Concert Review – Striker & Unleash The Archers (The Velvet Underground, Toronto, ON, 10/01/2018)

Do you want to know how to easily brave a cold and rainy Monday in Toronto? Striker and Unleash The Archers had the perfect recipe for that last night when they took our beloved city by storm.

OPENING ACT: Lutharö

Not only last night in Toronto was cold and rainy, but it was also a Monday, the day of the week all of us usually feel like doing absolutely nothing. However, when that same Monday offers us a night of pure Canadian Metal with the amazing bands Lutharö, Striker and Unleash The Archers at the small and very cozy The Velvet Underground, why not facing that shitty weather (I know it could have been a lot worse like what they’re having in Calgary now, but it’s still shitty) to meet some friends, enjoy a few beers and bang our fuckin’ heads to the best metal music you’ll find in the entire country? That, my friends, is the recipe for a packed (and hot) concert on what was supposed to be another boring Monday night, as simple as that.

Photos by Aline Cavalheiro – https://www.instagram.com/aline.cavalheiro81/

The first band of the night was Hamilton-based female-fronted squad LUTHARÖ, playing an extremely fun, crisp and pleasant fusion of 80’s Heavy Metal with modern-day Melodic Death Metal the likes of The Agonist and Arch Enemy. Spearheaded by the talented she-wolf Krista Shipperbottom, whose vocal style, hair and looks remind me of The Agonist’s stunning frontwoman Vicky Psarakis, the band delivered a solid performance for the fans at the venue who probably had zero knowledge of the band before the concert. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the names of all songs they played last night, but I do remember the names of my two favorite ones, I of the Axe and their newborn tune Unleash the Beast, and in both cases all band members kicked some serious ass. Having said that, don’t waste your time and go check their music out on YouTube and on BandCamp, and keep an eye on their Facebook page for news and tour dates, because you never know when Krista and her henchmen will mercilessly attack your hometown.

Band members
Krista Shipperbottom – lead vocals
Victor Bucur – lead guitars, backing vocals
John Raposo – guitar
Ruslan Lypovsky – bass
Cory Hofing – drums 

STRIKER

Photos by Aline Cavalheiro – https://www.instagram.com/aline.cavalheiro81/

After a short break, where fans either went to the washroom, got another beer or checked out the merch from the bands, it was time for my favorite Canadian band of the past decade to show everyone at the venue that Canada is indeed a land of first-class Heavy Metal. When award-winning Edmonto-based act STRIKER hit the stage, we all knew it was going to be a heavy, melodic and utterly entertaining performance, kicking things off with the opening track from their 2016 album Stand in the Fire, the electrifying Phoenix Lights, followed by two of my favorite tracks from their latest albums, Born to Lose, from their 2017 self-titled masterpiece Striker, and Heart of Lies, from their brand new opus Play To Win (to be officially released later this month). Needless to say, after such action-packed start, the game was already won by Striker.

And the quintet comprised of frontman Dan Cleary (what a voice, ladies and gentlemen!), guitarists Tim Brown and Chris Segger, bassist William Wallace and drummer Adam Brown kept blasting their fusion of old school Heavy Metal and Hard rock with contemporary Power Metal without giving a single second for us to breathe, impressing us all with their level of energy, professionalism and passion for what they do, with incendiary songs like Former Glory and Pass Me By (both from their 2017 self-titled album), and especially the high-octane Full Speed or No Speed (from their 2010 album Eyes in the Night) and the metal hymn Fight for Your Life (from their 2012 album Armed to the Teeth), representing to perfection what the music by Striker is all about. At a given moment of the show, when Dan was introducing us to the next song to be played (I don’t remember which one he was talking about, but it was of course amazing), he asked the crowd if there were any fans in the house of the music by metal giants like Iron Maiden, Saxon, and Anvil, complementing his joke by saying they were not going to play any of that, but “some old school Striker shit”. Well, who said we were expecting them to play any cover songs? When the band in question is a fantastic one like Striker, we want to listen to their own songs, and I can’t wait to do that again when they return to Toronto in a not-so-distant future.

Setlist
Phoenix Lights
Born to Lose
Heart of Lies
Lethal Force
Crossroads
Former Glory
Too Late
Out for Blood
Pass Me By
Locked In
Full Speed or No Speed
The White Knight
Fight for Your Life

Band members
Dan Cleary – lead vocals
Tim Brown – lead and rhythm guitar
Chris Segger – lead and rhythm guitar
William Wallace – bass
Adam Brown – drums

UNLEASH THE ARCHERS

Photos by Aline Cavalheiro – https://www.instagram.com/aline.cavalheiro81/

I was so entertained and electrified by the concert by Striker that I completely lost track of time, not knowing exactly what time their concert ended and what time the main attraction of the night, the unstoppable Vancouver-based metal warriors known as UNLEASH THE ARCHERS, hit the stage at The Velvet Underground. And keep in mind it was a Monday night, which means most people would be checking their watches all the time counting every minute to go home. Just like Striker delivered a flawless performance, the band led by the warrior princess Brittney Slayes was absolutely on fire on stage from start to finish, inspiring the fans to ignite some mosh pits (all pretty good except for a silly moron with a moustache that was either too drunk, too high or way too stupid to respect everyone else, to the point Brittney had to call his attention to stop acting like a jerk), to do some crowd surfing, to raise our fists in the air and to sing along every single song with them.

Still promoting their 2017 opus Apex, the quintet formed by the skillful, humble and sympathetic Brittney Slayes on vocals (sending hearts with her hands to the fans during the entire show), Grant Truesdell on the guitar, Andrew Kingsley on the  guitar and harsh growls, newcomer Nick Miller on bass and Scott Buchanan on drums returned to the city after three long years, proving how hard it is to travel and tour inside Canada, but that excruciating wait was definitely worth it. Firing the most awesome songs from Apex such as Awakening, The Matriarch and Cleanse the Bloodlines, mixed with battle hymns from their previous albums like Time Stands Still, Tonight We Ride and my favorite of all, Test Your Metal, from their 2015 opus Time Stands Still, Unleash The Archers fully captivated our senses during their whole concert, also showing their awe for the amount of fans that gathered at the venue on a rainy Monday night (and yes, I have to repeat that again) to celebrate metal with them (and to sing A-Ha’s Take On Me which was coming out of the speakers after all was said and done).

Today is Tuesday, most of us might have been really tired the entire day and probably bored at work (as Brittney herself said, fuck work!), but happy to have witnessed a true feast of the best Heavy Metal made in Canada you can think of. As already mentioned, let’s hope none of the bands take too long to return to the city, and that they play at a bigger venue so that a lot more metal maniacs from Toronto and from other parts of the province are able to enjoy the lesson in heavy music given by such distinct bands, even if they play on a snowy Monday night in the middle of the winter, with chilling temperatures and bitterly cold winds. Do you think you have what it takes to ride with Striker and Unleash The Archers under such adverse conditions? If you love metal music as much as I do, I’m sure you’ll be there with us.

Setlist
Intro
Awakening
The Matriarch
Cleanse the Bloodlines
Test Your Metal
Dreamcrusher
Time Stands Still
General of the Dark Army
Tonight We Ride

Encore:
Apex

Band members
Brittney Slayes – vocals
Grant Truesdell – guitar
Andrew Kingsley –  guitar, harsh growls
Nick Miller – bass
Scott Buchanan – drums

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Album Review – Hellfire / Goat Revenge EP (2017)

From the ominous pits of the Ukrainian underworld, comes a triad of black metallers ready to crush your soul with their demolishing debut album.

Are you ready for a demonic storm of Black Metal made in Ukraine, with strong influences from old school Thrash and Death Metal? If instead of simply answering yes you began banging your head and raised your devilish horns, then the darkened, blasphemous music crafted by the vicious power trio known as Hellfire in their debut EP titled Goat Revenge might be exactly what you’re looking for in extreme music. In a little less than 25 minutes, Hellfire unleash sheer fury and hatred upon humanity in Goat Revenge (which by the way features a beyond traditional and macabre artwork by artist Oleg Satanyugin), showcasing all their loyalty and passion for underground Black Metal.

Forged in 2014 in the hellish fires of Kremenchuk, an important industrial city in the Poltava Oblast, in central Ukraine, by lead singer and guitarist Karagh and bassist Necrobaphomet (former members of Ukrainian Black Metal band Paranomia), Hellfire have been gaining a lot of positive feedback wherever they play in their homeland, inspiring the trio to keep moving forward and never turning their backs to traditional Black Metal. If you check their biography online, you’ll see they don’t assign “regular instruments” to themselves, but they use more obscure words to describe their roles in the band. Karagh is responsible for “all guitar holocaust, screams and bulldozer”, Necrobaphomet takes care of the “four strings fornication and obscurant propaganda”, and their third element, drummer Skullcrusher, provides the “drums of doom and coffins”. After reading that, how putrid and aggressive do you think Hellfire might sound?

Goat Revenge starts with an Intro comprised of a minute of flies buzzing, gun shots and ominous sounds, directly followed by the cutting tune Hellmass Attack, where the band delivers devilish Black Metal with huge influences from Death Metal and hints of the badass Rock N’ Roll by Motörhead. Moreover, Karagh blasts pure evilness through his demonic growls and metallic riffs, boosting the song’s already visceral sonority. Following a similar pattern from its predecessor, the title-track Goat Revenge is led by the infernal and rhythmic beats by Skullcrusher, while its main riff will incite you to bang your head nonstop. In addition to that, Karagh sounds filthier on vocals than before, with Necrobaphomet maintaining a high level of obscurity in the music with his roaring bass guitar.

War Apocalypse Battery, another thunderous, badass composition by Hellfire and a mandatory choice for their live performances, presents a solid melody without abandoning the band’s old school sonority thanks to the amazing job done by all band members, in special Karagh with his fiery guitar; whereas investing in a darker and more visceral Black Metal sounding, the power trio fires pure hatred and evil through their music in Field of Screams, with Skullcrusher doing justice to his nickname by pounding his drums manically. And adding some groove to their musicality, Unholy Cult presents a more rhythmic display of their blasphemous Black Metal, with Karagh and Necrobaphomet slashing their strings in a powerful way while Skullcrusher takes care of the intricacy in the music through his beats.

Unleash the Beast is the closest the band gets to the most primeval form of Black Metal, with the song’s fiendish gnarls and blast beats impregnating the air and disturbing our minds. Not only that, Karagh once again offers the listener trenchant riffs during the whole song, and maybe because it’s the longest of all tracks it’s also the one presenting the highest amount of progressiveness and variations, resulting in an amazing full-flavored Extreme Metal chant. Lastly, the band hits us ruthlessly with their most vile fusion of Black and Death Metal titled Lord of the Mighty Horns, one more great option for their live concerts. The drumming by Skullcrusher reminds me of old school Cannibal Corpse, while Necrobaphomet leads the song’s pugnacious ending with his rumbling bass lines, concluding the album on an extremely savage note.

If you have the guts to brave the ominous pits of the Ukrainian underworld to the sound of Hellfire, simply visit their Facebook or VKontakte for news about the band (including their tour dates if you live in Ukraine or if you’re planning on visiting the country anytime soon), listen to Goat Revenge on Spotify, and purchase your copy of the album at the Witches Brew’s BandCamp or webshop, on iTunes or on Amazon. Hellfire will certainly crush your soul with their unrelenting Black Metal, which in the end is everything you crave when listening to good extreme music, right?

Best moments of the album: Hellmass Attack, War Apocalypse Battery and Unleash the Beast.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Witches Brew/Iron County Records

Track listing
1. Intro 0:53
2. Hellmass Attack 2:43
3. Goat Revenge 3:37
4. War Apocalypse Battery 3:44
5. Field of Screams 2:29
6. Unholy Cult 2:53
7. Unleash the Beast 4:39
8. Lord of the Mighty Horns 3:24

Band members
Karagh – guitars, vocals
Necrobaphomet – bass
Skullcrusher – drums