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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Album Review – Accept / The Rise of Chaos (2017)

Let total chaos and destruction rise to the sound of the brand new album by the unstoppable Teutonic masters of Heavy Metal.

I guess I might have already said that with different words in my review for the excellent Blind Rage, from 2014, but I can guarantee you that you can buy any album by German Heavy Metal institution Accept from the Mark Tornillo-era without even listening to a single second of it, and you won’t regret your decision at all. Quite the contrary, you’ll always be treated to the cream of Teutonic metal music, just like what happens with pretty much every new release by traditional German acts such as Rage, Grave Digger, Kreator, Primal Fear and Helloween, and that trend goes on in 2017 with another sensational release by Wolf Hoffmann, Mark Tornillo & Co., titled The Rise of Chaos, the fifteenth studio album in their unparalleled career.

The Rise of Chaos, which by the way was released just one day after their memorable performance at Wacken Open Air this year, is their first album with guitarist Uwe Lulis (Grave Digger, Giftdwarf) and drummer Christopher Williams (War Within, Blackfoot), replacing Herman Frank and Stefan Schwarzmann, respectively. The album is also the first of their career to feature the amazing art by Hungarian artist Gyula Havancsák, from Hjules Illustration and Design (who has already worked through the years with iconic bands like Grave Digger, Destruction and Annihilator), perfectly representing the chaotic and desperate situation our society has been through lately, as well as all the power and electricity flowing from the top-tier Heavy Metal played by Accept.

The initial guitars by the flammable duo Wolf and Uwe already send a clear message of the old school feast that’s about to start in Die by the Sword, showcasing classic kick-ass Accept with a modern twist to avoid sounding outdated. It’s simply impossible not to raise your fists and sing its blackened, catchy lyrics together with the band (“We’re sinking deeper in a world of darkness / It’s kill or be killed from the day we are born / We’re an evil seed from the soul of a serpent / An evil breed in a valley of thorns”), I should say. In Hole in the Head the whole band keeps blasting sheer awesomeness in the form of our good old Heavy Metal, with Christopher being precise and groovy on drums while Mark sounds, as usual, fantastic with his raspy, melodic vocals in this mid-tempo dark tune. And the title-track The Rise of Chaos, an apocalyptic hymn poised to become a classic, could be considered the epitome of the new Accept that was reborn with the superb Blood of the Nations, from 2010, bringing fast and thrilling riffs, spot-on bass and drums, and a classy performance by Mark on vocals.

Inspired by the November 1978 Jonestown deaths, in which over 900 members of the Peoples Temple, who were followers of Jim Jones, died, many of whom committed suicide by drinking a mixture of a powdered soft-drink flavoring agent laced with cyanide and prescription drugs Valium, Phenergan, and chloral hydrate, while the rest of the members, including 89 infants and elderly, were killed by forced ingestion of the poison, the rockin’ tune Koolaid is a beyond fun composition by Wolf and his crew, perfect for their live performances or to sing by yourself while driving on the highway (“Running through the jungle / Way back in ’78 / Here’s the story of the people’s temple / And my great escape / Communing with a madman / The promise of utopia / White nights, suicide drills / Shades of things to come”). Perhaps the most important message in the end should be: don’t drink the Koolaid, no matter what the preacher says! Anyway, back to the album we have No Regrets, one of the heaviest songs of all where Christopher speeds up the pace while bassist Peter Baltes keeps his bass rumbling in the background. This is traditional and straightforward German metal the way we like it, with highlights to the excellent guitar solo face-off between Wolf and Uwe; followed by Analog Man, a song that’s not only an ode to the 80’s, but it definitely feels it was actually written in the 80’s. What a fun metal hymn to sing along with those “old school sons of bitches trapped in this digital hell”, with Mark’s amazing vocals being effectively supported by the song’s traditional backing vocals. There’s no way not to get addicted to its cheesy lyrics (“I was born in a cave, when stereo was all the rage / Gatefold vinyl and eight tracks ruled the world / Now there’s flat screens in 3D / My cell phone’s smarter than me / I can’t keep up, my brains are beginning to burn”), and what to say about the dial-up internet sound at the end?

And Wolf, Mark and the rest of the guys are absolutely on fire, delivering another powerful tune full of electrified riffs, potent drums and a true headbanging rhythm, titled What’s Done Is Done, which can be described in short as four minutes of top-notch Accept for our avid ears, whereas the trademark guitar lines by Wolf ignite one more blast of awesome Heavy Metal named Worlds Colliding, with Mark putting his heart and soul into delivering the message from the song’s lyrics in the most beautiful way possible. Moreover, the guitar solos provided by Wolf and Uwe throughout the song are just superb, adding a lot of electricity to this already kick-ass composition. But if you’re a fan of their faster creations, then Carry the Weight is tailored for you, with Christopher keeping the energy level really high while Wolf and Uwe continue their slashing attack, resulting in a more-than-recommended alternative to cheer you up when facing tough times and situations (as Mark says during the song, don’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders). And closing another flawless album by this iconic German institution we have more old school Heavy Metal in the form of the solid tune Race to Extinction, where an imposing intro turns into a dark and harmonious display of classic metal sounds led by Mark’s vigorous voice and the sharp riffs by Wolf and Uwe.

What else can be said about Accept and their unstoppable Heavy Metal killing machine that hasn’t been said yet? They have delivered to us, crazy metalheads, four first-class albums of old school metal music in a row since Mark joined the band back in 2009, and based on the amount of passion they put on creating each one of their electrifying songs it doesn’t seem that they’re planning to call it quits anytime soon. If you want to add The Rise of Chaos to your Accept collection (and you certainly should), there are several awesome options available at the Nuclear Blast webstore, all of them bringing to you the best soundtrack imaginable to watch all the chaos and destruction caused by mankind rise. And if the world as we know it is indeed coming to an end, can we ask it to “wait” until Accept release at least one more album of superior Heavy Metal like this one?

Best moments of the album: Die by the Sword, The Rise of Chaos, Koolaid, Analog Man and Worlds Colliding.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2017 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Die by the Sword 5:00
2. Hole in the Head 4:01
3. The Rise of Chaos 5:16
4. Koolaid 4:58
5. No Regrets 4:20
6. Analog Man 4:10
7. What’s Done Is Done 4:08
8. Worlds Colliding 4:28
9. Carry the Weight 4:33
10. Race to Extinction 5:24

Band members
Mark Tornillo – lead vocals
Wolf Hoffmann – guitar
Uwe Lulis – guitar
Peter Baltes – bass guitar
Christopher Williams – 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

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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.

Movie Review – Wacken 3D – Louder Than Hell (2014)

Experience the biggest metal festival in the world, in 3D, and louder than hell.

Rating4

Wacken 3DIt’s undeniable that Wacken Open Air is the biggest, most exciting and most badass Heavy Metal festival in the entire world. For instance, it only takes couple of days after the festival is over for the next year’s edition to be sold out. If you’ve already had the indescribable pleasure of attending this 4-day monstrous gathering in your life (and I’m pretty sure that if the answer is “yes” you’ve already repeated that metallic ritual many times through the years) you have the chance to go back in time and feel that energy again by watching the awesome documentary entitled WACKEN 3D – LOUDER THAN HELL. And if you’ve never been to Wacken, this is your chance to take a special journey to the heart of the festival, with the 3D screening making you feel like you’re right there with over 75,000 metalheads from all over the world celebrating life and heavy music.

Filmed with 18 stereoscopic 3D cameras during the 2013 edition of the festival, this excellent documentary by award-winning director Norbert Heitker will show you exactly what happens once a year to a calm farming village in the middle of a Northern German countryside, when it becomes the centre of the universe for all things metal. You’ll be able to see in details what it is to camp at Wacken, the daily routine of fans and bands, what musicians think of the festival, and even go crowd-surfing and mud-diving with the more lunatic fans. Not only that, you’ll also have a good time watching some electrifying performances by metal giants such as Deep Purple, Anthrax, Motörhead, Rammstein, Alice Cooper, Lamb Of God, and many more.

12_WackenIn my opinion, as a huge supporter of the underground of heavy music, the best part of the entire documentary is when they focus on some of the national winners of the already famous Wacken Metal Battle, showing what it is to be an up-and-coming band playing at the most important metal festival on earth. There are awesome bands from Uruguay, Romania, Canada and so on showcasing their music to thousands of fans, but my favorite one in terms of creativity and feeling were the Chinese Metal Battle winners Nine Treasures. All members of the band are from Inner Mongolia, with all lyrics being sung in Mongolian, which is beyond incredible. You have to watch it to understand what I’m talking about, and if one day those guys read this review, I would like to ask them to kindly send us their material for review. It would be a huge pleasure for us at The Headbanging Moose to do that.

06_WackenIn case you live in Canada and do not have any plans for tonight (well, even if you do have plans you should definitely cancel them), there will be a special WACKEN 3D – LOUDER THAN HELL “One Night Only Across Canada” event today, October 29 at 7:30pm at several Cineplex theaters. You can check more details at the official Facebook event, see where the movie will be playing by clicking HERE, and also grab your tickets at the official Cineplex website. In addition, following the Cineplex Yonge-Dundas screening in Toronto, Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner of Anvil will be in attendance for a Q&A, and if you cannot make it today but you live near Ottawa the movie will also be playing soon at the Mayfair Theatre, located at 1074 Bank Street, Ottawa, Ontario.

Best moments of the movie: The unique moments of glory provided by the Wacken Metal Battle bands from different countries, the iconic Rammstein playing Du Hast with thousands of fans screaming the lyrics together with the band and, of course, all the classy mud scenes.

Worst moments of the movie: The fact that there were no subtitles when a fan or a band spoke in a language different than English, especially when it was in German. At least the version I saw had no subtitles. Oh, and unfortunately there were no interviews with Lemmy.

Released in 2014 Jumpseat 3Dplus/Wüste Film

Bands and artists featured in the documentary
Rammstein
Alice Cooper
Deep Purple
Motörhead
Henry Rollins
Trivium
Ragnarok
Lamb Of God
Annihilator
Anthrax
…and many more!

Album Review – Slayer / Repentless (2015)

Live fast, on high, repentless, and always listen to Slayer.

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Slayer_RepentlessGet the most blasphemous Black Metal band in the world, mix it with the goriest Death Metal act you can think of, and even after that you won’t get close to the wickedness that American Thrash Metal masters Slayer have been providing us all since their inception in 1981. They’re the meanest, the most badass and, above all, the most unrepentant band in the history of mankind. And it’s due to their obstinacy and devotion to their roots that this undisputed band has dauntlessly braved the darkest period of their lives, marked by the terrible loss of the one and only Jeff Hanneman (R.I.P.) in 2013, to finally release the eleventh studio album in their distinct career, the raging Repentless.

However, as the guys from Monty Python would say, “always look on the bright side of life”, which in the case of Slayer translates into Tom Araya and Kerry King recruiting Mr. Gary Holt to the band (the guitar behemoth and mastermind behind another of my favorite bands, American Thrash Metal warriors Exodus), and also the return of the beast Paul Bostaph behind the drums for the first time since their 2001 onslaught God Hates Us All. You can get a good sense of the entire process until Repentless was finalized by watching some amazing videos from their official YouTube channel, including the “enlistment” of Gary and the recording of drums, always noticing how Slayer never lost their core essence amidst such turbulence and grief in their recent past.

Delusions of Saviour, a profane intro the likes of the spine-chilling “Darkness of Christ” (by the way, Repentless has tons of similarities to what Slayer did in God Hates Us All), opens the gates of hell for the piercing riffs by Kerry and Gary in the title-track Repentless, where a deeply infuriated Paul proves why he deserved to be back to the place where he thrived the most in his career. This awesome tune mixes the musicality of their latest albums, with its Hardcore/Punk Rock vibe being perfect for its main objective which, according to the band, is working like a tribute to the deceased Jeff through its simple but effective lyrics (“My songs relive the atrocities of war / Can’t take society any fuckin’ more / Intensity, anarchy, hatred amplified / Playing this shit is all that keeps me alive / I leave it all on the road living on the stage / This is my life where I kill it everyday / So take your shot, bottom’s up, this is no lie / I’ll be beating this guitar ’til the day I die / Live fast, on high / Repentless, let it ride”). And the devastation goes on in Take Control, a high-speed tune where it’s interesting to notice that, although Tom Araya cannot bang his head like before due to his back issues he’s still a devil on vocals, leaving a message to all songsters in the world: no matter how deep your guttural is nor how hard you try, you’ll never reach the incredible level of violence, despair and hatred of Mr. Araya.

Then we have the excellent Vices, which truly sounds like a track from God Hates Us All, and by that I mean it has the same vibe, rhythm, beats, riffs and vocal lines. I love the fact that even when Slayer slow down a little they still sound brutal. In other words, let’s bang our fuckin’ heads and get high with Tom, Kerry & Co. before the next track, Cast the First Stone, offers us such raw and strong beats it feels like Paul wants to intimidate us all, also adding more obscurity to the music and therefore getting closer again to the sounding in God Hates Us All. Besides, I don’t need to say how thrilling the solos by the two demented guitar heroes of Slayer are, right? Anyway, When the Stillness Comes, one of the songs released a while ago in an early version, might push some people to say “this is not Slayer” as it’s not really fast or thrashy, but diehard fans will instantly link it to the sonority found in Divine Intervention, Diabolus In Musica and, again, God Hates Us All. It should sound a lot better when played live (which doesn’t mean it’s a bad studio song), with highlights to the outstanding drumming by Paul, to the desperate vocals and primeval bass lines by Tom, and obviously to its deranged lyrics (“This violence finally sets me free / Brings demons back to torture me / There’s no god pulling at my strings / I’m above all sorrow that fate can bring / Disengaged, I see your face / I turn and rush, I can’t replace”). I just wish the ending could have gone on for a little longer, but it’s still very entertaining the way it is.

Chasing Death is a good example of how the music by Slayer has evolved in the past 20 years, getting modernized but still vicious, with the aggressive vocals by Tom leading this somber tune while the other band members develop a solid ambience in the background; followed by Implode, which sounds a billion times better than the first version released. To be honest, that early version made me really skeptical about how the entire album would sound, but as we’re talking about Slayer, I somehow knew they wouldn’t let their fans down. And Piano Wire, the only song from the album written by Jeff, keeps the level of destruction really high in Repentless, showcasing Tom’s amazing harsh vocal lines blended with many top-notch rhythmic variations.

While listening to Atrocity Vendor, I couldn’t think of anything else but just how amazing the sound of the guitars is, and also that this electric tune has to be part of their live performances for the mosh pits to get seriously physical. Kerry and Gary are like metallic brothers, not to mention that Paul keeps nailing it with his sick beats and fills and that it’s yet another perfect example of how violent lyrics are always supposed to be (“You’re staring at the atrocity vendor / A mother fucking equal opportunity offender / I’ll introduce you to my own morbid charm / And fist fuck you with your own severed arms”). You Against You, another classic Thrash Metal tune where the guitar riffs and solos will please all fans of the genre, could have easily been a song from Christ Illusion or World Painted Blood, sounding as cohesive and precise as almost all Slayer songs, while Pride in Prejudice is not only the most different of all songs but also the worst by far. I’m not sure if the final result was exactly what the band wanted, but it’s in my opinion too slow and not as heavy or dark as it should have been. Of course, if Metallica had a song like this in one of their latest albums that would have been a blessing for their fans, but we know Slayer are capable of creating something infinitely better than that.

I was going to give it “only” a 3.5 after the first listen, but after a few more listens, all the issues faced by the band in the past couple of years (especially the passing of Jeff), the stunning artwork by Brazilian artist Marcelo Vasco (the fuckin’ booklet becomes a fuckin’ inverted cross!), the bonus DVD from the special edition with their killer performance at Wacken Open Air in 2014 and the making of Repentless, and particularly after watching one of the best and most sanguinary videos I’ve seen in my life shot for the title-track (watch it yourself at the end of this review) with some very special guests such as Danny Trejo (aka our beloved anti-hero “Machete”), it deserves a 4.0 or even more than that. In the end, they’re still FUCKIN’ SLAYER no matter what, a band that’s 100% repentless of everything they’ve accomplished through their undisputed career. With that said, always remember to live fast, on high and repentless, listening to Slayer until the inevitable end finally comes.

Best moments of the album: Repentless, Vices, Chasing Death and Atrocity Vendor.

Worst moments of the album: Pride in Prejudice.

Released in 2015 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Delusions of Saviour 1:55
2. Repentless 3:19
3. Take Control 3:14
4. Vices 3:32
5. Cast the First Stone 3:43
6. When the Stillness Comes 4:21
7. Chasing Death 3:45
8. Implode 3:49
9. Piano Wire 2:49
10. Atrocity Vendor 2:55
11. You Against You 4:21
12. Pride in Prejudice 4:14

Band members
Tom Araya – vocals, bass guitar
Kerry King – guitar
Gary Holt – guitar
Paul Bostaph – drums

Concert Review – Wacken Metal Battle Toronto Round #4 (Bovine Sex Club, Toronto, ON, 03/27/2015)

The battle for a place among the Gods of Heavy Metal rages on in Toronto.

INTRODUCTION: Wacken Metal Battle Canada

wacken metal battle_toronto_round4This Friday, March 27 lots of metalheads showed up at the iconic Bovine Sex Club (probably the worst nightmare for a claustrophobic fan of heavy music) in Toronto, Ontario, to show their support for five promising Canadian metal bands during Wacken Metal Battle Toronto Round #4. I guess I don’t need to explain in details what a Wacken Metal Battle is, but in case you really don’t know anything about it simply go to their official website to check the RULES of this competition and the DATES AND LOCATIONS of all qualifying rounds, provincial semi-finals and finals, and the great Canadian final, as well as their official Facebook page for more details and updates on all the battles raging on across Canada. If you’re craving for fresh and electrifying heavy music, a Wacken Metal Battle is what you need.

Guest judges for this round were Jon Asher (Asher Media Relations), Oscar Rangel (Annihilator), Dan Hand (Underground Operations) and Andrew Epstein (FlinkTO), who had the privilege of watching five kick-ass bands ranging from blasting Death Metal to the most inspiring form of Power Metal: Rivers Run Red, Black Eve, Apokalyptik Warrior, Call Of The Wild and Olde. I honestly cannot say which one was my favorite, as they all delivered top-notch Heavy Metal much better than what several renowned bands haven’t been able to do in a long time. And the winner is… Well, let’s save it for the end of this review. First, enjoy a quick but candid review of each of the metal “infantries” fighting for a place among the Gods of Heavy Metal at the 2015 edition of the one and only Wacken Open Air in Germany. And sorry for the horrible photos, I had some issues with my camera.

RIVERS RUN RED

This straightforward band from Woodbridge, Ontario, was responsible for opening the night with those traditional Death Metal eviscerating vocals and demonic riffs perfect for mosh pits and brutal headbanging while enjoying a cold beer. If you want to listen to what Rivers Run Red are capable of when armed with their instruments, visit their SoundCloud page for a taste of their music. And of course, we can rest assured old school Death Metal will keep haunting Canada while talented bands like Rivers Run Red are out there.

Band members
Silvestro Lo Presti – vocals
Massimo Taglieri – lead guitar
Andrew La Porta – rhythm guitar
Matthew Trojan – bass
Anthony Ricci – drums

BLACK EVE

Led by frontman John “Deadman” Davis and delivering high amounts of energy, violence and obscurity through their music, Melodic Death Metal band Black Eve had a very professional and fun show that entertained everyone at the venue. Obviously, their evil gear and corpse paint are important elements of the band’s live performance, but it’s the music itself that stands out, with highlights to the excellent guitar duo composed by Mario Syposz and Reuben Pereira. You can take a listen at Black Eve’s demonic music at the band’s ReverbNation page, paying attention to their interesting lyrics inspired by classic horror movies and slasher flicks.

Band members
John “Deadman” Davis – vocals
Mario Syposz – lead guitar
Reuben Pereira – rhythm guitar
Cody Stanley – bass guitars
Trysten “Tragedy” Mclellan – drums

APOKALYPTIK WARRIOR

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Apokalyptik Warrior @ Bovine Sex Club, Toronto, ON, 03/27/2015

If you have no idea of what Street Metal means, the crazy bastards from Apokalyptik Warrior will teach you a lesson in that form of Heavy Metal. They do not aim at reinventing metal nor at being thoughtful or philosophical. All they wanted to do this Friday was driving the fans wild with their assault of metal riffs and harsh screams. Listen to this song by this nice Street Metal band and you’ll understand what I’m saying. In addition, it was really cool to see the guys from Black Eve slammin’ into the circle pits during Apokalyptik Warrior’s performance, showing us all that it was not actually a battle of bands happening at the Bovine Sex Club, but it was simply a gathering of friends and fans of heavy music.

Band members
General SS Ramsay – vocals, guitar
Baroness Denise Samuelson – bass
Battery Sergeant Adam ‘Mortal’ McLaughlin – drums

CALL OF THE WILD

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Call Of The Wild @ Bovine Sex Club, Toronto, ON, 03/27/2015

The third band of the night was a sign that the Heavy Metal gods are more powerful than ever, delivering their message through the music by awesome bands like Call Of The Wild. What an amazing and cohesive five-piece Torontonian Power Metal band, with songs such as Voyager being a beautiful tribute to everything we learned to love in the music by Iron Maiden, Helloween, Iced Earth and so on. And do I need to say anything about the stunning guitarist Cyndi Zhang? Her guitar lines are outstanding, not to mention that her true Asian beauty adds an extra touch of awesomeness to the band’s live performance. She deserves to be a “Metal Chick of the Month” here at The Headbanging Moose one day for sure. Anyway, what are you waiting for to heed the call of the wild?

Band members
Power Serg – vocals
Cyndi Zhang – guitar
Tom Stanley – guitar
Mark Nicholson – bass
Chris Maniac – drums

OLDE

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Olde @ Bovine Sex Club, Toronto, ON, 03/27/2015

Closing this amazing night of heavy music, it was time for some low-tuned riffs and deep growls with Doom/Sludge Metal band Olde, directly from Malton, Ontario. Olde are indeed another exceptional band with such a professional and heavy sounding it’s hard not to bang your head to their doomed music. Frontman Doug McLarty has a strong voice that helps the band deliver all the despair they want with their music, but it’s the work done by guitarist Greg Dawson and  drummer Ryan Aubin that truly maintains Olde’s music quality so high. Go to their SoundCloud page and also to their BandCamp page to listen to their debut full-length album, entitled I, and you’ll see why they were one of the chosen bands for this round of Wacken Metal Battle in Toronto.

Band members
Doug McLarty – vocals
Greg Dawson – guitar
Chris Hughes – guitar
Cory McCallum – bass
Ryan Aubin – drums

AND THE WINNER IS…

As a matter of fact, there were two winners that made it to the next round of Wacken Metal Battle in Toronto: APOKALYPTIK WARRIOR with their sick Streel Metal, and the power metallers from CALL OF THE WILD. Congratulations! It was indeed a well-deserved win for both bands, and I cannot wait to see how far those two excellent groups can go in the competition. Who knows, maybe Wacken Open Air this summer? There are still other battles to go in Toronto and everywhere else in Canada, so they better get ready for a lot more of this healthy and fun metal war if they want to gain their place among the Gods of Heavy Metal in German territory this year.

And just as a final note, if any of the bands above (or any other indie band all over the world) read this review and are about to release new material, you can always get in touch with us through our CONTACT US page and have your new album reviewed at The Headbanging Moose, as well as have your music sent to The Metal Moose Radio. How about that, eh!?

Metal Chick of the Month – Vanja Slajh

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I shall devour your flesh!

As we kicked off 2014 with a true badass bassist, and as the year was so awesome for The Headbanging Moose, let’s keep up with the “tradition” and start 2015 with another Heavy Metal babe that kicks some serious ass with her 4-string weapon. The chosen one this time is the enigmatic Swiss brunette Vanja Slajh (or also Vanja Šlajh), bassist for Zurich-based Gothic Doom Metal band Triptykon.

Although we can find pretty much any information about anything in the world on the Internet, it was a hard task collecting personal and professional details about Vanja’s life, showing how introverted she might be and how she has managed to remain as underground as possible even after joining Triptykon and gaining some considerable fame.

All that could be found on the Internet about the personal life of this stunning woman was the year she was born, which was 1984, and that she is from the beautiful country of Switzerland, but nothing else in regards to her favorite artists, bands, food, drinks, movies or hobbies. Not even her official Twitter account has any details about her life or projects, and basically all interviews related to Triptykon are done by the band’s founder Tom G. Warrior, who’s also the mastermind behind Swiss Extreme Metal bands Hellhammer and Celtic Frost. In case you love some mystery in a woman, you’ll probably fall in love for Vanja, as it seems her life is full of secrets that she’s not willing to share with almost anyone in this world. In an era where our lives are 100% exposed on all types of social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram, Finding people who can have non-overexposed private lives is truly fantastic, and Vanja is one of those “heroes”.

So let’s talk about the known facts about her, all related to her career as a Heavy Metal bass player. Despite the fact that no one knows exactly when she started playing bass nor who her biggest influences in music were, before joining Triptykon she was part of a Swiss Black Metal project named Freitod, but the band has never really released anything. Besides, no one is really sure when she became the bassist for Freitod nor when she left the band (those Black Metal bands are way too obscure sometimes).

Finally, in 2008, Tom G. Warrior invited Vanja to be the bassist for Triptykon, and as he has mentioned several times during his interviews, she was the only person he had in mind for the 4-string position with the band. Some people say Vanja was the chosen one because after the two met when he was going to do some production for her previous band, Freitod, they suddenly became really good friends. I believe friendship among band members is valid, and of course essential for the survival of any band, but in my opinion her skills as a musician and her onstage performance were what actually influenced Tom in his decision.

So far she has recorded with the band the full-length album Eparistera Daimones, the EP Shatter, and more recently the amazing album Melana Chasmata. The lyrical themes changed slightly from what she used to play with Freitod, now more focused on feelings such as despair, pain and depression, as you can see in the lyrics for their single Breathing (“Every breath I take / Leaves me parched for air / Every hand I touch / Causes skin to tear / Every flame approached / Blinds my eyes / Every word I write / Leaves me drained”), taken from their most recent album.

However, it’s that dark, low and thunderous sound this gothic girl can extract from her instrument that really stands out when she’s playing, which can be easily noted in the aforementioned song Breathing, and in the songs Crucifixus and Shatter, from their Shatter EP, the later having one of the most powerful and bestial bass lines I’ve ever heard in my life. How can she play those notes? And before you ask, although she’s recorded some vocals for their latest album, it’s not her voice in Shatter, but of singer Simone Vollenweider.

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If you want to enjoy the thrilling live performance of this Goddess of Metal with Triptykon, I believe the best video available online is their masterful performance at Wacken Open Air in 2011. But in case you don’t have enough time or patience to watch the entire concert online, or if you’re a depressed person and don’t want to feel even more depressed with Triptykon’s dark music, you should at least check out one of the songs from that concert, their version for Celtic Frost’s classic and probably biggest masterpiece Procreation (Of The Wicked). To be honest, I have no idea how watching the stunning Vanja and her wicked bass kicking fuckin’ ass on stage can be depressing by any means, but that depends on each person’s perception of reality, right?

Besides Vanja’s unique technique as a bassist, one of the main reasons for this raven-haired woman being able to produce such low notes (as if her bass guitar was going to explode) is her excellent partnership with Ibanez guitars. I read somewhere that she uses the Ibanez Iceman Series Electric Basses (more specifically the Ibanez ICB300EX-BK Iceman Bass) because “she just fell in love with it”. What a lucky bass guitar!

One last detail about Triptykon’s awesome bassist is that she was featured in a special issue (#94) of Decibel Magazine in August 2012, called Women in Metal “Queens of Noise”, but unfortunately I couldn’t check what’s actually inside the magazine. Not sure if there was any kind of interview with her or just some pictures, which doesn’t bother me at all. As long as she keeps shaking the earth with her blustering bass, I’m pretty sure no one will care if she doesn’t give any interviews in her entire life. Well, at least not in English, because there’s one available in her mother tongue during Rock Hard Festival 2014, Swiss German, where I could at least enjoy her beauty, voice and smile as I don’t speak that language at all. If you speak Swiss German or regular German, enjoy it!

Vanja Slajh’s Official Twitter
Triptykon’s Official Facebook page
Triptykon’s Official YouTube channel