awesome monsters in the world of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock, our beloved Finnish metallers Lordi, at the always comfortable The Opera House. But before Mr. Lordi and his horde hit the stage to mesmerize us with their sensational music and performance, we were treated to two very interesting Canadian bands that, if you don’t know them yet, certainly deserve our attention.

img_0141The first attraction of the night, MINETA, which is Polish for “cunnilingus” or “fellatio” (or if you prefer, in plain English it means giving oral sex to a woman), was more than just a music band, but a talented group of street performers blasting a mix of Ska, Punk Rock and Heavy Metal with a circus-inspired attitude, or as Mineta themselves like to call it, they play “Circus Party Punk”. Formed in 2012 in the city of Toronto, Mineta have just released their debut full-length album Polyglamerous, which was the base of their fun setlist, including the entertaining Fag Beef. While lead singer Bella Muerta stapled Christmas lights to her thigh, showed her boobs and urged the crowd to sing “daj mi mineta” with her (or “give me oral sex” in Polish), guitarist Tony Patrick Olivero played his strings while doing some circus tricks, Arty Basinski pounded his drums from the top of his stilts, and Matt Pazzol (bettern known as YuMB YuMB) was the weirdest clown I’ve ever seen to play bass guitar. There was still time for a sexy bunny to take some bloody eggs from her pussy and eat them. Yes, that all happened during their wicked show. Are you excited to see them live now?

Band members
Bella Muerta – vocals
Tony Patrick Olivero – guitar
Matt Pazzol (YuMB YuMB) – bass
Arty Basinski – drums

img_0149The second opening act of the night was just as insane as Mineta, but instead of an upbeat Punk Rock they played a very violent and gory version of Death Metal defined by the band as “Progressive Theatrical Melodic Brutal Gore Death Metal”. I’m talking about Montreal-based act BOOKAKEE, a name that also has a sexual connotation meaning “a sexual practice in which several men ejaculate on the face of an individual woman”. Formed in 2007, the band comprised of Philippe Langelier, Simon-Pierre Gagnon, Mathieu Paré, Jonathan David and Jean-Philippe Bouchard haunted the souls of the fans at The Opera House with the visceral compositions from their latest album, named Whorrific, including the title-track Whorrific and the bestial Bookakee Blast. And just like mineta, those five metallers didn’t only play their infernal, technical and thrilling music, but also “helped” a girl give birth to her creepy baby, scalped a nun and were joined on stage by the one and only Donkey Kong. However, the most unusual part of the show was when what was supposed to be a wall of death became a dance floor to the sound of Haddaway’s dance hit “What Is Love”. I guess no one saw that coming.

Band members
Philippe Langelier – vocals
Simon-Pierre Gagnon – lead guitar
Mathieu Paré – rhythm guitar
Jonathan David – bass
Jean-Philippe Bouchard – drums 

LORDI

img_0164After such unique performances, it was time for Mr. Lordi and his horde of monsters to deliver an absolutely flawless performance to an audience avid for their music. It was the first time ever that LORDI performed in the city of Toronto, and the whole band gave their best to make it a memorable night for their Torontonian fans. Still promoting their latest release, the excellent Monstereophonic (Theaterror vs. Demonarchy), the band blasted all types of songs in their solid setlist, from the beautiful ballad It Snows in Hell to the high-octane rockin’ anthem Bringing Back the Balls to Rock, from the very old school song Icon of Dominance to their newest hit Hug You Hardcore, and so on, putting a huge smile on everyone’s faces the whole night.

But Lordi also had some help in their theatrical performance from the very beginning like what happened with Mineta and Bookakee, with the iconic Skeletor introducing the band and displaying the decapitated head of the sissy He-Man in the opening song of the night, the cheesy but fun Let’s Go Slaughter He-Man (I Wanna Be the Beast-Man in the Masters of the Universe). Also, a priest tried to exorcise Mr. Lordi but failed miserably. Who did he think he was dealing with, right? Anyway, Mr. Lordi was on fire the whole presentation, always interacting with the fans and singing all his classics better than ever. Moreover, before playing the fantastic The Riff, he mentioned the song had the same “special ingredient” (which is obviously a heavy riff, if you have no idea what he was talking about) present in the music by behemoths such as KISS, Judas Priest, Motley Crüe, Skid Row and Black Sabbath, proving that before being a monster, he’s a crazy metalhead just like the rest of us.

img_0166Despite being slightly “hidden” at the back of the stage, Mana and Hella both had amazing performances with their powerful beats and keys, in special our stunning  schizo doll emanating charm and electricity during the entire show. And while OX blasted his strings in an entertaining disco-rock-dancing bass solo, Mr. Lordi’s right-hand man Amen was the personification (or should I say “monsterification”?) of a true Rock N’ Roll guitarist, being unstoppable on stage with his cutting riffs and solos. Let’s say their job gets easier than other average bands as they have tons of beyond-catchy hymns to mesmerize us like Hard Rock Hallelujah and Devil Is a Loser, and when they ended the concert with their two most famous “questions”, Who’s Your Daddy? and Would You Love a Monsterman?, they left us all questioning when we’ll have the pleasure of seeing those incredible monsters of rock once again in the city. I personally hope it doesn’t take another 20 years for Lordi to come to Toronto, but I guess I don’t need to worry too much about it as, based on the flammable response by their fans, it won’t take more than a few months for that to happen.

Setlist
God of Thunder (KISS song)
SCG VIII: Opening Scene
Let’s Go Slaughter He-Man (I Wanna Be the Beast-Man in the Masters of the Universe)
Babez for Breakfast
Nailed by the Hammer of Frankenstein
The Riff
Bass Solo
Bite It Like a Bulldog
Icon of Dominance
Drum Solo
Bringing Back the Balls to Rock
Hug You Hardcore
It Snows in Hell
The Children of the Night
Keyboard Solo
Down With the Devil
Blood Red Sandman
Hard Rock Hallelujah
Devil Is a Loser

Encore:
Who’s Your Daddy?
Would You Love a Monsterman?
The Night the Monsters Died

Band members
Mr. Lordi – vocals
Amen – guitars
OX – bass
Hella – keyboards
Mana – drums

Concert Review – Wacken Metal Battle Canada Final (The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/11/2016)

One Canadian Band to rule them all, One Canadian Band to find them. One Canadian Band to bring them all, and in Wacken Open Air bind them.

INTRODUCTION: ONE BAND TO RULE THEM ALL!

wacken metal battle_canada_final2016If you were at the charming The Opera House in Toronto this Saturday, June 11, you were able to witness the future of Canadian Metal in pursuit of a sacred placed among the Gods of Metal at the 2016 edition of Wacken Open Air, which will be held during the first week of August this year. Five amazing bands made in Canada showcased all their skills and passion for heavy music during the final and decisive round of the fourth annual edition of Wacken Metal Battle Canada, but only one of them secured a spot in the most important metal festival in the world. Do you want to know which band was crowned the kings of the night?

This year, guest judges Noel Peters (Inertia Entertainment), Sarah Lutz (Metal Blade Canada), Darryl Hurs (Indie Week), Chris Gonda (PureGrainAudio.com), Tim Henderson (Bravewords.com), Andrew Epstein (Zombitrol Productions) and Glenn Fricker (Spectre Media Group) had the difficult mission to decide who would play at Wacken Open Air this August, but before I get into more details, let me say it’s impressive how well organized Wacken Metal Battle is in Canada, it doesn’t matter the city or the qualifying round. With over 100 independent Canadian metal bands from the cities of Toronto, Hamilton, London, Ottawa, Montreal, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, and after 27 qualifying rounds, 9 semi-finals and the national final this Saturday, all we can say in a huge THANK YOU to everyone involved in this awesome project, with a special thanks to my friend Jon Asher (Asher Media Relations) for letting me be part of this. And now, let’s get ready to rumble!

DISTORTHEAD

IMG_1433

DistortHead @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/11/2016

The first group to hit the stage, at around 8pm, was Melodic Death Metal/Metalcore band DistortHead, from Montreal, Quebec, who were obviously the Quebec Final winners this year. With all band members elegantly wearing lumberjack shirts, DistortHead fired a good mix of modern and groovy metal music the likes of The Black Dahlia Murder and Suicide Silence with the more ferocious sound of old school Death Metal, which translated into a solid and unstoppable performance by this talented quintet. Lead singer Phil Ranger led his troop during the entire setlist, demanding some furious circle pits from the fans at the venue and, as any proud Québécois, made good usage of “Bill 101” to teach the audience how to curse in French. If brutal Melodic Death Metal is your cup of tea, go check their BandCamp page, where you can enjoy their 2014 album Invasive Species in its entirety.

Band members
Phil Ranger – vocals
Vincent Rousseau – guitar
Alex Guindon – guitar
Felix Bourcier – bass, backing vocals
Max Arseneau – drums

PYRAMID THEOREM

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Pyramid Theorem @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/11/2016

In my opinion, one of the best things in any Wacken Metal Battle round is the variety of sounds you can listen to within a short span of time, getting truly paradoxical at times, but as awesome as usual. That was confirmed when Progressive Hard Rock act Pyramid Theorem began their psychedelic and electrifying performance. Those Torontonians, who were the Ontario Final 2/2 winners, sounded so professional, polished and in sync it’s hard to believe they do not have an agreement with a record label yet. Take a listen at the excellent tunes Outlaw for Good and Drive and you’ll see what I’m talking about. The crowd was excited during the whole show, mainly due to the thrilling performance by the dynamic duo Christian Di Mambro (vocals and bass) Sam Ermellini (guitar and vocals), who didn’t stop interacting with the audience for a single second while at the same time displaying their refined techniques on stage. Some of the guitar solos by Sam were simply outstanding.

Band members
Christian Di Mambro – vocals, bass
Sam Ermellini – guitar, vocals
Stephan Di Mambro – synths, guitar, vocals
Vic Dee – drums, percussion

THE MOUNTAIN MAN

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The Mountain Man @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/11/2016

Fans of the relentless music by icons such as Lamb of God, Whitechapel, Gojira and Pantera definitely had an awesome time during the performance by Vancouver-based five-piece act The Mountain Man, who blasted a nice fusion of Melodic Death Metal and Groove Metal, proving why the band was the B.C. Final winner. The whole festival seemed to be turning into “the night of the frontmen”, with lead singer Parker Lane keeping up with the vocalists from both previous bands with his unique screams and endless energy on stage. We have to give a round of applause to those guys, coming all the way from the other side of the country, paying all expenses from their own pockets, and still having enough strength to kill on stage. If you want to know more about their music, you can listen to their debut EP entitled Bloodlust at their BandCamp page, and if by any chance the band members themselves read this, please send us the EP for a detailed review.

Band members
Parker Lane – vocals
Tyson Tambellini – guitar
Jordan Orr – guitar
Tevyn Pacey – bass
Ryan McCreedy – drums

PROFANER

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Profaner @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/11/2016

After a quick break and another cold beer, it was time for Melodic Death/Thrash Metal band Profaner to distill their acid metal music upon the audience. Hailing from the city of Hamilton, around 70km southwest of Toronto, the Ontario 1/2 Final winners didn’t waste time and started kicking ass on stage from the very first notes of the opening song of their setlist. If you visit their BandCamp page, you’ll be able to listen to a few songs they played this Saturday, such as the awesome Marked For Death, and see how good and violent those guys are. Guided by the uncontrollable frontman Anthony “Tooty” Tuttolomondo, Profaner showed everyone at the venue how old school brutal music is done, with the blazing riffs by guitarists Jason Crook and Pat Rogers, together with the boisterous drumming by Craig Piggot, being the recipe for success in heavy music. I loved their music and charisma, and so did the vast majority of the fans at The Opera House. A good sign of the band’s future, don’t you agree?

Band members
Anthony “Tooty” Tuttolomondo – vocals
Jason Crook – guitar, backing vocals
Pat Rogers – guitar
Rusty – bass
Craig Piggot – drums

TALES OF THE TOMB

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Tales Of The Tomb @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/11/2016

There was still a lot more to come Saturday night, even with the clock getting closer to (or past) midnight, with the unique Psychological Horror/Death/Murder Metal brutally fired by Edmontonian metallers Tales Of The Tomb, who stood tall as the Prairie Final winner band. With lead singer Connor Adams, guitarist Corey Skerlak and bassist Bryn Herbert growling like possessed beats, Tales of The Tomb crushed the audience with their music inspired by icons such as Dying Fetus and Bloodbath, and the dark and gory vibe of classic slasher films. Those guys unleashed hell upon The Opera House, playing songs from their debut EP named Volume One: Morpras, as you can listen to at their BandCamp page. Nonstop violence is always fun in extreme music, and in the case of Tales Of The Tomb that enjoyment is multiplied by a thousand due to their demonic screeches and bestial riffs. In other words, a highly recommended band for fans of vicious Extreme Metal.

Band members
Connor Adams – vocals
Tres Thomas – guitar
Corey Skerlak – guitar, vocals
Bryn Herbert – bass, vocals
John Thomson – drums 

SPECIAL GUEST HEADLINERS: CRIMSON SHADOWS

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Crimson Shadows @ The Opera House, Toronto, ON, 06/11/2016

And before that incredible night of Canadian Metal was over, we were treated to the Epic Death/Power Metal by special guest headliners Crimson Shadows, winners of the first edition of Wacken Metal Battle Canada in 2013, and also crowned the Metal Battle international winners at Wacken Open Air that same year. Well, the epic devastation crafted by these talented Torontonians, mixing the speed and intricacy of Dragonforce and Rhapsody with the vileness and heaviness of Children of Bodom, sounded even more potent on stage, with highlights to the excellent performance of newcomer Paul “Ablaze” Zinay with his harsh screams, and especially Mr. Greg Rounding with his fantastic riffs, solos and clean vocals. If you know nothing about Crimson Shadows, I suggest you take a listen at the high-end battle hymns Rise to Power and Braving the Storm, which were played to perfection during their electrifying concert. I believe that whenever Rise to Power is played, if you do not start singing it together with Crimson Shadows, raising your fists in the air, drinking a pint of beer and getting ready to die in the battlefield, you’re not a honorable warrior.

Band members
Paul “Ablaze” Zinay – vocals
Ryan Hofing – guitar
Greg Rounding – guitar, vocals
Alex Snape – bass
Cory Hofing – drums

AND THE WINNER IS…

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Profaner – 2016 Wacken Metal Battle Canada Winner

…everyone that attended the event this Saturday, especially the bands and the amazing crew that helped that metal celebration become true! Unfortunately, only one band could win the tournament and head to Wacken Open Air in August, but all five bands were simply amazing and deserve our humble recognition for keeping the fire of Canadian Metal alive. Congratulations to runner-ups DistortHead, who won a bunch of cool stuff from PureGrainAudio.com and Los Cabos Drumsticks that will be very beneficial to their career, and in special to the 2016 Wacken Metal Battle Canada winners PROFANER! YOU GUYS KICK ASS!

As previously mentioned, Crimson Shadows went to Wacken Open Air and won the international battle in 2013, and in 2015 Vesperia (who were there on Saturday to pass the crown to Profaner) re-lived that success by once again bringing the first place from Germany to Canada. Now it’s time for Profaner to show to the craziest metal fans in the entire world who will attend the festival in August how awesome Canadian Metal is. If you want to have a good overview of what happens to all independent bands while at Wacken Open Air, I recommend you watch the movie Wacken 3D – Louder Than Hell, from 2014. But that’s just in case you’re not going to join Profaner in their thrilling quest in Teutonic lands, of course.

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

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

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Concert Review – Paganfest America Part V (The Opera House,Toronto, ON, 05/01/2014)

An awesome multicultural festival in the world’s most multicultural city.

paganfest_2014Let me start by asking a very simple question before I actually talk about the amazing festival that happened last night: who the hell had the brilliant idea of scheduling a festival at SIX O’CLOCK ON A THURSDAY, a  day and time where pretty much EVERYONE is still at work and there’s also a lot of traffic? Because of that, I guess many people that attended PAGANFEST AMERICA PART V yesterday at The Opera House, in Toronto, missed at least the opening act, American Folk Metal band Winterhymn, and maybe even some of the other bands. Fortunately I was able to get there before 7:30pm and could watch half of the concert from the following band and the rest of the festival, which is where this review starts!

VARG

01paganfest toronto_vargPeople dressed up accordingly (which means Viking, warrior and/or pagan costumes), corpsepainting, lots of good and cold beer, friends hugging each other and dancing together, metalheads screaming with their fists and horns in the air, and German Melodic Death Metal band Varg kickin’ ass on stage! The first impression from the festival was very positive, and knowing the Pagan Metal community in Toronto is so big was great for me. Not only that, getting in contact with Varg for the first time was also amazing as their music has that kind of energy I love, and although I don’t know German (they sing only in their mother tongue) it was easy to follow their message in each song. Highlights to the excellent song Guten Tag and to the girls the band called on stage to headbang like crazy, and I promise I’ll go after more of their material in the future.

Band members
Freki – vocals, guitars
Managarm – bass, backing vocals, guitars, lead guitars
Hati – guitars
Fenrier – drums

CHTHONIC

02paganfest toronto_chthonicA few microphone issues, a relatively short setlist and the absence of keyboardist CJ Kao didn’t prevent Taiwanese Orient Metal warriors Chthonic from delivering an unforgettable performance at The Opera House. “WE ARE CHTHONIC FROM TAIWAN!”, screamed an all fired-up Freddy Lim to the fans, who promptly responded screaming and raising their fists in the air. The band looked pretty excited to be back in Toronto for the first time since their tour with Arch Enemy in 2011, and their music sounded even more powerful and cohesive this time.

After the beautiful intro Arising Armament, our beloved Taiwanese icons Freddy, Jesse, Dani and, of course, the stunning Doris Yeh, kicked off their concert with the superb song Supreme Pain for the Tyrant, from their 2013 album Bú-Tik, and it was impossible not to scream at full force with them “Let me stand up like a Taiwanese! Only justice will bring you peace!”, lyrics that make total sense even for non-Taiwanese fans like myself. We’re all together in this war, right? By the way, almost the whole setlist was based on the Bú-Tik album, with the exception of the classics Oceanquake and Takao, which closed the show. Highlights to the great songs Sail Into the Sunset’s Fire and Defenders of Bú-Tik Palace, which sounded even more amazing live.

Last but not least, all band members are not only exceptional musicians, but also really good people. It’s easy to be mesmerized by Doris’ performance on stage, or by the unique sound of the erhu beautifully played by Freddy, but things get even better when you have a chance to interact with them offstage. Freddy, Doris and Jesse were extremely relaxed, happy and very, very considerate of all their fans, taking pictures, answering any questions and having a beer with everybody. At least for me, that explains a lot why they are so successful and becoming so important in the world of heavy music. All I can say is THANKS, CHTHONIC! It will always be my pleasure to “stand up like a Taiwanese” with you guys!

Setlist
1. Arising Armament (intro)
2. Supreme Pain for the Tyrant
3. Oceanquake
4. Next Republic
5. Sail Into the Sunset’s Fire
6. Defenders of Bú-Tik Palace
7. Takao 

Band members
Freddy Lim – vocals, erhu
Doris Yeh – bass, backing vocals
Jesse Liu – guitars, backing vocals
Dani Wang – drums
CJ Kao – keyboards*

* Missed the concert in Toronto due to personal issues.

TURISAS

03paganfest toronto_turisasIn my opinion, the show by Finnish Symphonic Power Metal band Turisas was the most anticipated concert of the night, and also the one where you could see the highest amount of smiles on the faces of the crowd. I don’t remember seeing so many people dancing and prancing like yesterday, especially when they played their cover version for the discotheque classic Rasputin, by Boney M., but they kicked ass during the whole gig, of course.

There were very few moments where either the songs were too long or too slow, but the fans didn’t care too much about that and enjoyed every single second of that “Viking fest”. Besides the awesome craziness of Rasputin, the most memorable songs were Battle Metal, Stand Up and Fight and We Ride Together. Did you notice all their best songs are related to battle, courage and loyalty? That’s what has always made Heavy Metal so powerful in regards to inspiring people to face their fears and challenges in life, and I’m sure all fans that are studying, working or doing anything else today are a lot happier and feeling better than during the previous weeks or even months.

The whole band was on fire, especially frontman Mathias “Warlord” Nygård and violinist Olli Vänskä, who didn’t stop banging their heads for a single moment. Those guys love what they do, and will keep on rockin’ for the rest of their lives without a shadow of a doubt.

Band members
Mathias Nygård – vocals
Jussi Wickström – guitar, backing vocal
Jesper Anastasiadis – bass guitar
Jaakko Jakku – drums, percussion
Olli Vänskä – violin, backing vocal

KORPIKLAANI

04paganfest toronto_korpiklaaniAfter Turisas were done, many people had to leave as it was getting really late and they probably had to get ready for a full day at work the next day. Unfortunately those who left missed all the dancing in between concerts when the DJ played some excellent old traditional Finnish songs, but the fans that could stay to the end of the festival were able to enjoy that and, of course, another “dance party” with Finnish Folk Metal band Korpiklaani and their music tailored for drinking beer and dancing with your friends.

It was my first Korpiklaani concert and I was impressed by frontman Jonne Järvelä’s charisma and bassist Jarkko Aaltonen’s technique. Jarkko is a beast with his bass, which could be easily appreciated in fun songs such as Tuonelan Tuvilla, Vodka and Ievan Polkka. How come this awesome bass player has never been mentioned in any lists of “top bassists” that I’ve seen? Or maybe I’m checking the wrong lists? Anyway, it was another great heavy music concert, which made every cent spent with the event ticket even worthier than before.

Band members
Jonne Järvelä – vocals
Kalle “Cane” Savijärvi – guitars
Matti “Matson” Johansson – drums
Jarkko Aaltonen – bass
Tuomas Rounakari – violin
Sami Perttula – accordion

And that was the end of a truly multicultural festival with bands from the United States, Germany, Taiwan and Finland, with fans from several different backgrounds speaking different languages, in the most multicultural city in the world. Honestly, I have no idea how it can get any better than this. Maybe Paganfest VI next year can answer that question, right? Well, until then, I’ll proudly wear my Chthonic’s NEXT REPUBLIC T-shirt on the streets to show everyone that it doesn’t matter if you’re Canadian, Brazilian, Taiwanese, German, Finnish or anything else: if you’re a headbanger, you’re definitely part of the unbreakable and unique republic of HEAVY METAL.

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Concert Review – Helloween (The Opera House,Toronto, ON, 09/28/2013)

Helloween teaches a lesson in Power Metal at a venue too small for the importance of the band in the world of music.

OPENING ACTS: Battlesoul and Coldsteel

When I arrived at the Opera House, the band Battlesoul was already playing for a while, but from what I could see they did not inspire me to go after their songs when I got home. It’s just plain Folk Metal with nothing new added to their music, and the fact they were wearing kilts on stage didn’t help at all. Maybe in the future they can generate something more interesting, or at least improve their vocals because that was really annoying.

Then came Coldsteel with their Thrash Metal similar to what Anthrax used to do in the 80’s, which seems to be a pretty cool idea, but when the band hits the stage it’s not that cool. I didn’t know the band was created back in 1986 and that they got back to life in 2012 after a 20-year hiatus, but anyway they sounded like an amateur band to me. It was almost impossible to hear what the singer was saying between songs, and even worse to understand the lyrics due to the quality of the sound and music. The band had a lot of energy on stage, though, and as their setlist was not too long I didn’t feel bothered at all with their concert.

HELLOWEEN

IMG_0934Honestly, I’ll never understand why Helloween is so underrated in North America. They are so big in Brazil, Europe and Japan, that was hard for me to believe they were playing in such a small venue as the Opera House for less than 800 people. The band that invented Power/Melodic Metal should be playing for over 5,000 people in Canada and the USA, just like it happens in the rest of the world, but it seems North America is more into Thrash and Death Metal, and that no one here really cares about non-American bands.

However, one excellent thing about that is the fact that I had never been able to be so close to the band as during the Toronto gig. I’ve seen Helloween many times in Brazil and one in Russia, but always in huge sold-out venues with at least 3,000 people smashing each other to get closer to the stage. Being able to see in details every riff and solo from Michael Weikath, one of the best Power Metal guitarists of all time, and all the technique from Markus Grosskopf with his bass guitar, was totally awesome!

IMG_0925But the most important member of the band nowadays is Andi Deris. He’s been with Helloween for 20 years now, he’s an awesome frontman, he makes the fans go crazy, and although many “old school” fans keep complaining about his voice and that Michael Kiske should return to the band and blah blah blah, Andi has recorded so many amazing albums (Master of the Rings, The Time of the Oath, The Dark Ride, 7 Sinners and their most recent album, Straight Out of Hell) that I wouldn’t mind at all going to see Helloween playing only songs from the Deris-era. Besides, who wants to listen to anything from the horrible Pink Bubbles Go Ape or Chameleon live?

Back to the concert, the setlist was amazing and the crowd was insane! I’ve never seen so many mosh pits at a Helloween concert. In fact, I’ve NEVER seen ANY mosh pits at a Helloween concert! I guess that happened for a few reasons: as it was a small venue, there were only true Helloween fans there celebrating the band together; when huge bands play at smaller venues, they feel so happy to be back to their origins that they play faster, louder and heavier; North American headbangers love mosh pits more than they love their families; and besides two (beautiful) ballads, Helloween played only the most pure and fast Power Metal music a fan can ask for.

The entire concert was unforgettable, except for that useless drum solo that could have been substituted by another song like Burning Sun (which they’re also playing in some of their concerts instead of Steel Tormentor), and if I need to pick a few songs as the highlights of the night I would say Straight Out of Hell, Waiting for the Thunder and Live Now!, where Andi made that “stupid game” of left and right work even with less than a thousand people there. You sing Live Now! And you… shut the FUCK up!”

IMG_0936Of course people went crazy with classics such as Eagle Fly Free and I’m Alive, but the fact that the best songs of the night were brand new ones just proved Helloween is still very relevant not only to heavy music, but to everybody that enjoys GOOD music. and I really hope next time they come to Toronto they play at a better venue, even if that means I won’t be able to stay so close to my Power Metal heroes and get one of their guitar picks again.

Setlist
For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) (AC/DC tape)
Walls of Jericho (tape/intro)
Eagle Fly Free
Nabataea
Straight Out of Hell
Where the Sinners Go
Waiting for the Thunder
Steel Tormentor
Drum Solo
I’m Alive
Live Now!
Hold Me in Your Arms
If I Could Fly
Hell Was Made in Heaven
Power

Encore:
Are You Metal?
Dr. Stein

Encore II:
Future World
I Want Out
A Tale That Wasn’t Right (tape/outro)

Band members
Andi Deris – lead vocals
Michael Weikath – lead & rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Markus Grosskopf – bass, backing vocals
Sascha Gerstner – lead & rhythm guitar, backing vocals
Daniel Löble – drums