Concert Review – Iron Maiden (Budweiser Stage, Toronto, ON, 08/09/2019)

How about witnessing the almighty Iron Maiden and their Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019 from the best spot of the Budweiser Stage in Toronto on a perfect summer day?

INTRODUCTION: First To The Barrier

Thousands of fans from all over the world, a perfect sunny day, a lot of (overpriced) beer, and another memorable performance by the unparalleled Iron Maiden at the Budweiser Stage to shake the foundations of our beloved city of Toronto. That would have already been a damn good summary of the night if I hadn’t been one of the 40 lucky bastards (plus one guest each) from the Iron Maiden Fan Club who were chosen to get into the venue before the rest of the crowd and bag the best spot at the barrier, which is obviously right at the front. That’s what’s called the FIRST TO THE BARRIER (or FTTB if you’re a fan of acronyms) experience, a fun but quite exhausting adventure as you have to be there at the venue several hours before the concert starts, most of the time without food or anything to drink, and if you move or try to go to the washroom you simply lose your spot and all that effort will be in vain.

Fortunately, I can say I’m good at standing for hours waiting for a concert to start without eating or drinking anything, and all I can say is that the whole experience was more than amazing. What an unforgettable night in another celebration of classic Heavy Metal, where all fans had the chance to not only sing and scream lots of classic together with the band, but a night where we were also able to make new friends, uniting our metal universe even more. Even if you’re not part of the Iron Maiden Fan Club, you can try to be someone’s guest by asking people on Facebook’s FTTB Public Group if they have a spare available when the band takes your city by storm. That’s totally worth it, and that’s how I met a very nice Maidenmaniac who drove hours from Montreal wearing his Aces High pilot hat to join me a couple of feet from the stage from around 5pm until the end of the show.

OPENING ACT: THE RAVEN AGE

Let’s say the only part of the day that wasn’t exactly fun was having to endure British Melodic Groove Metal act THE RAVEN AGE’s performance in full from the first row without having the option to simply ignore them and go grab a beer. Formed in 2009, this London, England-based band has just released a new album named Conspiracy, featuring new vocalist Matt James, who joined the band in 2018. I’m not going to say it was a bad concert, but I think due to the fact those boys are still trying to find their core essence, playing a confused mix of Power, Thrash, Death and Heavy Metal with Hard Rock and even Southern Rock, it was tough to follow them and to actually enjoy their concert. There were a few good moments, though, like the opening song Betrayal of the Mind and the closing tune Angel in Disgrace, especially the last one as it was the heaviest and most detailed of their setlist, but overall it wasn’t the warmup I was expecting for the main attraction of the night. And believe me, standing there for almost one hour listening to something you don’t really enjoy was not what we can call a nice experience. On a side note, both guitarists Dan Wright and George Harris (and yes, he is Steve Harris’ son) are quite talented and have a great future in heavy music. Just maybe not with The Raven Age, unless they stop trying to sound like a generic version of Trivium or Avenged Sevenfold and find their own sound in the future.

Setlist
Bloom of the Poison Seed
Betrayal of the Mind
Promised Land
Surrogate
The Day the World Stood Still
The Face that Launched a Thousand Ships
Fleur De Lis
Grave of the Fireflies
Seventh Heaven
Angel in Disgrace

Band members
Matt James – vocals
Dan Wright – guitar
George Harris – guitar
Matt Cox – bass
Jai Patel – drums

IRON MAIDEN

Finally after a short break, when it was around 9pm, the almighty IRON MAIDEN hit the stage to stun us all with their flawless Legacy of the Beast Tour 2019, obviously inspired by their successful mobile game Legacy of the Beast (don’t forget you can also follow the game’s official Facebook page for news, updates and other shenanigans). As a matter of fact, the short and sweet video showing scenes from the game and several of its versions of our beloved Eddie (most of them already available as Legacy of the Beast Figurines), while the classic instrumental tune Transylvania was playing in the background, was more than enough to warm up our senses for the metallic hurricane that was about to start, but we all needed of course to sing in unison UFO’s all-time classic Doctor Doctor and scream the spoken words from Churchill’s Speech to properly invite Bruce Dickinson, Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith, Janick Gers and Nicko McBrain to crush our minds with my favorite Iron Maiden song of all time, the one and only Aces High, while a giant airplane was “flying” above their heads.

That beyond epic start was followed by an avalanche of the band’s old and not-so-old classics, with Where Eagles Dare, The Clansman, The Wicker Man and Flight of Icarus being the highlights of the night for me. By the way, Bruce’s speech before The Clansman was quite fun, where he “complained” about the fact an Australian (Mel Gibson) portrayed one of the most important Scotsmen of all time, Mr. William Wallace. The song was played to perfection, of course, with all 15 thousand fans at the Budweiser Stage screaming “FREEDOM!” together with Bruce & Co. at the top of their lungs (including of course this guy here that’s writing this review). Another memorable and extremely funny moment was when Bruce’s flame thrower just stopped working in the middle of Flight of Icarus, and after blowing raspberries (yes, he did that), why not showing everything he got by beautifully and powerfully screaming “FLY AS HIGH AS THE SUN” to end the song in great fashion? We might not have had Bruce’s flames in our faces, but we got something even better than that, his unique, trademark high-pitched scream piercing our ears and minds.

It was also amazing to witness all fans singing together with the band even the longest and most obscure songs (or maybe not as classic as the others) of their setlist, those being For the Greater Good of God and Sign of the Cross, proving once again not only Iron Maiden’s newest creations are still meaningful and appreciated, but also that it doesn’t really matter how long their songs are, they are never ever tiresome or boring. And what to say about the poetry found in the lyrics for the gorgeous Revelations? I’ll never get tired of witnessing Bruce declaiming those dark and touching lyrics live, no doubt about that. Well, after almost two hours of perfection, with an encore that brought to our avid ears the insanely awesome The Evil That Men Do, Hallowed Be Thy Name and Run to the Hills (needless to say, all three perfectly executed), it was time to enjoy Monty Python’s inspiring hymn Always Look on the Bright Side of Life and get ready to see the boys in action once again on Saturday. Because you know, one Iron Maiden concert is never enough.

Setlist
Transylvania
Doctor Doctor (UFO song)
Churchill’s Speech

Aces High
Where Eagles Dare
2 Minutes to Midnight
The Clansman
The Trooper
Revelations
For the Greater Good of God
The Wicker Man
Sign of the Cross
Flight of Icarus
Fear of the Dark
The Number of the Beast
Iron Maiden

Encore:
The Evil That Men Do
Hallowed Be Thy Name
Run to the Hills
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life (Monty Python song)

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
Steve Harris – bass
Dave Murray – guitar
Adrian Smith – guitar
Janick Gers – guitar
Nicko McBrain – drums

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

Collectibles Review – Iron Maiden Legacy of the Beast Figurines

Be part of the legacy with the new collection of first-class figurines inspired by Iron Maiden’s award-winning RPG mobile game.

If you’re an avid Iron Maiden follower, always eager to see what’s next in the career of our beloved Heavy Metal behemoths, I’m pretty sure you have already seen online or even downloaded and played their mobile game Legacy of the Beast, released in 2017, where you are able to battle as Eddie across several different worlds inspired by the band’s unique imagery and music. What you might not know is that Iron Maiden, in a partnership with a multi-faceted production company called Incendium, are also offering their fans a collection of high-quality action figures called Legacy of the Beast Figurines, based on several characters from their award-winning RPG game. There are two types of figurines available, the ones you can see what you’re buying and the ones that come in a blind box, something tons of other manufacturers do for different collections based on movies, cartoons and TV shows where they lower the cost of the blind box, but you always end up spending more money than you have available by buying several boxes (because you never know what you’re going to get).

The ones you can see what you’re buying are a no-brainer, highly recommended for embellishing your “altar of Heavy Metal” together with all your other metal-inspired memorabilia, those being the SHAMAN EDDIE (inspired by their 2015 masterpiece The Book of Souls), the VAMPIRE HUNTER EDDIE (inspired by their 1980 instrumental classic Transylvania), and the TROOPER EDDIE, all costing around CAD$ 32.43 (or US$24.95). These highly detailed 1:24 scale PVC figures measure about 4-inches tall and come on a special theme base, packaged in a diorama-style window box. As I said, whenever you see one of those, simply buy them because they kick some serious ass. However, while searching for those Eddies you might actually find a blind box containing one of the 12 different individual characters featured in the Legacy of the Beast Wave 1 Limited Edition Figurines, and that’s when the “problem” beings because as already mentioned you have no idea what character you’re buying. Those 12 figurines and the chance of getting a particular one are:

Goddess Aset figurine – 1:12
Clairvoyant figurine – 2:12
Cyborg figurine – 1:60
Holy Smokes figurine – 2:12
Owl Cultist figurine – 1:12
Pharaoh figurine – 1:12
Rainmaker figurine – 1:12
Reaper figurine – 1:12
Samurai figurine – 1:94
Soulless Demon figurine – 1:12
Speed of Light figurine – 3:24
Wicker Boss figurine – 1:12

Heights of figurines vary, and are typically 9cm high including the stand, but of course the selection is absolutely random (based on the chances listed above) and you cannot ask the manufacturer for a specific item, nor can they accept returns on opened items. This means once you buy a blind box, it’s yours forever (unless you sell it on eBay or Kijiji), and that you may receive duplicates when ordering more than one item. For instance, I bought only one box and got the Clairvoyant, by far the most boring of all characters by the way, but it is what it is, and if I had bought two boxes I might have gotten two Clairvoyants. You can buy only ONE BLIND BOX for around CAD$ 19.43 (or US$ 14.95), or you can try your luck buying a special BLIND BOX MASTER CASE containing 12 individual blind boxes for around CAD$ 233.92 (or US$ 179.95). But again, keep in mind if you buy the carton with 12 blind boxes, you might end up getting 12 Clairvoyants instead of the Samurai and the Cyborg you wanted so much.

Apart from Iron Maiden’s official webstore, you can also find the Legacy of the Beast Figurines on sale from the Incendium webstore, as well as from Hot Topic (and they have the Shaman Eddie, the Vampire Hunter Eddie, the Trooper Eddie and the individual blind boxes in stock). Furthermore, you can always keep an eye on Iron Maiden’s official Facebook page and/or the Iron Maiden: Legacy of the Beast’s official Facebook page for news and other announcements about the game itself and giveaways. Yes, they’re giving away special packages of figurines to a few lucky fans every week or so, like this Legacy of the Beast Comic-Con Giveaway containing Trooper Eddie, Vampire Hunter Eddie, Shaman Eddie, six random blind box figures and three pin sets. And remember this is just wave 1, which means more awesome characters are coming whenever waves 2, 3, 4 and so on are released (and I truly hope that happens sooner than later).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Album Review – Gothic / Demons (2017)

One of the most respected bands in the history of Romanian metal powerfully unleashes their “demons” upon mankind with their heavy and melodic new album.

Rating4

gothic-demonsEstablished back in 1992 by guitarist and singer Alin Petrut in the heart of the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania, Romania, Melodic Death Metal band Gothic has quickly become one of the most respected metal bands in the country, having played alongside giants like Manowar, Dimmu Borgir, Europe, Korpiklaani, Gojira and Napalm Death, among many others. Even after changing the band’s name to Ali(e)n and then to Innerfire in 2003 when Alin re-located the band to Belgium, the band kept building a strong reputation among metalheads all over Europe, returning to their hometown Petrosani in 2005 again under the name Gothic (as a separate entity from the still-active Innerfire) and culminating with their participation in the 2012 edition of Wacken Open Air after winning the Romanian finals of Wacken Metal Battle that year.

Exactly 25 years after the band’s inception, Alin and his Gothic are back with Demons, their first full-length album since their 2013 release Expect the Worst. Displaying a darkly beautiful artwork by the band’s own bassist Csaba “Taly” Talpai, and featuring for the first time George Lazar on harsh vocals and Vlad Golgotiu on drums, Demons is definitely Gothic’s most professional and multilayered album to date, blending the classic sonority from the band’s extensive career together with fresh new elements from modern metal music. After listening to this cohesive and melodic album, it won’t be hard for you to understand why Gothic play such an important part in the history of Romanian metal.

In the opening track Shadow Man you’ll quickly notice their musicality is not really “Gothic” as the band’s name states, but fast, melodic and aggressive music, a great mix of traditional Death Metal with contemporary Melodic Death Metal where Alin delivers some sick, heavy riffs while George blasts pure fury through his guttural growls; followed by the excellent Disillusion, also exhibiting a similar Heavy/Death Metal hybrid vibe. This song presents a good headbanging pace with neck-breaking riffs by Alin, getting symphonic and futuristic at times due to the spot-on keyboards by Florian Lysy, not to mention its vengeful lyrics (“We grew apart / Betrayed our hearts / Our souls are black / Our minds are flack / You wanted that / Now take it back in your face”).

gothicIn the first single of the album, the title-track Demons, Alin, Taly and Vlad add a lot of groove and heaviness to the musicality, setting the stage for George to growl even deeper, feeling like a mix of Hard Rock with Gothic, Doom and Melodic Death Metal ideal for the song’s lyrics (“I feel their breath inside my dream / The darkness stains around me / A web of black, surrounding scent / The night is growing senseless.”). In Catacombs, which starts in a pleasant, harmonious and exciting way with Taly blasting a thunderous sound from his bass guitar, we face a magnificent balance between the havoc generated by all band members and the extremely melodic guitar solos and keyboards, whereas in Time, an upbeat composition by Alin and his henchmen, Vlad delivers precision and anger through his beats, and despite losing a bit of its electricity in the end it’s still a very enjoyable song.

Destroying the Masses, a powerful chant where Gothic displays their darkest side, brings forward a menacing atmosphere and deep guttural vocals closer to old school Death Metal, while modernity comes from the metallic riffs by Alin. And it seems the band really wants to crush our necks with their sick riffs and beats in From Within, with elements from traditional Heavy Metal added to its Melodic Death Metal sonority to make it even more harmonious. Last but not least we have A New End, a melancholic and passionate composition sung entirely in Romanian (which in my opinion is an interesting variation from the rest of the album) and featuring guest vocalist Klaus Pardos, offering the listener the heaviest version of modern Hard Rock you can think of.

Are you ready to face the heavy music engendered by these talented Romanian demons? If your answer is yes, you can follow all things Gothic at their official Facebook page and check their latest videos (including some fun tour diaries) at their YouTube channel, as well as purchase Demons at Loud Rage Music’s BandCamp or webstore. Gothic are unleashing their high-end Melodic Death Metal upon mankind with their brand new album, and if I were you I wouldn’t miss this great opportunity to get in touch with the music by such respected underground band.

Best moments of the album: Disillusion, Catacombs and Destroying the Masses.

Worst moments of the album: Time.

Released in 2017 Loud Rage Music

Track listing
1. Shadow Man 5:01
2. Disillusion 5:42
3. Demons 3:53
4. Catacombs 6:04
5. Time 4:55
6. Destroying the Masses 4:34
7. From Within 4:04
8. A New End (feat. Klaus Pardos) 5:13

Band members
Alin Petrut – guitar, clean vocals
George Lazar – harsh vocals
Csaba “Taly” Talpai – bass
Vlad Golgotiu – drums

Guest musician
Florian Lysy – keyboards
Klaus Pardos – vocals on “A New End”

Metal Chick of the Month – Morgan Lacroix

morgan01

In your nightmares you will find me… In this twilight you will taste my embrace…

Whenever a female performer is selected to be the Metal Chick of the Month here at The Headbanging Moose, she’s not chosen only because of her skills as a musician, but mainly due to her significant contribution to the development of women in the world of heavy music. Having said that, it couldn’t be different this month with our metallic diva, the darkling Italian succubus Morgan Lacroix (or MorgaN LacroiX), the sexy frontwoman, lyricist, composer, producer and (why not?) lady vampire of Italian Gothic/Dark/Industrial Metal band Mandragora Scream (also spelled MandragorA ScreaM). Are you ready for a journey through the dark realms of vampirism with our enigmatic modern-day medusa?

It was more than obvious that I wouldn’t be able to find anything about Morgan’s age, place of birth or music background. We’re talking about a vampire, creatures that, above all things, must remain in the shadows and keep their lives as secret as possible. Well, as Mandragora Scream is a band from the comune of Lucca, located on the Serchio river in Italy’s Tuscany region and famous for its intact Renaissance-era city walls, let’s assume she was also born in that same city. Whatever she did between being born and founding Mandragora Scream is something yet to be revealed by Morgan Lacroix herself, which means the focus will be solely on her career with the band.

Although Mandragora Scream were formed back in 1997 by Morgan, it was only in 1999 that the band released its debut self-titled demo containing four songs. Then in 2000 Morgan was introduced to Italian singer, guitarist and composer Terry Horn, and that artistic union resulted in their first full-length album, entitled Fairy Tales from Hell’s Caves, released in the year of 2001. According to the band, “Fairy Tales is definitely a concept album: a trip throughout the Dantean Hell, tormented by passion, anguish and insanity, where the character of Virgil is surprisingly replaced by an unusual bewitching vampire fairy.”

After that amazing debut, the band released the albums A Whisper of Dew (2003), Madhouse (2006), Volturna (2009) and Luciferland (2012), as well as the singles Jeanne d’Arc (2007) and From the Heart (2010), and a DVD named Dragonfly (2008), always providing us the lustful voice of our diva of darkness and also her own devilish touch to all lyrics, cover artwork, mixing, mastering, production and booklets. In addition, from those releases, A Whisper of Dew is also a concept album, centered on a vampire story purposely written for the band by Julio Angel Olivares Merino, horror-gothic literature writer and teacher of English Philosophy at the Spanish University of Jaén. Drawing inspiration from this tale, Lacroix composed the entire album lyrics. Also, in regards to their latest album Luciferland, there’s an interesting and extensive three-part interview on YouTube where both Morgan and Terry discuss about the album with Metal Hammer, which can be seen HERE, HERE and HERE.

Mandragora Scream are also featured on the international compilations Beauty in the Darkness Vol. 5 (2001), Mystic Art (2001), Nuclear Blast Vol. 6 (2001), Off Road Tracks Vol. 45 (2003) and Beautiful Voices (2005), toured with renowned dark bands Christian Death and The 69 Eyes in 2010 and with British Extreme Metal masters Cradle of Filth in 2011, and were the special guests in the 2010 edition of the Fantasy Horror Award. There are numerous videos on YouTube (and other platforms) where you can relish Morgan’s alluring vocals, sensuous moves and bewitching performance, as for instance in the songs A Vision They Shared, Blight Thrills, Medusa, Blindness, Breaking Dawn, Silent Lullabies, Bloody Ballade, the whimsical The Chant of Furies, and her awesome cover version for Cher’s Bang Bang, among others. Besides her work with Mandragora Scream, you can find Madame Lacroix lending her voice to the bonus song Watch Me Crawl Behind, from the 2012 album Happy Deathday by Greek Gothic Metal band SadDolls, and to the song The Promise, from the 2004 album Follow Me by Italian Power Metal band Wonderland.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When asked in 2001 to provide more details about the history of Mandragora Scream, her explanation was beyond eccentric. In her own words, “The history of the name Mandragora Scream goes back to the medieval period. At that time witches used a root to make love and death potions called ‘Mandragora’.This root with man-shape was generated by the ejaculations of a hanged man and it needed to be pulled out from the earth with particular magic rites during full moon nights. When extracting the root from earth, witches had to be very careful not to break the arms or legs of the root, otherwise it would have screamed so loud to bring witches to death.” Interesting, isn’t it?

In regards to her unique style, our vampire queen mentioned her lyrics and the atmosphere found in her music reflect her soul, her life and her personality, preserving that way her own musical identity. Furthermore, Morgan grew up with fairy tales, in which she truly believes, feeling and living her own life like a fairy tale. In one of her old interviews, Morgan mentioned she wrote a book (probably in 2000) that is a fairy tale for her angels in the form of decadent poetry called “The Ballad Of The Angels”, but yet again I couldn’t find anything online about that book. It should be a very interesting and unusual reading, if that has ever been published, of course.

Another remarkable fact about her personal life is that she doesn’t actually feel Italian as her ancient blood is Transylvanian, and because of that she is fascinated with Dante’s La Divina Comedia (The Divine Comedy), considering it a masterpiece (who doesn’t?) as it deals with the dead and eternal pain.  And to make things even more complex, Morgan also loves the Scandinavian culture and is attracted to Vikings. Add to that her lovely obsession for fairy tales, and there you have one of the most distinctive and diverse fusion of topics you can think of.

Her favorite albums of all time are a classy mix of progressiveness, passion and liveliness, and do not expect to find anything too Gothic, modern or ghoulish on her list, as it includes Blackmore’s Night’s best album to date Shadow of the Moon, Dream Theater’s classic album Metropolis, Pink Floyd’s masterpiece The Dark Side of the Moon, King Crimson’s In the Wake of Poseidon, Yes’ Close to the Edge and Genesis’ Nursery Crime. In addition to that, she’s also a huge admirer of Queensrÿche and obviously of the vocals by Geoff Tate, especially the song Someone Else?, which she used to listen to when she started singing.

At long last, are you curious to know what the meaning of life and death is to our goddess of Dark Metal? Morgan firmly believes in reincarnation, which means life for her is a long path we are following and while we walk along this path we have to learn lessons, sometimes highly spiritual lessons. She completes her train of thought by saying that we always have to give our souls a chance to fly a little higher, closer to the divine, and that we could probably say that death is a little like “changing skin”. In my opinion, this is a stunning concept by an even more stunning diva of heavy music.

Morgan Lacroix’s Official Facebook page
Morgan Lacroix’s Official Twitter
Mandragora Scream’s Official Facebook page
Mandragora Scream’s Official Twitter

“Try and wake up the valiant warrior sleeping within you, he may have fallen asleep in one of your previous lives. And, first and foremost, don’t let your flesh be just food for worms.  Let there be someone with your blood after you, in this way you’ll be able to prove you did not live in vain and your image will be reflected by your heirs as if in a mirror.” – Morgan Lacroix